open thread – March 5-6, 2021

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

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

{ 1,064 comments… read them below }

  1. Nonprofit Anon*

    I work at an education nonprofit. I can see a bit more possibility for professional growth but will likely hit a ceiling in the next 5ish years. The pandemic has made me rethink a lot of things and I’m very interested in doing remote consulting work for my next move. I want to use the skills I’ve gained in college access to be a college admission consultant. Here’s where I’m unsure what to do in the meantime.

    I’d like to do part-time work over the next few years so I can build up a reputation and client base but I’m not sure if this is a major no-no since it would be work in the same industry. I would not be competing with my current job because the students I would hypothetically be working with would be from a different demographic and the nonprofit is not solely focused on admissions (just one of the many things we work on). But I did gain the majority of my college admission knowledge from my current job. I also live in a big city if that matters.

    Does anyone here have experience with becoming a consultant in the same field they worked in and could share some lessons learned/advice/caution? I really like my current job and don’t want to jeopardize it for the next few years, I just know that it won’t be a forever thing and want to set myself up for success for when I need to move on.

    1. Nicotene*

      I did do this, but I’m not sure my advice would be helpful … I took a year to do something else (a related but noncompeting company in a slightly different sector), and then came back to do the consulting. This provided me some cover. I tried to keep in touch with folks during that year so they wouldn’t have forgotten me.

    2. Unladen European Swallow*

      Independent admissions consulting is a bit of a “wild west” in the higher-ed sector, mostly because there aren’t any standards or regulations on who can call themselves an “independent admissions counselor.” I only mean that there is no standard on the qualifications needed to set up an independent consulting shop. The sector has a really diverse range of consultants with varying backgrounds, including former admission officers of colleges/universities, former college guidance counselors from public or private schools, parents who have helped their children through the admissions process, former staff from nonprofits who offer educational support to underprivileged students, etc. In other words, whether or not it would be ethical to start a part-time independent consulting gig while still in your current job will be totally dependent on your current job. It would be a big no-no for those who currently work in the admissions offices of colleges/universities. I think this would also apply to current college guidance counselors at public/private schools, but I can’t say for sure. Your situation of currently working in a nonprofit is more of a gray area. Does your organization have formal policies regarding conflicts of interest? If so, I’d suggest looking through it carefully to see if there’s anything that applies to your question. If there is no formal policy, I think it comes down to whether or not you’d like to “ask for permission” versus “ask for forgiveness” from your nonprofit, in case they find out about your side gig.

      As for establishing a side independent admissions consulting business, I’ve seen two routes that are most common: apply for and work for one of the many independent consulting companies that look for counselors (Ex: Ingenius Prep), or set up shop on your own. If you set up shop on your own, you’ll probably need to give provide potential clients where you received your expertise in admissions work.

      *Note: I do not know and do not endorse Ingenius Prep. I currently work in admissions at a university with 15+ yrs of experience and I always get spam messages from them through LinkedIn. It was the first one that came to mind.

      1. Almost Too Tired to Function*

        Agree with a lot of this advice (currently on my 6th year in admissions, was recruited from one of the consulting companies earlier this year)! A lot of IECs do work with nonprofits, usually in part-time capacities, and there are actually a few who are current college counselors in high schools. As Unladen said, this is really dependent on your current workplace, but there isn’t a blanket “no, you definitely can’t do that” in this field.

        My other two cents: If you’re not going to join one of the companies, I’d recommend that you join IECA or HECA (the two major independent counselor professional organizations), because they have a reputation of encouraging folks to abide by a code of ethics, etc. This will also help you network with others, which will help your business in the first few years as when the more established counselors reach a full slate, they can refer inquiries to you.

        I hope this all works out for you, whatever you decide to do!

    3. Alexis Rose*

      I work at an education nonprofit as well, and my mother is also a college admissions consultant, so I have some knowledge of these two fields. I think you’ll be okay but the specifics of how you behave, recruit clients, share knowledge, etc will help determine your reputation.

      I personally have done consulting on the side that overlapped with my job even more closely than what you’re describing. I was up front about this with my supervisor and they actually saw it as a plus because I gained knowledge and skills that helped me in my core job. (I never planned to move into full-time consulting, but I wouldn’t mention this part to your boss.)

      Our organizational ethics guidelines state that staff cannot take money to provide extra services to any student who is currently enrolled in our program. For staff who have side businesses, they cannot advertise those businesses to current students and cannot accept current students as customers if approached. We also live in a big city and there’s never been a problem with overlap.

      I would suggest talking with your supervisor to set some boundaries if you plan to practice in both fields at the same time. There’s nothing inherently wrong with using knowledge gained on the job for a private consultancy later. Pay attention to your inner moral compass; if you don’t feel good about working with a certain client or sharing a certain piece of knowledge, don’t do it.

    4. I'm the boss of me*

      Being your own boss is the best thing ever. And it is absolutely do-able BUT there are a few things to nail down first.
      #1. How are you at marketing, sales and advertising? Because those are the essential skills you will need to get work. Huh? See – you have to put yourself and your business in front of the people who will hire you. This is usually by promoting yourself at tradeshows, conferences, public speaking and maybe YouTube.
      #2 What do you know about running a business? Really need to have a solid understanding of everything from accounting ( billing, getting paid, paying taxes) to umbrella insurance policies (getting sued).
      #3. Why don’t you see if your current employer would expand your position to include some of #1 +#2? Wouldn’t that be great?
      Lots of fun ahead!

  2. anonanna*

    how honest about workplace flaws should you, the reviewee, be on your performance review? i’m not a great fit for my job. there’s been a ton of turnover since i was hired & we went virtual, including me getting a new direct boss, so the dynamics i was hired into & things i was hired to do are off.
    i struggle with details and organization- i know this. but i *can* do those things and do them well when i’m consistently challenged or engaged. my job right now is feast or famine- i’ll be busy one day, nothing to do the next- and the back-and-forth means i have a hard time switching into professional gear when needed. i’ve asked for more tasks, multiple times. i’ve identified things i could do, or things i could do if i was given a little training and shadowing. but i’m always told that there’s nothing they can give me to do or, in the case of asking about shadowing opportunities, i got a really long phone explanation and follow-up email about why it’s not realistic. (happy to give more details if needed; from my perspective, this was way out of proportion and also just not accurate. i could do the thing i was asking about if i was given the training i was asking for- obviously not something i could do after a week’s time, but if i had actually been given the training i asked for i would probably be pretty far ahead right now).
    so. that brings me to performance reviews. they’re coming up, and historically, they’ve been bad for me (i found out on my last one i’d messed something up while i was still new to my role and instead of coming to me directly, this person went to my grandboss and told him about it. i didn’t hear a word about what i’d messed up until this performance review. when i asked what i’d messed up so i could correct myself, my grandboss admitted they didn’t even know the details of the situation).
    i want to be honest about my frustrations- lack of opportunities, professional environment that highlights my weaknesses instead of giving me space to grow, consistently confusing and unclear communication with my supervisor- but i can’t risk my job. i just signed a lease on an apartment and i can’t risk getting fired or being put on a PIP. but i also feel like if nothing changes & i never share my perspective on what’s going on, either of those things could happen anyway.
    if you’ve made it through this novel, thanks! and if you have advice to share, please give me your wisdom. i’m actively job hunting, but in the meantime i’m stressed & anxious & desperate & miserable.

    1. Book Pony*

      Part of it depends on how well your boss responds to feedback.

      My last boss said she wanted feedback, but would then use that to punish me. My first boss said she wanted feedback and then actually made attempts to internalize what I said and I wasn’t “in trouble” for saying something.

      I think you can maybe bring up a few of these topics, but not all of them? I’d focus on one or two things that really bog down your ability to work and frame it as a “how can we help me do my job better, together?”

      Hope this helps!

    2. Weekend Please*

      I’m sorry. That sounds really frustrating. Unfortunately, when someone isn’t doing well at the core job, the company is unlikely to invest in training and shadowing for other tasks. From their point of view, they can’t afford to have you split your focus when you are still not up to speed on what they hired you to do. It sounds like in your case, the job changed after they hired you which is where the problem comes from.

      I think you may need to start job searching. If this job is a bad fit and you are getting a lot of negative performance reviews, you are unlikely to be able to get them to expand the job duties to tasks you would do better at.

      I think in the performance review it would probably be best to focus on what you need to do this job well. So talking about the unclear communication and lack of feedback is definitely something to bring up. The lack of opportunities will probably come across poorly since usually growth opportunities are earned.

      1. anonanna*

        That’s a good point. I guess I get frustrated because I have a small roster of typical tasks I do well, but none of them really require skill or are what I’m hired for. So I just feel like I haven’t had a real chance to grow in any tasks. That was something my previous supervisor was conscious of and acted like he was going to proactively address, but then he left, and the cycle continues. Great point about how to frame on what I should bring up in the review.

        1. Weekend Please*

          I’ve been there. At my last job, I was hired to work on a specific project and that project died so I was moved to another one that I could not do well. I put my all into it but I was barely treading water while putting in 10-12 hour days. No matter how much I told my boss what I needed to do the job, nothing changed. It was extremely demoralizing. Luckily I got a new job and right away I was getting nothing but positive feedback and I am exceeding expectations at every review. Please try not to let this job get to you. Sometimes when a job is a bad fit there really isn’t anything you can do to salvage it.

          1. anonanna*

            Thank you, I needed to hear that. I have a hard time trusting my judgement & admitting that I’m not a major screwup all the time- in this case, I’m trying to remember that if I was getting great feedback from my supervisor, other departments, bonuses, big projects, & all that did a 180 when I got a new supervisor- I’m not entirely to blame!

      2. Cj*

        This was my thought also. They are not going to give you more challenging things to do when you aren’t doing well at your core duties.

        The one thing I would definatley mention is that you need to be told when you make a mistake so that you can do better in the future. This is not something you should first hear about at your performance review.

        1. anonanna*

          I guess my problem is- I do well at my core duties, if I make a mistake it’s generally when I’m outsourced and doing something for another person in the department (like what happened with the performance review example- it was doing software I don’t work with regularly & isn’t part of my core job just to help someone else out). Or it’s due to a lack of communication that would probably be solved if we were in-person and could just pop over to ask questions. One time my boss got upset that I asked another coworker a software question since I knew she worked with it frequently instead of going to the software company directly- so things like that, it’s just different expectations & processes but they really blow up. On a regular basis I do a lot of mundane things & get good feedback, especially from other departments on it, so I was hoping once my new supervisor noticed that they’d be more willing to hand me stuff! I should’ve included in my Q that I had great formal and informal feedback from my previous supervisor & had even received bonuses on my work. All that changed when he left, so I have a hard time believing I’m just that crappy of an employee and some of the problem is due to communication breakdowns between me and current boss. But yeah, definitely agree that it’s a catch-22 of me needing more work to stay engaged & prove myself but not getting more work because they don’t feel I’ve proved myself.

          1. Glitsy Gus*

            If you have any of the good feed back from other departments in writing, like an email thanking you for specific thing you did that really helped them out, bring that in to your review. It’s good to be able to have those tangible reminders of your successes, even if they don’t end up directly affecting the outcome.

            I do think the communication of expectations & process is something you could bring up if that really is a barrier to you really bridging the gap between OK at your job and good at your job. That’s often something that can be addressed in a relatively neutral way that often can result in significant improvement, or at least far less frustration.

            I agree with the others, though, that while getting through this review is the short term goal, it’s probably time to start job hunting as the long term solution. Given the issues you’re talking about I don’t see a big turnaround happening here that lets you start doing the things you would like to do.

    3. katz*

      Not direct to your question about reviews, but side note:
      How much control do you have over your workflow? If you have a ton to do one day, but know the next day will be slow, can you save some lower-priority items for Day 2?

      1. anonanna*

        To some degree I can and try to- but it just feels frustrating and dishonest & I hate having things hang over me.

        1. Joan Rivers*

          It sounds like you need to work on what you tell yourself and how you frame reality here.
          “I hate having things hang over me”? So you don’t want to pace yourself with your work and spread it out?
          But you also don’t like to be busy one day and not the next. So you’re fighting what is.

          It’s hard to find a job that gives you the perfect flow of work the way you like it. In a larger sense, every day of the year at a job has “things hanging over you” because you know there will be work sooner or later.

          Maybe you just don’t enjoy this job and using some down time to discreetly job-hunt would be helpful.

    4. Emilitron*

      Agreed, don’t let it be a complaint session from you – the key thing is that you’re doing okay (yes, you are! congrats! And if they start highlighting problems, don’t let that distract you – you’re doing okay!) and you know you could do better (remember, that’s a positive thing! Nothing worse than an employee who doesn’t want to do better) so you’re going to talk to them about one (only one!) critical thing they can do to help you improve, because that’s in everybody’s best interests.
      I’d actually focus on your really inconsistent tasking and the poor communications surrounding that. If you can smooth that out, that solution might flow into your other problems – creating growth opportunities as you excel and start learning more, improving relations with management by having this one specific thing to check in with them about regularly.
      One thing that worries me is that you see a performance review as something you can’t risk screwing up – and that’s not the way they’re supposed to work, it might be the moment at which you hear that they’ve decided on a PIP, but that decision would have been in progress weeks before your meeting, the meeting is important, but shouldn’t be a “high risk” situation.

      1. anonanna*

        Thanks, I like your advice on what areas to focus on.
        I definitely do worry about the performance review- even non-performance check-ins are often so stressful and confusing I’ve just broken down sobbing after. & I was so blindsided by the instance in my last performance review- a mistake I made when I was new to the job, never corrected on, never informed of- that I’m paranoid it’s just gonna be a surprise jump-all-over-me session.

        1. Joan Rivers*

          A different way to see this is that because you were new, they didn’t feel it was fair to critique you. They talked about it but were sheltering you from blame as you were too new.

          Could that be it?

          1. anonanna*

            As much as I’d love to give them the benefit of the doubt, I don’t think they were trying to shelter blame- if they were, they wouldn’t have gone over my head to complain to my grandboss. It happened in the context of working with a software I didn’t get much training in so it would’ve been logical to correct my mistake so I’d know what to do next time. (And even now, a year later, I still don’t know what happened! Or what I did! That’s why it frustrated me so deeply- that that anecdote would be used against me but never in a constructive, here’s what you can do better way.)

        2. Not So NewReader*

          The story about the mistake is a failure of theirs not yours.

          Practice in front of the mirror: ” I can not fix a mistake if I am not told about it. If I am told about a mistake I fix them immediately. What can we do differently to make sure I am being told about the mistake in the moment, rather than waiting for my annual review to initially tell me?”

          Decide to push back: you cannot fix mistakes you do not know about. If the mistake is important enough to mention a year later, then it is important enough to mention in the moment.

          I have seen way to many women get treated this way and I have been treated this way myself.
          These people suck and the sooner you leave the better.

        3. Mimi*

          If your reviews require an “areas for improvement” section, I would recommend talking about things you struggle with *that your manager could potentially fix* combined with things you know you’re struggling with and are working on strategies to deal with.

          I’m thinking things like “It’s challenging for me to be consistently productive with a highly variable workload; it’s easier for me to stay focused when I always have enough work to do” or “It really helps me to fix things I’m doing wrong when I get timely feedback” and then talk about some of the things you’re doing to keep yourself organized.

          This does sound really rough. Best of luck!

    5. Librarian of SHIELD*

      This is tricky. Overall, it sounds like the changes your company has gone through have turned the job you thought you were going to have into something else entirely, and they don’t really seem to be showing any interest in changing it back. You have already given feedback about the direction you’d like to progress in and the things that trouble and frustrate you, and it doesn’t sound like that feedback has made any sort of difference to the way your higher ups are functioning. I worry that by continuing to give this kind of feedback you could be painting a target on yourself and I don’t want that for you. I would say keep focusing on your job hunt, and do what you can to emotionally disconnect from your job.

      You say that when you have too much downtime, you find it hard to get back into professional gear when the work does come. Can you fill that downtime with any kind of professional development? That way, your brain will be more in work-mode and it might be able to carry you through until you find a different job.

      I’m sorry you’re stuck there for now.

      1. anonanna*

        Thanks, that’s good advice & why I’m afraid- it’s already a tense and toxic environment (should’ve realized that when coworkers tried to get me to gossip about my boss *one week into my job* and if it’s already unhealthy & not being received well I may do more harm than good trying to give feedback.
        Gonna continue working on the professional development side like you suggested- I’ve been able to take some classes, both through work and me proactively finding opportunities through the county.

        1. Librarian of SHIELD*

          Check your local library website and see if they have online classes. You could do a course on say, business communication or something, and your bosses might be more willing to go for it because they don’t have to pay for it.

    6. Chance of thunderstorm*

      Well, one thing you have going for you is that you agree there is room for improvement. So if your supervisor does raise an issue you can prep yourself to say yes! I agree, how do we work together to fix this, rather than feeling defensive. Maybe think about things you’ve received feedback on already or informally and practise how to respond so they see willingness to improve (easier said then done of course!). If they do blindside you again, practise what another commenter said – I can’t fix what I don’t know about, ask what they would have liked you to have done and then express deep concern and confusion – hmmm this is an issue please tell me why it was not raised sooner for the good of all. Best of luck. It does sound like you should be starting a job search though.

    7. I'm the boss of me*

      Anonanna pullup! pull-up! don’t crash that plane! Who has not been in your shoes ( or cockpit)? I myself am a constant analyzer and judge of every work place and everyone’s performance. It is exhausting and futile and I wish I could stop. But I actually turned it around by becoming my own boss and having my own business. But as to your situation ; I have some advice and you’re probably going to be surprised. You be YOU. It took a lot of people trekking over mountains and living in uncertain times for you to be here. You can be confident that you are good enough, strong enough, valued enough to get through any situation. And anytime you want to wiggle out of taking responsibility ? well this is what you do ; step-up instead. Find your grit and step-up and claim responsibility. All I can tell you is that in the long run it is not about the job, it’s about becoming who you want to be.

  3. anonanna*

    how do you keep your attitude positive when your coworkers are snippy? my office environment is very toxic- & interviewing in adjacent fields has shown me i was ignoring red flags other people familiar with my org are very vocal about!- and i have a hard time being motivated to do things with a good attitude. it’s the kind of environment where EVERY mistake is just THE END OF THE WORLD (not that i don’t try to do a good job, but nothing we deal with & no mistakes i make rise to the level of overreaction i get). further, i’m bottom of the rank and get stuck doing a lot of the grunt work. which is fine! but i have a hard time not getting angry and resentful when i’m consistently the one doing the stuff no one wants to do & all i get in return is rudeness from my coworkers.
    ugh. can you tell i’m upset this morning?!

    1. Book Pony*

      I had to deal with that for a bit at my first job. One thing that helped me was visualizing something better. So whenever a coworker complained, I would slip into a lovely fantasy of being at home, playing video games and eating a Monte Cristo.

      Another option is podcasts, if you can listen to them. It was easier to ignore/combat the negativity while listening to something funny.

      1. Msnotmrs*

        My fantasy would involve being the Count of Monte Cristo and getting revenge upon those who have wronged me.

    2. Malika*

      First of all, a huge pat on the back for the fact that you are looking for a new job! That is the motivator you need to get through the day, the fact that you have an exit plan.

      What helped for me was a mindfulness exercise whereby you mentally hand back anything negative a co-worker says to you. At my last job everyone was constantly on edge and on the verge of hysterics. At one point, i survived by mentally taking a step back and mentally replying “I don’t accept your words.” It really helped to not be swept along in the intense emotions of everyone around me.

      1. Spice for this*

        I am going to try this at work. And mentally reply: “I don’t accept your words.”

    3. Gone Girl*

      My old boss was like this. They were constantly changing our process and expectations, and God help you if you forgot any *minor* (and I mean *minor*) step in the new process for the first time, or accidentally followed the old process. It was truly as if the world was ending, and you’d literally get a 3 paragraph email telling you what an idiot you are.

      Honestly, it sucks, but the best thing to do when those mistakes happen is to apologize, say you’ll fix it for next time, and move on. In my case, I realized my boss was always going to find something I did wrong no matter how careful I was or how good the work turned out overall. I couldn’t control their reactions to my mistakes, I could only control how I tried to fix the problem for next time…while continuing to look for a new, less toxic job, lol.

      1. Anon for this*

        Last week I had my very first annual performance review in my investment banking job. I was always a great student, and more importantly received positive feedback in my past jobs and relevantinternships. I also received positive feedback on my performance review about my willingness to be a team player as well as some big project wins I’ve had over my first year at the firm. However, I have always struggled with little nitpicks like proofing, errors in data entry as well as formatting documents properly—which was definitely noted as growth area. I still got a bonus and was told I’m on a great trajectory but I just feel so scared that I am going to keep making these mistakes and be excluded from other opportunities and projects. Now whenever I make a mistake I just feel so awful and embarrassed.

    4. LittleMissSunshine*

      I totally feel you on this; I have definitely worked in environments when people tend to be negative. And it’s even more of a bummer if you feel like you’re going to be chewed out if you don’t do everything perfect. Here’s a few ideas, maybe one might sound good to you:
      1) Gratitude journal – get a little notebook to keep in your desk, and every day write 3 things you are grateful for (try to make them different every day). If you want to do even more, then write one sentence about something positive you accomplished the day before at work (helps to reinforce to yourself that you are doing a good job), and then write one sentence on what you are looking forward to in this work day. So on a personal level you are starting from a positive place. The gratitude thing has been proven to improve workplace happiness.
      2) Write thank you emails/notes/instant messages to co-workers on a regular basis (“I wanted to say thank you for your help on X project. Especially when I got stuck on Y and you took the time to walk me through it and explain the context, I really appreciated that.”) . Even if they are little crab monsters, you will feel good for spreading some gratitude, and maybe their prickly exteriors will soften a bit and get a mood boost.
      3) Infuse your personal life with positive touch points. Call friends or favorite family members to chat during your breaks for a few minutes. Do a little yoga/exercise before work or on your lunch break

    5. JelloStapler*

      I’m sorry you are having this experience, and I hope the rest of your Friday was okay!

  4. Book Pony*

    I’ve been at my job for 5 months now and I’m still getting misgendered. (They/them)

    I’ve talked to my boss, Blue Diamond, about it and she suggested I remind the offenders every time and I do.

    I’ve mentioned it to her boss, Yellow Diamond, and she’s apologized but still does it in meetings where I’m present and ones where I’m not.

    I just had a phone call with the big boss, White Diamond, and she asked if there’s anything that’s lacking so I told her about the misgendering. She sounded upset or maybe mad, but thanked me for telling her.

    She also wants me to share any resources or trainings for this, so does anyone have any? I know it’s not my job to educate her but still.

    I have two coworkers, Pearl and Garnet, who regularly use my pronouns and correct people when they get it wrong.

    Should I just make an HR complaint at this point? I’m still on probation (normal for my sector) until September, so I don’t know if I should wait until then.

    Thanks to anyone who read all of this.

    1. ghostlight*

      I’m so sorry this is happening to you. My sibling is going through the same experience at their new job (nothing malicious, but people keep misgendering them and it’s frustrating as all hell). I share this with a grain of salt since I am a cisgender woman, but I find that the more people know about non-binary people, the easier it can be for them to use your correct pronouns. HRC(.)org has a ton of resources, and I have found their Transgender and Non-Binary People FAQ especially helpful for some family members who needed extra education. Lots of questions in there to be answered, and it doesn’t put any emotional labor or stress on you to be their sole educator. I hope this helps!

    2. Reba*

      So sorry this is happening.

      My feeling is that you should wait and see if Big Boss makes any positive moves before going the complaint route. If you didn’t already say so, I would make it clear that leadership is needed on this and you are sure [this can be a convenient non-truth] that the company will take steps to change their culture to avoid discrimination.

      1. Book Pony*

        Thank you for the support.

        My only concern with saying your final sentence is I’m Black in a predominantly white space, and the last time I brought something like this up, it showed up in my “you’ve messed up” warning meeting. (I reported a racist calendar lol)

        Guess I’ll wait and see how White takes it, but like I said to King Friday, Garnet said WD is gonna make her feelings known down the chain, so idk if that’ll be good or bad.

        1. LittleMissSunshine*

          So they disciplined you for reporting something racist? Sounds like retaliation to me, which is illegal and should also be explicitly mentioned as prohibited in company policy. If that happened again, you should make an HR complaint and say you feel you are being retaliated against for reporting discriminating behavior.

          1. Glitsy Gus*

            Agreed. If you haven’t been, I think it’s time to start documenting these occurrences: every time someone misgenders you, every time you have to deal with something racist, even if it isn’t directed at you, every time it becomes “your fault” this is something that had to be dealt with, every time you are expected to be the one to provide the company with tools to not be jerks. Hopefully your team will get it together and this will work out, but, man, I don’t want you to end up in a bad situation without the evidence you need to demonstrate what’s going on here.

            The fact you are even worried about this blowing back on you makes me nervous. I really hope White Diamond and HR show better decision making skills that the folks you’ve dealt with so far.

          2. Book Pony*

            Whoops, I forgot several words when recounting that story! That happened at my last job. This job hasn’t done anything like that, but because this happened at my last job, I’m a bit wary at reporting anything anymore. D:

        2. Blackcat*

          “My only concern with saying your final sentence is I’m Black in a predominantly white space, and the last time I brought something like this up, it showed up in my “you’ve messed up” warning meeting. (I reported a racist calendar lol)”

          Woah, that’s retaliation for a good faith report of racism.

          Go straight to HR, bring up the retaliation and the misgendering.

          1. Book Pony*

            Clarifying for anyone reading this later (sorry, I was very tired yesterday and kept forgetting words). This happened at my last job, which is why I escaped into this job. (Well that and the general racism and my last boss saying she was only going to use “normal” pronouns for me lmao) This job hasn’t been nearly that wild. The misgendering thing is really the only serious issue.

    3. King Friday XIII*

      How do you feel about HR? Can you talk to them, not necessarily to make a complaint but to see if they can help you put together resources or training? Since White has brought up the idea already I think that’s a good way to approach it if your coworks mostly seem clueless/forgetful. If the vibe you’re getting is more like the letter from the other day where people are being malicious, then yeah, I don’t think you need to wait to bring that to HR.

      I’m glad it sounds like your immediate boss has your back, and I hope this is able to get resolved for you.

      1. Book Pony*

        Honestly, I’m not sure what to make of HR since i haven’t really talked to them since my orientation.

        I don’t think it’s malicious, but it IS tiring lol. Another coworker, Jasper, is doing that thing mentioned in yesterday’s letter where she reworks sentences to not use my pronouns. It’s kinda funny because she keeps tying herself up in unnecessary verbal knots.

        I asked Garnet about White Diamond street the call and Garnet said WD is going to make her (probably hurt) feelings known down the chain, so I guess we’ll see how things shake out.

        Also while Blue Diamond supports me, she also still misgenders me and does that “no pronouns restructuring”. According to Blue, I’m the first “they person” (her words) they’ve had.

      2. Librarian of SHIELD*

        I was going to suggest the same thing. In an ideal situation, White Diamond wouldn’t have asked you for training resources, she should have gone to HR herself to ask for support and training for the staff. But since she didn’t, I think that’s probably the direction you can take in a meeting with HR. You’d request a meeting not to file a complaint, but to request support. Explain what you’ve been experiencing and what White Diamond requested from you, and ask your HR rep for help finding and implementing appropriate training plans for your coworkers. Would Garnet and Pearl be willing to go to the meeting with HR with you so you can be a planning committee of sorts?

        I hate that you’re dealing with this and that your bosses haven’t stepped up the way they should. But I’m glad you’ve got Garnet and Pearl in your corner, and I hope more of your coworkers come on board soon.

        1. Book Pony*

          White Diamond did tell me the Department is aware they need DEI training, and is working on it, but doesn’t know when that’ll be.

          I know Garnet and Pearl said they’d attest to the constant misgendering if I made a complaint, so I’ll ask them and see if they’d be willing to go to an HR meeting with me.

          Thanks for the support!

          1. Glitsy Gus*

            I’m really glad you have at least two allies here. Good luck! I hope things improve for you and that your HR department is competant.

          2. Chance of thunderstorm*

            I’m sorry you are going through this, you really shouldn’t have to and this is definitely a serious matter that needs to be addressed.

            That being said, your two co-workers sound like absolute gems!

      1. Book Pony*

        Thank you for the resources. :D

        Garnet is the one who recommended going to HR, but I’m still on the fence. It’s harder to get rid of people once probation is over, and I’m the only worker in my household so I can’t really afford to lose my job lol

        1. Savannah*

          Your allies could spend some of their political capital and go to HR about this issue themselves, together.

          1. kt*

            That’s what I was going to ask about — you sound like you do have some folks on your side. I hate that you have to balance economics with human rights.

          2. Book Pony*

            The current status is White Diamond wants to talk to the other Diamonds (about what I don’t know, Blue didn’t say when she needed to reschedule our weekly meeting) on Monday, so Garnet suggested holding off to see how things shake out.

            Guess we’ll find out on Monday lmao.

    4. ThatGirl*

      This is somewhat tongue in cheek, so please forgive me if it’s not helpful, but I’m picturing you correcting people like Janet on The Good Place – for those who haven’t seen it, Janet is basically Siri, an all-knowing genderless being who appears in the form of a woman but cheerfully corrects anyone who mislabels her. Whenever someone calls Janet a girl/woman/robot/etc she says “not a girl!” “not a robot!” and moves along. If you just cheerfully keep correcting people maybe they’ll take the hint?

      *sorry, I’m using “her” because that’s her form on the show, but hopefully the idea comes across

      1. Book Pony*

        Lol I love Janet!

        I’ve been cheerfully correcting people from months 1-3, and the excuse is “I’m old. Hard to remember, yadda yadda”

        1. ThatGirl*

          I definitely understand the frustration, and I hope you don’t have to keep doing it forever – my thought was that if you keep annoying them by correcting them, they’ll make an effort. Another idea would be to enlist the help of your colleagues who ARE getting it right – ask them to correct others on your behalf?

          1. Book Pony*

            Garnet and Pearl are constantly correcting people when they misgender me, but it’s like playing Whack-a-Mole, tbh. Garnet will remind them in meetings I’m not in, and then literally later that day, the offender is calling me “she”.

            I’m honestly not sure who else on my team is using my pronouns correctly, because no one else jumps in to correct in our staff meetings when I’m misgendered. I *think* I heard one coworker use my pronouns when talking to me, but I’m not sure now lol.

        2. kt*

          Ugh. I don’t know how to help. So much sympathy. That sounds exhausting.

          That’s all. It’s a BS excuse; they sure wouldn’t be making it if you had their paycheck in hand. :(

          1. lost academic*

            This is absolutely an important facet to remember – they feel like they can get away with not trying or putting the energy in, whether or not they are consciously making that choice. They have to be consciously motivated to NOT BE HORRIBLE PEOPLE.

            Also what a weird excuse not to extend basic courtesy and makes me question what else they can’t do because they can’t remember/”are old”/don’t care that means maybe they shouldn’t have those job responsibilities……..

        3. Zephy*

          “That’s weird, I never hear you use ‘she/her’ pronouns when you talk about Steve in accounting. Why is that?”

        4. DivineMissL*

          I’m old. I admit that sometimes I accidentally call Son 1 by Son 2’s name, and vice versa. But if someone told me that their name was now X or they wanted to use these pronouns, I would comply immediately.

    5. Caroline Bowman*

      This is outrageous. How difficult can it be to call someone by the pronouns they prefer?

      I can appreciate older people POSSIBLY getting it wrong once or twice or making a genuine error in good faith, and I feel like most reasonable people would see that for what it was and not give it further thought.

      Beyond that, it’s deliberate and horrible and requires so little to change. Why wouldn’t someone? Even if you disagreed in your head, how hard is it to call someone ”he” or ”she” or ”they” or ”zey” or whatever they have requested?

      Such utter garbage. I’m sorry you’re dealing with this nonsense in your life. It’s not your job to train people to be kind and decent, so I admire you for your generosity in even considering it.

      1. Book Pony*

        Honestly, if it gets the usual offenders to actually use my pronouns (I have a Teams background with it!) then it’ll be worth it lol.

        Thanks for the support!

      2. Bagpuss*

        Not to mention, while any one of any age can make mistakes, they need to correct themselves, and apologise in the moment, and then try harder not to do it again.

    6. PolarVortex*


      This is currently a big thing I’m working with my HR dept on, so I can give you some resources and if you have more questions let me know.

      1) It’s okay to approach HR! Assume your HR is decent – mine is – they want to make things better. It won’t get better in a day, but that is why I’m partnering with my HR Peeps to make it better.
      2) Is there an LGBTQ+ group at your company? Or friends you can make? There might be a chat channel for the LGBT peoples for you to find support. If not, think of starting one, more voices mean more power – and often you can get executive power like you’re seeing with White Diamond here. It also gives you a safe space to feel supported.
      3) There’s a lot of companies that do training on this, you can look at your local state HRC or even the broader HRC for a lot of resources for this.

      Some resources I’ve shared with my own White Diamond so yours might find them useful too. (Please note it’s a bit heavy on the word “trans” but I’m not trying to label you as such, it’s just NB and Trans are the big things I’m working on with my workplace and trans sometimes seems to be the word choice people choose when they want to roll up non-cisgendered into a smaller word):
      Ones that’ll get your boss’ eye because they’re from Big. Names.

      Solid Beginner Resources:

      1. LunaLena*

        I was thinking something along these lines as well. Book Pony, have you looked into your local universities to see if they have any programs? I work at a state university, and one of the departments holds annual sessions about various LGBTQ+ issues. They’re mostly intended for faculty and staff, but they are open to the public as well and anyone can attend.

        I would gather as many allies as you can and bring this up as an issue sooner rather than later. September is an awfully long time away, and the longer people misgender you, the more okay they’ll think it is to do so and the harder it will be to get them to change. I can just see the future excuses now – “sorry not sorry, I’ve been calling Book Pony [wrong pronouns] for over a year now, it’s haaaard to remember. Also I don’t see why it’s an issue now, they never said anything before! And everyone else does it!” So sorry this is happening to you, I’ll never understand why it’s so difficult for some people to show basic respect and call others the way they prefer.

        1. Book Pony*

          Ooo, I have not! I know we have a pretty good relationship with our academic libraries, so it shouldn’t be too much of a stretch from there to see what our universities have going on.

          As near as I can tell (because no one else has been as actively helpful), Garnet and Pearl are it in terms of allies. I certainly haven’t had anyone else on my team even express apologies for me having to go through it, so I’m not sure if they don’t know what to say, or are on Team “Misgender Time”, or what.

          Right now, White Diamond is assembling the Diamonds for a meeting on Monday, so Garnet suggested biding my time to see how it all shakes out.

    7. Parenthesis Dude*

      Are the same people consistently misgendering you or is it different people? Are they defensive or apologetic when you correct them?

      If it’s the same people then that’s problematic, especially if they work with you every day. But I’d try to have a conversation with them first before going to HR if they seem reasonable otherwise. If it’s not the same people, then I’d think that five months is too few to expect EVERYONE to know your pronouns unless your office is very small.

      1. Book Pony*

        It’s the same people, because it’s the people on my team. They’re defensive and apologetic, although I think at this point Yellow Diamond might be tired of me reminding her, if her facial expression is anything to go off of.

        I’ve had conversations with them before about using my pronouns, because I was in a meeting with the main offenders. They all apologized, and then decided to not use my pronouns at all for the rest of the meeting, which was awkward. Plus the next day they all went back to using “she”, soooo yeah.

    8. Tiger*

      Do you regularly use email? If so, would adding your pronouns to your email signature help? Lots of people where I work do that (including me). It would look something like,

      Book Pony- they/them
      Book Pony Trainer
      Book Pony Zoo

      (or whatever your format is)

      If you aren’t in an occupation where you regularly use email, then this might not work, but it is a possibility.

      1. KeinName*

        I‘ve recently noticed that this isn‘t foolproof. Many people probably do not read the signature closely enough and will, e.g., then use Mr if you have a male-sounding name when replying (noticed it happening to well-meaning colleagues). I thought, ok, seems necessary to put it in the greeting AND the signature then;-)

        1. Book Pony*

          Oh my “favorite” was in my last job, where I had a normal signature. I was emailing someone, and with ZERO prompting, he started using Mrs. Book Pony (I am not married lmao). I immediately changed my signature to have Ms. Book Pony, but he kept going, so I finally had to risk telling him outright (my old boss wanted to be included on EVERY email I sent, because she’s a micromanaging moldy turnip and she was very…mmm brownosing? Yes-Woman-y? to our clients) that it’s Ms, not Mrs.

          He apologized, but like, what is the thought process? Why? XD I’m also just now remembering I had to call him and he did it again, so I had to remind him again. So bizarre.

      2. Book Pony*

        Yeah, my signature has basically that, and a “Mx” in front for extra enby-ness. :3

        It works with outside people I communicate with (mostly library staff, but I’m not a librarian just to be clear lol), but with my own team it does not.

        One of my teammates (and the one that uses the “I’m old” excuse the most), Holly Blue Agate, was emailed by Blue Diamond for a work thing and BD had used “they” in the message to refer to me. In response to Blue’s question, Holly used “she” even though the “they” was right there. I could hear Blue sigh and say “they” out loud because she works in the cube next to me lol. Honestly, idk what the issue is, really.

    9. AE*

      I don’t have much to add to the thoughtful responses that others given but I just wanted to express my sympathy for this crap you have to deal with and give a shoutout to a fellow Steven Universe stan–pseudonyms are super apt. :)

    10. meyer lemon*

      Ugh, gross. I’m sorry your bosses are failing you in this. I’d love to see how Blue Diamond would like it if everyone used the wrong pronouns for her and she was expected to cheerfully correct it each time.

      I’m sorry I don’t have any real advice! My only thought is that Pearl and Garnet might be happy to lend additional support if needed. For example, if they notice the persistent misgendering when you’re not around, maybe they would be willing to make some additional noise to keep it on Blue Diamond’s radar, if you think that might help get the message across. But really the bosses should be doing their jobs rather than putting the work on your shoulders.

      1. Book Pony*

        First: I love your name. One of the nice things about my job is so many people have lemon trees, so it’s a never-ending stream of lemons to take home. Mmmm pie.


        I did check with them, and Garnet confirmed she’s willing to lend more support. Pearl has my number, but has been super busy with work and her own life (kids), so I’m waiting for her to text me so we can chat. Pearl and I share the same boss (Blue Diamond), but Garnet has Holly Blue Agate (the one that uses the “I’m old” excuse the most) as a boss. Mostly saying that to say that idk if Pearl has mentioned it to Blue Diamond during their weekly meetings or not.

        I *did* tell Blue that constantly and cheerfully correcting them each time is tiring, but that I would keep doing it. I think it’s starting to annoy Holly, and has probably definitely started to annoy Yellow Diamond, but it is sooooo unpleasant to be called “she”. I was joking with friends that I was going to change to one of my other sets of pronouns (he/him) to mess with them.

        Not that I actually would, but I’ve been very accommodating since technically I use they/he/xe pronouns, and I prefer when people mix and match. However, I also know expecting people to keep all that straight in their heads while juggling other things/the pandemic is a bit mean, so as long as people use they/them, I’m happy lol.

    11. I'm the boss of me*

      Book Pony – this is a tough one because it feels like you are being made into an ambassador to lead ignorant or naïve people into the new world. Not your job. But there it is- and it will be there tomorrow and onwards. I often do a lot of writing to work on issues that just are so confusing and in this case so wrong. Sometimes I take comfort in music knowing someone has felt what I am feeling ( GARBAGE , I’m only happy when it rains). One of my friends, who is a dancer, calls these upsetting conflicts – ‘material’. He as made a wonderful practice of turning the emotional meat of a situation into ‘material’ to use in dance.

      1. Book Pony*

        Yeah, I’m a flash fiction writer (and fanfic writer, woo!) and I channeled a LOT of the garbage from my last job into my writing, and I think it turned out pretty well. I’m hoping it won’t come to that for this job, because I’ve got other things I need to write, but it’s nice to know someone else does the same.

        Also I would LOVE to see your friend dance, because that sounds really amazing and wonderful. >w<

    12. Book Pony*

      No clue if this will nest correctly, but an update to how things currently stand (and a clarification)

      Current Status: Blue Diamond had to reschedule our weekly meeting because White Diamond wants to meet with Blue and Yellow. Not sure what it’s about, but since all the Diamonds are involved, it’s probably about the misgendering. I told Garnet about it (via text) and she said it’s better to wait and see how things develop before getting HR involved. So hopefully the Diamond Meeting will go well and people will shape up. :)

      Also as a random aside, I am *still* kinda mad that White Diamond misgendered me at our annual summit. So many new people, meeting me for the first time, and I know I’m gonna have to correct each of them to remove “she” from their brains in terms of me. I *did* include my pronouns when I introduced myself after she spoke, but oof.

      Clarification: The bit where I was talking about the racist calendar happened at my old job. The calendar had a quote from “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” and I mentioned it to my boss months later because I hadn’t wanted to deal with it at the time. (Only Black person on an all-white team.) After that meeting, I had an email from her summarizing our chat and basically stating to remember to report these things in the moment, and I then had to have another meeting that day to explain why I hadn’t felt comfortable doing that. (Seeing that calendar was actually so terrible I thought about calling a taxi to go home lol) From there, moooooonths later, I have the Terrible Meeting from Hell where my boss and her boss basically point out all my shortcomings (and some were valid), but also included on there was the calendar incident.

      Basically, because I couldn’t reproduce the calendar page, and because I took so long reporting it, it was added to the list of Crimes. (Also on that “fun” list is that I was observed (and I now hate that phrase) cleaning my nails instead of listening. I told them when I started that job I was autistic and so that was me stimming to focus. They, of course, didn’t ask me, and my boss learned about this secondhand.) Anyway, that job was a hellpit and I escaped into this job, which IS better, despite the current sitch.

  5. Should I apply*

    People in product development I need your help. I am currently job searching I am getting really stuck on what job titles to search for. I am currently a senior engineer that wants to focus more of the strategy side, more emphasis on what & how we design something as opposed to the detailed design. However, I am really struggling to identify job titles that might be apply. In my current company, that role is called architect, but since I neither design buildings or am in software, searching for that title hasn’t been helpful.

    Do you have a technical strategy role at your company? What is called? Also is technical program manger, just a new name for a project manager?

    1. Web Crawler*

      At my company (software products), that role is called a “Product Manager” or a “Technical Product Manager”. A “Project Manager” is the person that keeps the developers and work on track, and a “Product Manager” is the one organizing and deciding things about the software.

    2. violet04*

      When you say “what & how we design something” is that “something” a company’s software systems? In my company they are called Solution Architect or System Architect.

      The product people are on the business side. I work in telecom, so they develop and market the the different services the company sells to customers.

      A technical program manager is like a project manager who may lead/manage a group of developers.

      1. should i apply?*

        I am not is software which is part of the problem. My current role has Architect in the title, which makes people think that I am in software.

    3. Another Proj Manager*

      Auto Industry based experience
      Technical Program Manager is a program or project manager that is focused on the engineering deliverables and not the overall program or project. Basically an engineering program manager focused on delivering the engineering project and not the Manufacturing/Purchasing/Sales portions.
      For the strategy role look for titles that include the term Advanced or Research or Concept. Also the Role of a Product Manager can be that position – especially if there is a sales component to the position.
      Depending on the size of the company this “strategic” role is limited and smaller companies tend to put that into a Manager or Director position. Large companies will have an Advanced or Research group that is fitting this type of role.
      Good Luck

    4. fhqwhgads*

      It varies but you might be looking to be a Product Manager or a Product Owner, or possibly a BA. What each of those positions entails will vary slightly from company to company.

    5. Hillary*

      B2B industrial manufacturing here. You may want to focus more on the job descriptions and less on titles, the titles vary wildly. None of what I said below would apply at my last three jobs.

      What you’re describing is more of a strategic sales role for us. In my org product owners/product managers work with sales/customers/engineering around strategic product requirements. This is both new product development and existing product improvement. Product owners often have at least some technical background, but their most important skill is being able to understand requirements customers may not know they have yet and translate them into sellable product. They also have to understand the manufacturing processes so they can bring realistic requirements to the table.

      We have R&D and technology leaders who focus on developing new product ideas and improving existing products, they’re mostly technologists or engineering managers/directors. For us technologist usually means you have at least one patent, but that’s not universal.

      A program manager leads/represents one or more groups of stakeholders on a major project. They may or may not also be the project manager, major projects will have a project manager from the PMO office and may have multiple program managers. I’m going to be the program manager for a software implementation we’re starting soon – my job in that role is to align the diverse group of business stakeholders to a single set of requirements, make sure they update their business processes to best use the new tool, and get them actually using it when we go live. I have partners in the IT space who will be program managers responsible for ERP changes, integration building, and actual software implementation.

    6. Collette*

      I work in learning development, and the person who has that kind of focus in our industry is called a Learning Strategist. I don’t know if strategist works in the job title and what you do, but it may be another option for you.

    7. PX*

      If you’re in engineering proper, I second the advice that you are unfortunately going to have to spend a lot more time reading job descriptions because the title for the thing you describe varies wildly.

      In some of the companies I’ve worked at, titles might be things like: pre-sales consultant, business development, product manager. I would also throw out things like customer engagement or customer account manager – because I often see roles like that are about understanding what the customer needs/wants, and then trying to develop something to fit that need.

      The comments about research, concept or advanced as far as titles go is also good advice.

      My advice when it comes to things like this – pick some companies you like/might want to work for that are in your industry – look at their website and see how they break down their organisation. Look at job ads (if any) that meet your needs – this can help figure out what broader/generic titles are. Similarly, if you are a member of one of the engineering bodies, see if their websites have any advice.

  6. TX Lizard*

    How useful have you found LinkedIn? I deleted mine last week in a digital privacy purge, but letters from this week have me wondering. I am a young professional and haven’t found it very useful either for networking or job searching. Maybe it gets more important further in your career? Or in other industries?

    1. Colette*

      I find it really useful for being able to get in contact with people I used to work with (for references, for example). I don’t us it for job searching, and I rarely log in – but when I need to get in touch with them, I can, even if they’ve changed their email address.

    2. C*

      I think it depends a lot on the field. In mine (public healthcare) no one uses it. I’ve kept mine mostly to keep up to date with where the people I trained with are now, but it’s not at all useful for networking/job searching.

    3. The Tin Man*

      I enjoy having it, but haven’t found it directly helpful in terms of finding a job, etc. It’s mostly good for me because my grandboss uses it a lot and it helps me get a sense of the face my company puts out to the world.

    4. CTT*

      I’m an attorney and I’ve never found it useful. There’s just so much spam on the site and legal recruiters don’t really use it as a source (at least in my experience). I am on a board where the convention is to link to each board member’s LinkedIn page, so I’m keeping it active for that, but I should delete it when I roll off that board. How easy was that process?

      1. pancakes*

        Counterpoint: I’m an attorney and once got a job through it. Someone from the firm contacted me because they had a case coming up in a very particular niche I have experience in. My law review note was about an unrelated but also very niche topic and I have that listed under Publications, and I occasionally hear from people in other jurisdictions working on or writing about the same topic, which I like hearing about.

    5. Nicotene*

      I’ve been semi-impressed with its usefulness in job searching – never saw much value in it before, but it does seem slightly better targeted than other options, and it’s nice to see automatically who you know at each place.

    6. Rayray*

      I found it super useful when job hunting. It feels more legitimate than indeed or zip recruiter.

      I don’t like though that it’s just turned into another Facebook. I absolutely loathe all the “influencers” trying to get famous on it and posting copy/pasted talltales about interviewing the pregnant woman who fought through a tornado to get to her interview on time, or the ceo who skips breakfast and runs a marathon to the office each day al in the name of hard work and determination.

      1. The Original K.*

        Yes – it used to be solely for professional purposes and it’s become a lot more social now, and I don’t like that. I think the shift also accounts for the fact that some men are using it as another dating site, which I really hate.

    7. AnonPi*

      I mainly use it as a way to expand on my resume. I add more information about my work experience, include info about the type of work I’m interested in, etc. At one time I added some slides that had work samples, because of the job types I was looking at wanted examples of work. I know my profile has been looked at by employers, a few have mentioned it during interviews, or the LinkedIn will mention some people looking at your profile (it won’t tell you everyone unless you pay for a premium membership which I don’t).

      I don’t find the job search function very useful, usually it’s more frustrating than anything (I get a lot of irrelevant results). For connections also not too helpful, I mean, I’ve connected with people but it’s not lead to jobs or anything. It was useful for a local society to reach out to me to ask if I was interested in rejoining there group, which I was. I think it’s really up to you, I don’t think it’s necessary to have. You may find opportunities where it could be a little useful, but there’s other options.

    8. No Tribble At All*

      It’s useful after you leave your first job, because you’ll be able to stay in touch with your former coworkers. And, it can be useful for job searching, because recruiters can contact you directly. I’m biased because I got an offer through a recruiter contacting me there. I don’t post or share articles or comment on other people’s stuff, so I don’t use the “social” aspects of it. Just being there, existing, with form of contact can be helpful.

    9. MissGirl*

      Keep it! It requires minimal effort and input but you never know when it’ll help. You say you’re a young professional, which means your network isn’t very large and hasn’t moved around a lot. That will change as the longer you work, the harder it’ll be to keep track of everyone you know. Ten years from now you may be interested in a job and see a coworker you haven’t seen in years works at that company. Now you have a connection not only for networking but for finding out what the company is like to work for, if they have any tips for applying.

      You may not even know it’s helpful when it is. For instance my manager came to me one day and asked if I knew Jane, a former coworker of mine from another company. Apparently Jane had applied for a job in another department but they had forwarded her resume onto mine. My manager noticed we were connected on LinkedIn and was curious how well I knew her. I was able to put in a good word for her and encourage them to interview her. Without LinkedIn he never would’ve come to me and I never would’ve known she was being considered.

      Also, it’s where I found my last two jobs—not to mention all the recruiters who reach out to me. It probably doesn’t feel helpful right now but it will be the second you need a job.

    10. College Career Counselor*

      Excellent source for finding people in your alumni networks who you might want to connect with, ask for information/advice (as long as you do it politely and professionally, of course!), about a industry, a company/organization, or switching careers, etc.

      For myself, I think of it as a self-updating (mostly) database of professional contacts I have and if I’m trying to find people in a particular organization for my work.

    11. Emilitron*

      For my industry it’s not important, I’m not interested in meeting recruiters or building a digital network, and I didn’t find it particularly useful in my last job search. But, it’s a place that I can create a professional persona for myself so that when somebody googles me with a few industry buzzwords, they can get some information about who I am and what I do. I have a moderately common name and don’t work in a high-visibility job, but sometimes we collaborate outside my employer, sometimes I work with local colleges, etc. and every time I do I see that someone I’ve been on that external phone call with has visited my LinkedIn page. Does that do me any benefit? No, not really. But it seems to help them, and that’s not a bad thing.

    12. violet04*

      I’m 20 years into my career and I never use it. I log in occasionally to accept connection requests, but that’s it. If I had to job search again, I would update my profile.

    13. Bear Shark*

      I find the social aspect of it mostly a waste of time and too Facebook-y. Sometimes the job listings are useful. I’ve had a couple of useful networking interactions over the last decade but mostly it’s recruiter or MLM spam in my messages.

    14. The Original K.*

      I find it very useful for job-searching. I’ve been recruited via LinkedIn (I just started a process with a recruiter who reached out to me a couple of days ago), and when I find a job I’m interested in, I always check LinkedIn to see who I know at the company. My best friend applied for something, found a connection on LinkedIn (they’d worked for the same company a few jobs ago), and it turns out the connection was the HR contact for the role she’d just applied for. My friend got the job, out of a huge applicant pool.

    15. cactus lady*

      I think it depends on the industry. My ex is a pilot and he found it really useful when he was leaving the military to connect with people who helped him find an airline job and also a job as a reservist in the military. It seemed to be really important to transitioning military members I encountered. However I work in public health and I never use it – I’ve actually been considering deleting it due to privacy concerns as well. My connections are mainly people from the job I had when I created it in 2009 (and random pilots who I connected with due to said ex, lol). I don’t think it’s ever actually helped me find a job, and it’s full of spam.

    16. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I believe in keeping in touch with people I used to work with. I try to connect them up with each other. Recently that meant I saw someone who had left a few years ago posting about their new company and recommended a recently laid off excellent co-worker. They hadn’t connected yet — and they’re now working together. Hopefully if I’m in the next layoff, one of my contacts will do the same for me.

    17. sadgrad*

      I’m in my final year of University in the UK and I’ve had at least half a dozen recruiters find me through LinkedIn? Both agency and in-house. One of these has landed me a really promising interview and others should have some coming up.
      I don’t think it’s much effort to keep up and in terms of privacy it’s pretty good!

    18. SoloKid*

      Extremely useful as a digital resume. I don’t get social media-y with it e.g. I don’t read social feeds or connect with people I don’t know. I’m in a niche senior position and it has been helpful to outline the specific projects I worked on.

    19. voluptuousfire*

      I use it every day! I also work in recruitment, so it helps. Helps with figuring out a candidate’s location if they didn’t necessarily include it in their application.

      I’m also looking for a new job and it’s also been helpful with job listings. I also like that I have an idea of what companies I’d be hearing from when I see someone from x company viewed my profile. I also invested in LinkedIn premium, which is helpful.

    20. Maggie*

      Its never provided any real use to me. Ive never gotten a job or made an important connection on it. I just have it so if I apply for a job people can google me and see a professional page that matches the resume I turned in

    21. Malarkey01*

      I’ve never found it useful and as a hiring manager we’ve stopped even looking at people’s profiles, it’s just become another social media dumping ground for us. I’m sure it really varies by industry. However if you haven’t found it useful, there’s no reason you have to rush out and re-establish it. You can wait and see how you feel the next time you’re ready to job search. I have a feeling that social media is about to go through some seismic shifts given some recent trends, demographics, and awareness around the good and bad.

    22. PT*

      100% useless, I have never used it for anything. My husband has said the same as well, he is thinking of deleting his.

    23. mreasy*

      I have found job listings there (including my current role) and use it to get in touch with industry contacts who may have changed companies since our last email exchange. Super useful to sort and see who I know at X org if, say, I have a former colleague applying there who I want to recommend.

    24. Nikki*

      Here’s a situation that made me a firm believer in LinkedIn. A few years ago I was applying for a job at a small consulting firm. I looked on LinkedIn and saw that a former colleague from a previous job was now working there. I hadn’t kept up with her at all after leaving that job but we’d worked really well together. I sent her a message letting her know I was applying and we had a nice back and forth. The interview went well and when they sent me the offer, they said they normally only do contract-to-hire for my position but because of my former colleague’s recommendation, they were offering me a permanent position right off the bat. I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t have gone that way without LinkedIn. I probably wouldn’t have realized she worked there until my first day on the job. Now I make sure to keep it up to date and connect with everyone I work with because you never know when it will be helpful in the future!

    25. Quinalla*

      I mostly used it like I use facebook, as a digital contact book. It is nice for getting in touch with people who you don’t talk to regularly so don’t have their up to date email. I also use it to put a face to a name when I’m meeting someone for the first time and to see what company someone went to after they left us or another company I work with.

      The social network stuff I only really read things that are work related which can sometimes be interesting and a way to lightly keep in touch and front of mind with people by liking or sharing their stuff occasionally.

      I will be honest I really did not use it much until after my first job, I just didn’t really see much value in it. After that it was helpful for getting in touch. I do have a lot of recruiters reach out to me on it, sometimes that is helpful – I’d say 10% of the time maybe? Mostly recruiters are being too spammy and just hitting up anyone with engineer in their job title or completely ignoring my location.

      So I’d say it has been useful for me in job searching after my first job. It is useful to keep track of contacts that I don’t talk to often and for looking up people before I meet them. Occasionally I’ll get a good article or piece of info from the social side, but I mostly skip that part.

    26. Hillary*

      When I was younger I didn’t see a lot of value, but I signed up pretty early because everyone was doing it at work. Now I log in maybe once a month but I find it extremely useful. It gives me a way to keep in touch with business contacts (both colleagues and external) without sharing any personal contact info. I’ve used it to get back in touch with old bosses for references, re-connect to sales people I already knew after I started a new job, stay in touch with old coworkers, and find someone when I can’t remember their name (I can almost always remember where they work and picture their face, but I’m terrible at people’s names). I’ve connected with recruiters there but nothing has panned out. Now I mostly use it to connect with colleagues, share updates about my employer that I’m particularly proud of, and share open jobs at my employer with people I think might be interested.

      Three of my last five jobs came through networking in some form. I leverage every tool available to build my professional relationships while keeping my personal life separate.

    27. KR*

      I haven’t found it super useful, but I keep it around in case people I want to hire me find it useful. When I was interviewing for my current role the hiring manager added me as a contact immediately after my phone interview and I looked at it as another opportunity to keep my name fresh in his mind and impress him. I also use it to keep in loose contact with people I’ve worked with in the past.

    28. kt*

      I use it a fair bit, both to keep track of old colleagues/students and also to connect with folks I meet at conferences and meetups. I don’t use the social aspect at all, and I forget to check it for a month at a time, and that’s fine. I’ve also connected with a lot of people entering my field and have used it to set up informational interviews, etc — for me, it’s preferable to giving them my personal or corporate email addresses.

    29. Sandman*

      I deleted it a couple years ago because I felt like it was more of a liability than advantage for me, but can’t say that I’m confident in that decision. I’ve had a non-linear career with time off for family responsibilities but have always stayed busy and engaged just because that’s what I like to do. I never felt like I was able to tell that story the way I wanted to on LinkedIn. Like if you google me, you’ll come up with talks I’ve given, articles I’ve written, etc., but LinkedIn formats that as What Was Your Last Job And Then The One Before That. I’ll probably give it another go mostly to make it easier to keep in touch with people I’ve worked with that have moved out of area, but I’ve also never seen it add professional value for me so it’s not high on my list.

    30. Picard*

      I got my current job via Linkedin! I had been looking for over a year and my now boss reached out to me because of a particular skill set they saw I had on Linkedin. Came into to interview with them and got a job offer, all within a week.

    31. Acronyms Are Life (AAL)*

      I think it works well for more niche fields/hard to fill positions, because recruiters key word search for the jobs that require something more specific. I also think it works better for mid-level career moves, because you have the experience in ‘job requirement x’ that they are looking for, that normally can only be learned on the job. In my world, you can only obtain a major certification if you have access to it, and you can only have access to it when you are part of an organization that has access to it, but most organizations only want to hire people who are already certified because getting certified (shocking I know) takes time. And then employers complain that there’s not enough of us certified people to go around . . .smh.

    32. Tinker*

      I’m a software engineer, and I happened to get my last job through LinkedIn — though that was a good while back. I’m currently doing an embarrassingly slow employed job search, and the listings I’ve come across on LinkedIn have seemed like reasonably viable prospects, though it’s nothing special compared to the industry-specific sites I’m mostly looking at.

      The main thing I appreciate it for, which isn’t necessarily a high-value thing, is that it’s sort of a convenient collection point of miscellaneous career history stuff. My LinkedIn profile is more or less my master resume, and I also accumulate connections to people I work with, so it’s a convenient place to go for things like “ughhhhh what year was it that I started that one job and what’s a good way to describe what I did there” or “Oh, that cool person I worked with ten years ago, what was their name? Oh, they’re vice president of the company now, that’s neat.” This isn’t information that I have, like, zero copies of other than LinkedIn, but otherwise some of it is at best buried in the bowels of one or another of the trail of semi-disused email addresses I’ve left behind.

      I do see a lot of places that either ask for a LinkedIn profile or have the option for populating an application from LinkedIn, and I think in that context it’s nice to have — not necessarily one of those super engaged LinkedIn presences, but a profile that has a minimally inhabited feel such that it seems complete, up-to-date if the person is currently in a job search, and at an “intended to be public facing” level of polish. The “yes, this person is alive and is the same person on the resume” level of LinkedIn.

      1. Cascadia*

        To using it as a master resume and a rolodex of all your random work contacts from over the years – yup! This is how I use it too. It’s not really used as a recruiting tool at all in my field (education), but it’s a nice way to keep track of it and it’s pretty easy to maintain it.

    33. nep*

      So so. But I did get some freelance work in 2020 because I was in contact with a former colleague on LI. I see it as one of those things from which I don’t expect much, but that I find worth keeping polished and up to date.

    34. Canadian Girl*

      I feel it really depends on the industries and types of work you do and are looking for. I’m in logistics and warehousing and I find very little to do with that type of thing except sales people trying to sell me on products or temp agencies.

    35. Kaelyn*

      I am not exaggerating when I say I got my dream job because of it. I hadn’t heard back about an application, but I knew I wasn’t rejected yet based on how Taleo works. As a last ditch effort, I searched the company name and department on linkedin and found a senior recruiter. I reached out, we chatted back and forth and he interviewed me the next day and I got the job after a few more rounds. If I hadn’t, I never would have gotten this job because I wasnt an obvious candidate on paper, but the chat allowed me to give the text equivalent of an elevator speech on why my experience was a good fit.

      At the very least, I like that it allows you to keep a completw, fully detailed, public-facing work history. I’m far enough into my career that I have to leave jobs and details off of my resume, so it’s nice having a longform version available.

    36. Rhymetime*

      As others have said, I think it varies widely depending on your field. I work in nonprofit fundraising, specifically grants, and networking is critical to my job. I’m connected to multiple funders and others involved in my field. I post professional updates regularly and our funders can see what my organization is up to and how their support is making a difference. I also receive alerts when a professional contact moves into a new role and that’s helpful. For example, LinkedIn let me know that a longtime contact who funded my organization has now moved into an influential government role and that connection would come in useful.

      There’s an organization I’ve dreamed of working at for years and they recently posted a job I learned about on LinkedIn and I applied. While they postponed hiring due to financial challenges related to the pandemic, they let me know my application was competitive and there’s a good chance that they’ll repost it in the future and I’ll be a familiar applicant.

      It’s also useful for other people I know, and I like to help them out when I can. A former colleague reached out to me on LinkedIn to write a letter of support for an award their nonprofit was in the running for. I was glad to be able to help.

    37. Anonymous for this*

      It’s been very useful for me. I used it quite extensively to job search after I was laid off after 10+ years at a company and found a new job through the job postings there. Then, a couple years later, an old colleague, whom I did not keep in touch with, found me via LinkedIn as they thought I would be a good fit for an open position at their company. I applied and with their recommendation, got the job at a 20% higher salary with more opportunities for advancement.

    38. SummerBreeze*

      I start a new high-level job next week because of LI!

      It’s what you make of it. I had “open to recruiters” selected (which is invisible to anyone but recruiters) and often get contacted for jobs in my industry. This one just happened to work out perfectly.

    39. Not that kind of doctor*

      I’ve gotten multiple jobs and job offers through LinkedIn, either because recruiters contacted me or because the automated emails told me about a job opportunity that was a really good fit. I’m sort of tech-adjacent, though one of my jobs contacted me when I had very little experience. Like others, I also use it as an ur-resume and as a way to be able to get in touch with old colleagues if I need/want to. You don’t have to spend much time on it if you don’t want, and there’s not much of a downside to keeping your account active.

  7. EnfysNest*

    I’m curious about the legal nuances of something I saw posted on Facebook the other day. Someone was posting about their friend opening a themed restaurant, and the person posting wanted to gather people in themed outfits to take pictures and hang out outside the restaurant to draw attention to it on opening day. The poster doesn’t work for the company, but it sounded like the owner, knowing the poster had friends who did costuming stuff, had asked if she knew anyone who would be interested. They said the restaurant was offering a free meal to anyone who shows up in costume and participates.

    I know it’s illegal for a for-profit company to accept volunteer work and they must compensate all employees, but where does that fall with “advertising” of this sort? Let’s say the restaurant’s dinosaur-themed. If a group of people who own those inflatable T-rex costumes decided to show up on their own to take pictures outside the restaurant on opening day, that’s obviously not working for the company or “advertising” or anything and there are no issues, even if it does draw extra attention to the restaurant from passers-by. But does it change the equation if the restaurant specifically requests for the group to show up? Would it be legal for the restaurant to “hire” a flash mob group for the day with just a free meal as compensation, or do they need to actually hire them and pay minimum wage/etc.? If those things would come into play at any point, does having the owner’s friend post the request as a third party put them in the clear, or would it still count because the original request came from the company? Where is the line with something like this?

    This is all theoretical – I’m certainly not trying to rain on anyone’s parade and I’m not going to address the post at all (I might actually have been interested in joining something like that if the timing was different), but it just sparked my curiosity in how it relates to the “no-volunteering for for-profits” that has been discussed on AAM before, so I was wondering if anyone has any actual legal insight to this.

    1. Mockingjay*

      IANAL, but I think the first scenario would fall under “promotion.” Like “Wednesday is Senior Day, all senior citizens get 10% off.” “People in costume on Opening Day get a free meal, so tell your friends!” Word of mouth on Facebook/social media is not an employment contract. Restaurants advertise special events all the time. It’s not employment because there is no obligation to show up.

      Now if a restaurant hired a flash mob, I would consider that employment because they have to be there to perform (work) at a certain time. Thus local employment laws would kick in for pay and taxes. (But likely it would be cash under the table.)

    2. katz*

      IANAL but it’s a one-off event, and much different from some of the “for-profit volunteer” stories we’ve read here. No one is specifically expected or required to show up.

      What if they set it up as an event? T-Rex Day at Dinosaur Restaurant. Come in costume and get a free meal. Group photo at 3:00 PM.

    3. DivineMissL*

      IANAL but it sounds ok to me. There’s an ice cream place near me that will advertise “Names of the Day” – they’ll pick two random names and if I show up on that day and that’s my name, I get a free cone. I guess they’re assuming that I’ll also come with my family who will pay for their own cones, thereby generating more sales. A dance troupe that comes by on opening day to do a dance routine in front of the restaurant in exchange for a free lunch (and also generating publicity for their dance studio)? A bunch of friends/club members who want to have a fun afternoon dressing up in their costumes and then posting selfies of themselves on their social media page? Just sounds like fun. I think these types of short-term advertising stunts are different than, say, legitimately hiring someone to stand out in front of your store holding a sign every day.

    4. Llellayena*

      No legal knowledge, but this sounds like a promotion offered by the business. Kind of like the restaurants that say if you show up wearing one of our t-shirts, you get 10 percent off. Taking pics once people are there wouldn’t be unusual. Though if they use the photos as official marketing, they might need waivers signed from the people in the photos. Hopefully an actual lawyer can weigh in though.

    5. Seeking Second Childhood*

      No problem: Original concept flash mob where it’s fun not performance: “Anyone who dances the macarena with us at 11:45 gets a free dessert!”
      Problem: Commit to several rehearsals for an unannounced professional performance in exchange for food.
      No problem: “People in Elizabethan costume will get a free dessert.”
      Problem: “People who teach a costuming class that we charge customers to attend will get a free dessert.”
      Problem: “People who donate an Elizabethan costume for our restaurant to keep will get a free dessert.”

      1. Diatryma*

        As an example, Chick-Fil-A has a Dress Like A Cow day (or they have in the past) where anyone who shows up dressed like a cow gets a free meal. I went as a group of Pride Cows.

  8. Promotion Time*

    What advice do you have for someone that needs to move the promotion conversation forward?

    It has been agreed upon by my department leaders that I am overdue. This wouldn’t be a matter of waiting for a position to open up it would be redefining my role and salary since what I do is considered vital to the company and has significantly grown since taking on the role (my job title basically a glorified coordinator but interact with directors, VPs & C-level on a regular basis at this point for a company of 15-20K). We’re at 9+ months where this discussion started in seriousness but no action. This needs to be a priority for me so I am going to bring it up again. I need a timeline. And if this isn’t a priority for my department or company then I feel as though I have my answer. I am prepared to leave if that is the case.

    Any tips? Dos/Don’ts? Stories to share?

    1. saffie_girl*

      I think you need to ask point blank, but professionally of course, for their timeline and what they need from you to make it happen. Their answer will probably tell you what you need to know. If they can give you dates or milestones, believe them and then reevaluate if they get missed. If it is a lot of non-answers, that is also your answer.

      Several years ago I was told ‘something was in the works’, and I knew my organization changes slowly. I took that time to get some additional education I wanted for myself with the idea that if they did not come through, I would be well positioned for my next job. When I stopped seeing any progress I continued to have the conversation of ‘where is this going? how can I help move it along?’ I was also casually job searching, but was in a place where I could be picky so was not finding the right thing. In the end I wrote most of my own job description, and found out about some internal hurdles that my supervisor was running into. The promotion finally came through, and I really like my new role, but it took a lot of legwork on my part.

    2. Fabulous*

      I started the conversation three years and four bosses ago! Since then baby steps have happened, but I’m finally *almost* to the point I asked for way back when. Story goes…

      First boss was let go about 9 months after I initiated the conversation, but nothing happened under her watch.

      Second boss discovered FB was trying to go about a promotion/raise for me the wrong way. She was able to get me a modest raise, but it was only about 5% when I’d asked for 20% to bring me up to the industry standard for the work I was doing (my job had changed twice since hire but no matching title/pay updates).

      Third boss was able to accomplish the most for me. She really went to bat! She got me three 5% raises within a year on top of the 5% I’d already gotten with SB. It totaled about 19% overall, which, whoohoo! In addition to that, our department reorganized (hence the move to Boss Four) and she was able to get a promotion for me during the re-org – with yet another raise!!

      Boss Four is working on the final step for me. I now have the exact same job as one other person, and she is still a step above me title-wise. Since I was “just promoted” in the fall, they apparently can’t do it again yet, so maybe it’ll be on the docket for next year…

    3. Malarkey01*

      My suggestion is to set a meeting where it’s the clear topic of conversation “Meeting to discuss performance and promotion timeline” so managers know to come prepared to discuss (sometimes people tack in on to other conversations and it’s easier to be less committal or general). If they say they are working on it, professionally and politely ask what those steps look like and if they anticipate specific hurdles. I’d frame it like this “can you walk me through that process? Does it go through HR/different levels of management? Are there any documentation requirements? Is there something I can help prepare for that step?” I would also say that you understand timelines can vary with the process but what is their best guess for when this would occur?

      I’d also come prepared with a write up of current duties, accomplishments, and justification for promotion. They may not need it, but the people who have handed me a 1-2 page document that I can then use to advance the promotion are godsends and make it easier to get the process rolling.
      I would not mention that you’re prepared to leave over this. It makes sense to start job searching and then once you get a better offer you can leave. No sense giving them a heads up because it could result in them doing less for your promotion or pushing you out altogether before you have something lined up.
      Good luck!

      1. Promotion Time*

        I like the suggestion of setting up the clear meeting time. That was one of the things I was struggling with because it seemed pretty hit or miss to mention in any sort of regular touch base meeting. Thanks!

  9. GigglyPuff*

    Has anyone here taken the Certified Archivists exam? I’m trying to gauge the difficulty and how much time I’ll need to spend on studying (basically trying to find out whether the stress will be worth it). I’ve taken SAA exams but someone who I know has taken it said it was comparable to the GRE. I know it’s multiple choice which I usually do typically well on those and have always done fine on standardized tests.

    1. Magnus Archivist*

      I have! I did minimal studying and passed, but I also may have just gotten lucky with having questions that were easy for me to answer. The best advice I got is that if you’re an archivist with a few years experience, there will be one answer that is the “yes, this is what I would do/have done in the past” answer, and then there will be the “well if I had unlimited time, money, & staff (in a scenario that will never occur on this earth), this is what I would do.” The latter is the correct answer.

      To study I picked 2 or 3 readings from each area (ones that I could access for free at work), made a loose schedule, & read those over about 2 months. And I made flashcards of some terminology I wasn’t sure about from the SAA dictionary. Following them on social media for the Word of the Day was also a good idea.

      What ends up on your test is so random though. I had a bunch of questions about preservation stuff (ideal room humidity & temp, what’s a footcandle, lifespan of removable media, etc.) but some of my colleagues had no preservation questions and a whole whack of questions about legal precedents and copyright law. /shrug

      1. GigglyPuff*

        Thanks that really helps! I was wondering if it was textbook answers or real life answers since sometimes SAA seemed like a mix of both which made it harder to get the right answer.

        I’m actually on the digital side of archiving but not really digital preservation, so I’m a little apprehensive about more traditional hands-on questions. I also don’t have access through work to a lot of published material so seems like I’ll have to beg around for material.

        Another question: is the letter from your manager/supervisor basically just a few lines verifying employment and your job duties?

        1. Magnus Archivist*

          I think my supervisor actually sent a short letter verifying that I was X position and attaching my job description from our annual review process. You could probably also use the original job posting.

    2. Bloopmaster*

      Me too! I don’t have a degree with significant coursework in archival management (so I can’t comment on whether that gives an advantage), but I’d worked in the field for 5+ years and done quite a bit of self study. I went through the list of the suggested readings from the CA website and read/scanned through maybe 70% of them over 2-3 months (leaving out those I couldn’t find for free). I took minimal notes, but I have a pretty decent memory. I passed with less than 10 pts to spare, so my performance wasn’t stellar but it got the job done. As Magnus Archivist mentioned the questions are pretty random. I found it odd that they asked so many technical details about preservation, etc. since you can easily look up ideal humidity/temp ranges if you need to for a particular job. There were also a few that struck me as trivial historical facts that wouldn’t have anything to do with actual practice. Nevertheless, I think the majority were the theory/method/practice type questions you might expect. I am glad I did it (especially since I don’t have the degree), and I do think some of the places I’ve interviewed with have liked it. But ultimately for most people it’s not a career maker or a career breaker.

      1. Magnus Archivist*

        that reminds me — I only took it because the institution where I was working valued the certification *and* because they paid for it.

      2. GigglyPuff*

        Thanks! Yeah I just have a regular MLIS without any concentrations and my program was more focused on public and academic libraries than archives with only one class offered. I work on the digital side now but the hands-on archivists make more money than digital where I work and was hoping with the certification I could theoretically show I know what I’m doing, if a job opens up in the next couple years. I’ve been working in my current job at an archives though for 5+ years and have an SAA certificate so I’m hoping all that helps with subconscious knowledge, lol.

        And honestly it’s a little bit of just some professional development to do while at home, especially since the test is online this year. My job doesn’t require or seem to value professional development but I know it helps when applying to other jobs. It’s either this or taking a bigger plunge and enrolling in a technical community college for a tech certificate, which is a much bigger investment than what I really want to do right now.

        Do you know what a passing grade is? I don’t remember seeing that anywhere.

        Also, is the letter from your manager/supervisor basically just a few lines verifying employment and your job duties?

        1. Jenn*

          It’s been a few years since I took it, but I believe that there is no set passing grade – it depends on how everyone does that year. If it was a “hard” test, a lower score is passing. If it was “easy,” a higher score is passing.
          My letter from my manager was only two or three sentences – verifying my start date, the number of hours a week that I worked and some of my job duties. If you have an official job description, attaching that would probably be helpful.
          I second (third?) the randomness of the questions. Always go with the “ideal world answer!”
          On the advice of a colleague who had passed, I focused on reading and taking (extensive) notes using the “Archives Fundamentals” series from SAA. I also read anything I could get my hands on for free in areas that I knew I was weak on.

    3. Grits McGee*

      I took it- I read all of the suggested books but not the articles. I think I spent probably a year reading in my free time, about an hour or two a week. I didn’t do any active “studying”, other than doing the practice test available on the ACA website.
      Maybe I took it a weird year, but I found that the test had very little to do with the suggested readings- it felt like the majority of test was related to project management, specifically what order you should do things in. I think the passing score for that year was something like 70%.

    4. AnotherLibrarian*

      Are you talking about the one from the ACA or the SAA Arrangement and Description? I think if you want to do it, people tell me the ACA one is not too hard/bad. However, and I think this is a real issue, I have never looked for it on a resume, chosen to move someone forward who had it, because they had it, or really felt like it was worthwhile. I know people who have it and they have different opinions then me, but I just don’t know if it is a really useful thing to getting a job in this field. I am more in the Special Librarian side of things though (although I have held the title Archivist more than once in my career) so I maybe wrong.

      SAA stuff is just to expense for me to justify recommending to anyone unless their employer is paying for it.

  10. Web Crawler*

    We got word from up high that we can put pronouns in our signatures, but I feel weird as a trans person about being the first one to do this. I don’t know whether I’m overthinking this or not. Any trans folks here want to share their opinion/experiences?

    1. NotaPirate*

      Do you have any work friends you could ask to be the first to do it? Or ideally a large group of people so you can all do it first at the same time? Managers and other leadership roles should take the initiative and lead by doing it first but they may not. I am not trans so I cannot speak to that, but I recognize that being trans and being the only one to have pronouns in signature feels a little odd. Even if it is that way for a bit I hope others follow suit quickly!

      Personally, I love when people have the pronouns, so many unisex Alex type names were I am not sure what gender they are and emails with multiple people where I want to be able to use a pronoun to refer to someone else’s work.

    2. King Friday XIII*

      At my workplace, my trans coworker was the first I noticed do this, and I (also trans) and a cis worker followed suit shortly after. This was actually about six months before management revised the email signature template to add optional pronouns, but it was a non-issue, which I appreciated. If you feel generally safe at your company, I’d go ahead and do it and see how it gets picked up by others.

    3. Book Pony*

      – waves in nonbinary- I’ve done it, and it’s been a mixed bag. Some people have noticed the Mx in front and the they/them below, and used it immediately (yay!).

      Others know my pronouns, see them every day, and still call me “she”.

      If you can, can you get a coworker or two to either do it with you, or do a test run of sorts?

      I will say that no one’s gotten on my case about it being in my signature, or sent word emails about their opinion, if that’s a concern for you.

      1. Caroline Bowman*

        the thing is, why OH WHY would anyone not simply use the pronouns someone has requested? It affects them not remotely, it’s not trying to get some sort of special qualification one doesn’t have, such as Professor or whatever.

        To me, it’s like gay marriage; why and how does it affect anyone other than the person / people involved? How does it hurt a single other person?

        I’m not very up to date, and I hope I’ve been an ally in my rather tragic way, but it always blows my mind, this refusal to just call people by their chosen name / pronoun and accept that all of us deserve the same rights and dignities. It’s not even complicated. I’m not that bright and I get it!

    4. PolarVortex*

      It sucks to have to be the first. But, if your comfortable doing it, it can be a life saver to those who are less able to be strong. I’m being the voice at my company so that my future coworkers can be comfortable. Sometimes it helps me to coach it to myself like that. I gotta be the wave maker so others are safer. Just like others before me were wavemakers so I can be out as trans without losing my job.

    5. Librarian of SHIELD*

      I’m glad you brought this up. My org is looking into adding pronouns, but they’re not ready to start yet (our email signatures are preprogrammed and we don’t have the ability to change them ourselves, or I already would have). I’m cis, but I’m keeping my eyes and ears open for the announcement because I don’t want the trans/NB people in the department to feel the kind of pressure you’re feeling about going first.

    6. Malarkey01*

      I am not trans, but if someone in our division mentioned that they wanted to do this and would appreciate some solidarity I think all of us would happily jump on it. I don’t know about your office dynamics but maybe mentioning it to a few others would help. Honestly there are so many of us that want to be allies and advocates but don’t always think hey this would be a great way to help- which shouldn’t be your job to educate but hopefully helps if you’re nervous to state what would help.

      1. Malarkey01*

        And, I just realized I don’t need to wait to be asked. I’m updating my signature now in case that helps someone not be the first.

        1. JelloStapler*

          Great idea! Our organization did this a few years ago, and other than a weird reaction from a boss making it more of a scary issue than it was (she had some …. problems) – it’s pretty widely used.

        2. HelenOfWhat*

          I did it as soon as I started at my current job without asking permission (in part because email misgendering has happened to me many times in my career–I’m cis but my name is gender neutral– but also hoping to make it a normal thing). It’s been a couple years and it is indeed more normalized here, probably thanks to the LGBTQ ERG.

    7. Not Really a Waitress*

      We got communication from HzQ recommending we use our pronouns in our email signature. I am not trans but did so immediately to provide support and make it more mainstream. I work with a lot of people virtually and I don’t know what they think or even care. Our work stands for itself! Honestly I also have noticed who or who hasn’t put their pronouns in their signature. Do what feels right for you.

      1. Cj*

        But the point is that you should notice them. If someone requests that you use they/ them, for example, and you don’t notice it, you are likely to be misgendering them.

    8. My 2 cents*

      No real advice but I can see where you are coming from. I added my pronouns as soon as my job said we could, even as a non trans female (not sure if that is the correct term) just to show support to anyone that may not want to be first.

    9. AutolycusinExile*

      Ugh, my organization just started pushing the new pronoun field in our online profiles super hard. I think they just finished programming it into the system and are overcompensating for it not being a formal option sooner, as they sent numerous reminders and even did a survey about it literally the day after rollout. I’m annoyed by how they’re handling it but also feel like I’m overthinking it, so… you’re not alone, for what that’s worth!

      Personally, I held off on adding pronouns for a while and am watching as other people start to use the feature first. Part of it is in a petty reaction to how my org is pushing for literally everyone to add their pronouns (a nightmare for anyone who is questioning, can’t or doesn’t want to be publicly out, etc). I’m also a fairly private person who feels no obligation to come out of the closet in most settings and who doesn’t have dysphoria triggered by incorrect pronouns, so for me there was no real incentive to jump in and give pronouns right away. That perspective also biases my advice, I think, so keep that in mind if you’re coming from a different perspective!

      If you’re already out at work and correct people about your pronouns IRL, then I’d assume that anyone who’d be weird about it is already weird and there won’t be as much downside to taking advantage of the feature. If you’re not 100% out already then adding pronouns will open the door to the standard cis-people-nonsense, so I’d encourage you to sit down and go through the pros and cons of how you expect it to affect you.

      If you fit a lot of the stereotypes of your gender then a lot of the decent people will assume you’re an ally and are just adding your pronouns in response to the news (even if you happen to be gender non-conforming). Adding pronouns doesn’t mean that everyone automatically will assume you’re trans. On the other hand, conservatives and jerks will generally read pronouns as a sign that someone is trans regardless of whether or not that’s actually the case; it’s nothing to do with your performance of gender and everything to do with the fact that they don’t understand the concept of having empathy for a demographic you aren’t a part of. I encourage you to try not to take it personally if/when that happens.

      Giving your pronouns in your signature/bio can be an easy way to come out or offload a lot of pronoun correction that you might have to do, which is a real advantage. If you have severe dysphoria around incorrect pronouns, including them can noticeably improve your odds of others getting it right and it could be really worth it! On the flip side, including your pronouns also opens the door to gender weirdness with strangers/people you email with whom the topic might not have come up otherwise. This is especially true if you email a lot of people you don’t work with in person or by phone. Similarly, if you work with a lot of jerks who you suspect might be rude, or you don’t want to deal with the people who see your signature but still get it wrong, then those are more aspects to consider.

      Basically, my advice is to lean in to the “overthinking” and compare your best-case, worst-case, and most-likely scenarios so that you can make the decision which will result in your highest day-to-day happiness. If you’re reluctant to add pronouns right now, it’s okay to listen to that feeling – you’re under no obligation to offer personal information that you’d rather keep private, and you don’t ever have to correct people if they get their assumptions wrong. Deconstructing their internalized bias is their responsibility, not yours, and it’s not your job to be someone’s learning opportunity. I know there can be a lot of pressure to come out and to spearhead awareness and all that jazz, but that’s BS – you can’t fix a structural issue with your own personal sacrifice. Prioritize your own wellbeing, however that might look.

      1. linger*

        if you need a noncommittal pronoun choice in a newly-required pronoun field, can you get away with just entering 1st-person pronouns (I, me, my)?

        1. linger*

          (… though note, they is a perfectly acceptable arbitrary-gender pronoun without implying nonbinary status, should you not wish to identify as any gender.)

    10. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

      I’m not trans myself but in every professional situation where it’s been brought up I’ve been more than happy to put my pronouns in right away. Hopefully others in your company will do the same regardless of their gender.

      1. Anonymous and Forgetful*

        I posted a while back, and can’t find the original thread, which means I forgot which fake anon username I had, oh well.

        Anyway, I work at a very small place and we are being strongly encouraged to add pronouns, but everyone who shared them so far was cis…

        I just noticed a coworker had he/they, so at least we have one person now!

        I’m of the “don’t want to lie and endorse the gender binary, but don’t want to be out at work” crowd.

        Sending support and solidarity.

  11. Stuckinacrazyjob*

    I’m doing a bit better on the job. I’m working to only 7 nowadays, and got a lot of paper scanned. I plan to clean my desk and create a filing system during my vacation next week. My monthly documentation was 99 percent. Thanks folks!

  12. NotaPirate*

    I started a new job remotely (yay!). It will be remote through end of June. I am currently not even in the same city (getting ready to move). Any advice or tips for getting to know my new coworkers? It feels very strange compared to non pandemic job starts where you could easily make small talk by the water cooler, and get to know people as you greeted them everyday.

    1. Crazy Plant Lady*

      My organization has been growing A LOT before and during the pandemic, and we’ve had quite a few new people join while everyone has been remote. Depending on the culture, you could ask whether there are any remote happy hours/team gatherings to join. A few people who have joined have also scheduled short (15-30 minute) 1×1 video calls with their team members to get to know them a bit more. These calls have included “work talk” to get to know what each person’s role is, and also more small-talk to get to know people as people.

    2. TPS reporter*

      We assign weekly mentors to new team members for their first 90 days. The mentor is a different person each week. I know it’s a little formal but we’re huge and want to support new people. Could you ask your manager for something more formal?

    3. lebkin*

      When possible, try to use the phone more in the early goings. Voice is powerful for building connection. Remote work means defaults to email, with text chat behind that. Actively resisting that pattern can be very helpful.

  13. Career Change Engineer*

    Reference and Cover Letter Questions!

    I’m currently in my first full time job and I’m looking for a new job. If you’ve been in this situation, who have you used for references? I have a couple former coworkers I could ask, but I’m worried it would look odd only to have people who no longer work at my company as references.

    In terms of cover letters, does anyone have any advice on how talk about wanting to change directions in your career slightly?

    Thank you!

    1. Adventurer*

      References: When I was at the same point in my career, I used a combo of someone who’d left my company, as you suggested, along with managers from previous seasonal/student employment, a manager of volunteers at the place where I volunteer, and a college professor who I worked closely with.

    2. Anonymous Educator*

      If it’s your current company, it’s pretty normal not to list your current manager as a reference, so former co-workers who used to work at your company are fine to list. That said, you should have at least one former manager (from a previous workplace) as a reference, if at all possible.

    3. Bear Shark*

      It won’t look weird since you’re in your first full time job. Former coworkers who can speak to your work are good choices.
      For your cover letter, if you’re only changing directions slightly talk about how your current job has helped you to learn that you are interested in work that will let you do more XYZ. Where XYZ is something the new job would have and helps with your change in directions.

    4. Joielle*

      I’m three jobs in to my professional career and still used a law school professor as a reference in my last job search! I think it’s ok to use a professor or mentor if you worked closely together and still stay in touch. Former coworkers are also fine. If you have any relevant volunteer or student org experience and can list someone who supervised you there, that would be great.

      For the cover letter, I think it’s important to be really explicit that you want to change careers, and list the transferable skills you have and why they would transfer well to the new area. Address it head on and really connect the dots.

  14. micromanaged!*

    How do you deal with a workaholic boss who just won’t let you manage?

    I started this job two months ago and my boss is a nightmare. Instead of training me, she just goes ahead and does about 30% of the things I’m supposed to do but need input on. For another 40% or so of tasks that I know how to do (and she knows I know), she micromanages me and starts sending directions on how to do the thing that she has already seen me do a bunch of times (by the time she sends it to me, I’m typically almost done). I’ve tried telling her immediately that I received the request and was working on it but… it hasn’t helped. For the other 30% of tasks, she will jump in midway even though I’m handling. And it’s not that I’m completely mucking it up, it’s usually some unrelated follow up question or request that the person asks that I can easily find the answer to, but she’ll eagerly jump in and either doesn’t realize or care that she’s making me feel/look incompetent.

    She’s supposed to take on different things and this chunk of the business is supposed to be “mine” but I truly don’t see how that will ever happen when she takes over.

    She also emails at all hours of the night and on weekends, which I don’t tend to do. We work in client-based work and I don’t want to set that expectation, but since it’s already been set I really don’t know how to un-set it. I am of the mindset that we shouldn’t ask how much higher to jump if we’re already meeting and exceeding expectations with customers. So unless it’s an emergency, I won’t email them in the middle of the night or on the weekends… I will often work and set emails to my drafts, etc. But my boss clearly doesn’t feel the same. Last weekend she spent all weekend working on something I could (and would) have just done on Monday. I really DON’T want to have to work weekends to “beat her at her game,” but do I need to just do this to get her to trust me??

    I know two months in is not a long time but is this normal?? I’ve never been micromanaged this way, even in lower level jobs (btw, this was a step up for me, but I’m doing substantially less than my previous job that was more junior level than this one). Basically, I am doing what I was doing 3-4 years ago at my previous company. As a result of all of this I’m feeling extremely unmotivated which is a terrible feeling in a new job.

    TLDR: New job, boss is a workaholic and a micromanager, how can I cope/mitigate?

    1. Persephone Mongoose*

      Ugh, this sounds miserable. No, this is not normal.

      I would try talking to your boss if you haven’t already and they’re otherwise a reasonable person. If you search “micromanaging boss” on this site, Alison has some good scripts you can use.

      If it doesn’t work and your boss isn’t approachable, you may need to start job-hunting again. I’m sorry.

    2. I'm that guy*

      What was she like when she interviewed with her? You mentioned how some things have changed from what you were told the job would be like to how they actually are. Can you bring that up with her? And if not her can you go to her boss?

    3. Emilitron*

      I would bring it up with her from the perspective of efficiency – you’re spending time working on the same tasks, and that doesn’t make sense, let’s sit down and divide things up, and be really clear about who’s going to handle what. Consider designating a couple of tasks as “coaching” tasks where she’s going to help you with it, specifically so that you can have the other category of non-coaching tasks where if you need her input you’ll ask for it. And then you’ve got the language in place to say “hey, saw your email – this isn’t a coaching task, I’ve got it under control, expect the results at (N:30)”

    4. Zoe’s mom*

      What sort of company is this and are there people above her? Does she own it cuz if she does I think you’re screwed. You could try and have a meeting that is about expectations and boundaries i.e. spelling out what you’re willing to do and not do.

    5. lemon*

      Ugh, your boss sounds a lot like my boss. I’ve spent the past two years pushing back against their micromanaging and have finally reached the point where…. they just ignore me. It’s like they don’t know how to manage without micromanaging, so their solution is to just not manage at all. I’m fed up, and realized they’re never going to change, so it’s time to move on.

      The only real advice I can offer is that IME, micromanagers rarely change (or are very difficult to change). So definitely try to talk to your boss and try to push back on the micromanaging. But maybe set a timeframe with yourself to do a self check-in on the relationship. Like, maybe after 6 months to a year reevaluate whether the change you’ve seen in your boss (if any) has made the working relationship sustainable long-term. If at that point, their micromanaging is still driving you bonkers, it may just be that this working relationship isn’t the one you need.

      1. lemon*

        Oh, some more pragmatic tips on dealing with micromanagers.

        Figure out the root cause of the micromanagement, which will influence the strategies you take. Is it due to a lack of trust? Need to be in control? Are they using micromanagement because they lack in actual managerial skills?

        I think lack of trust/need for control are a little easier to work with. The technique that I find works with them is to be very proactive about giving updates and including them on decisions. So, in your case, clients are reaching out to you with questions and boss is jumping in. A way to deal with that could be to reach out to boss 1-1 before they respond with your plan of action, e.g. “Hey, I was thinking about telling client X, Y, and Z. Does that sound right to you? Let me know and I’ll follow up with them directly.” It lets them feel included and in control, which can help.

        Using that technique, I’ve gotten one micromanaging boss to ease up a bit and trust me a bit more. However, that still isn’t the ideal way for me to work, and having to constantly manage someone else’s anxiety for them becomes exhausting, so I still left eventually.

        I think that the micromanager who lacks actual managerial skills is harder to work with, if not impossible. That kind of person needs intensive training/coaching, which is beyond your control as a direct report, unfortunately.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Good stuff here.

          I had a boss who was a nervous wreck most of the time. Her “on switch” was always in the “on position”. She was exhausting as every single little thing led to some discussion.

          She was a very nervous person and when I worked on reassuring her that I would complete by deadline, etc she upped her game. She gave me deadlines that did not seem attainable. She gave me tasks that were so encumbered, most people would start to cry and so on. In the end, I left, of course.

          But one of the things she did not count on is that she actually sharpened me in some ways. Now, very rarely do I find a looming deadline intimidating. Having been pushed hard, I know how to really get through stuff. I am no longer intimidated by large projects, because the reaction to break it down into workable components has become ingrained in me.
          In short my suggestion is instead of managing her emotions, learn to reeeally manage your work. Be on top of it. I aimed to be one step ahead of her and her worries. And it worked. See when I watched for patterns in what she thought of to worry about or to do, I found patterns. I was able to take preemptive steps to cut down on the impact of what she thought of to say, as i could respond with, “I noted that info here” or “I thought of that, so I did xyz to prevent it.” and so on.

          1. micromanaged!*

            Thanks for the tips! they make total sense and are really great suggestions.

            That’s exactly how I would describe my boss.. a nervous wreck. There’s only so much I can manage her anxiety for her. I’m hopeful that over time she will pipe down but it’s not extremely likely, so I can only manage how I react to her. And worse case scenario, 10 months to hang in there til I’m here a year and can apply for other jobs, hahaha.

            Thanks everyone!!

        2. I'm the boss of me*

          Hi Lemon- Oh yes I have totally been there. I had a boss so no-boundaries that when I stepped away from my desk he would run over and rummage around my papers! I put a ‘fake’ giant lizard in one of the drawers just before a I left. GOOD NEWS from now on you will quickly see a micro-manager from a mile off before you get involved. I don’t think your current situation is healthy just no way to feel: everyday under attack.
          Quick and easy way to deal with this is to get agreement ( make a memo to ‘confirm’) that informal performance review at 2 months and months. Agree on specific benchmarks. Now here is the awesome news: you write up the form for review knowing that you can use to transfer inside the organization, or use as documentation for next job. So make it happen – you take control.

      2. JelloStapler*

        Yes very difficult to change, we had one in our team and the person did start to see the impact but would often slide into old habits.

    6. Anonosaurus*

      I think you have two separate problems; the taking over your work, and the having no time boundaries.

      The second problem is easier to resolve – hold your own boundaries. I don’t think that it will resolve things if you work 24/7 as well. And if she wants to spend the weekend doing your job for you, let her. Spend your own weekend doing something which refreshes you mentally because you will need that in a situation like this. Do not get sucked into the workaholic competition she wants to have with you because you will never win. Also, if she does your work over the weekend, there’s less for you to do on Monday. I am being flippant here but it’s a way to reframe it for the short term.

      When I have had bosses like this it has sometimes been helpful to provide proactive status reports to head the anxiety off at the pass. Today, I will be doing X, Y and Z and this week I aim to get to A or B stage of project. I have also had some success, with reasonable bosses, with a conversation along the lines of “When you intervene in my work it undermines my relationship with clients/makes our work less efficient/doesn’t seem to be the best use of your time or mine – how can we find a balance where you have the information and reasurance you need that the work is being done properly, and I am able to work at the level you pay me for?”

      It also helps to try to depersonalize it. For me, part of the problem of a micromanaging boss is that it makes me doubt my own competence. However, if the boss treats everyone else like this, it’s a her problem and not a you problem. It’s still a problem but I find it less stressful if I can tell myself “this is about her stress and not my ability”.

      having said all this, I think your boss sucks and isn’t going to change, and I would be sending our my resume.

  15. Bipolar Flame Out at Work*

    After 11 years without one I recently had a bipolar episode. A lot of the factors causing it were work-related (new schedule, new role, management issues) but I managed to take time off without disclosing. Although my behavior before taking time off was definitely not normal for me, I don’t know that anyone knows me well enough to know that something was wrong. One person (not my boss) does know me well enough and that person helped organize the time off discreetly and a change in position to not have the duties that caused the issue.

    I’m now better, not great but better. Should I explain to my boss what happened? I’m not at 100% so I feel the need to explain, and my behavior was out of step with how I want to be perceived. I wouldn’t disclose the DX, just “Hey I’m sorry about X, Y, Z, a previously well-controlled mental health issue flared up and I wasn’t myself. I’m working on getting back into the swing of things.” My boss has talked about her own mental health with me (vague and professionally, not oversharey) and the company is very vocal about supporting mental health.

    1. Raldeme*

      I would just call it a health issue because you don’t know who your boss will tell / what they’ll think. Even if a company says they’re inclusive, individuals don’t always act that way, and people can be really weird and sharing other folks’ business. I’m sorry you’re going through it right now.

    2. SomebodyElse*

      “Hey I’m sorry about X, Y, Z I wasn’t myself. I’m working on getting back into the swing of things.”

      I would keep it even more simple than your example. Really the point is to acknowledge something was going on and that you are working on it. You don’t need to be explicit on what that ‘something’ is.

    3. A Simple Narwhal*

      I agree with Raldeme, I wouldn’t disclose the full details, just say that you were dealing with a health issue that flared up, it’s mostly resolved but you’re still getting back into the swing of things in the aftermath. It’s 100% true but offers you the protection of vagueness in case others aren’t cool with it. (Your boss may be cool with it, but if they share the information or it got out somehow, it might reach someone who would {wrongly} use it against you.)

    4. HungryLawyer*

      Could you reframe the language without the apology and instead focus on how things will be moving forward? Maybe something like: “You probably noticed I recently did/said X, Y, Z, which may have seemed out of the ordinary for me. This was due to a previously well-controlled health issue that flared up, but is now under control again. I’m working on getting back into the swing of things and wanted to assure you that X, Y, Z won’t be an issue moving forward.” By removing the apology, you’re giving your boss a chance to focus on the improved near future rather than focusing on the potential negative impact of your past behavior/actions at work. Good luck (and glad things are improving, I know how hard that is)!

    5. Mr. Tyzik*

      I had a bipolar manic phase that grew slowly and flamed out, landing in the hospital for a bit. I did not disclose why I was out, but others guessed. I did not feel safe, which is part of why I went manic.

      Do you feel safe? I recommend sticking to vague health issue, without addressing what the issue was, and say that you are treating it with some success (if you’re feeling better). I wouldn’t disclose the bipolar. It’s hard to say this because I try to lead an authentic life at home and work, but I find that in the times I have talked about my mental health, it changes the work relationships.

    6. mreasy*

      If you can avoid being out about bipolar at work, I recommend it, even at workplaces that are pro-mental health. Fellow bipolar person here, and people get alarmed by that diagnosis in a way they may not about anxiety or depression.

    7. AnotherLibrarian*

      While I agree that you can be as vague as you want about it, I would say that most of the language suggested is going to lead anyone who can read between the lines to guess it was mental health related. I do agree that bipolar is a more polarizing condition than anxiety/depression/OCD, but I also think you can say mental health issue and move on from there. I will say that as a supervisor with mental health issues of my own, I would never pry, but I do find it easier to accommodate someone when I have some idea what they need. So, if you need something, be sure to ask for it as well. I do think HungryLawyer’s language is particularly good.

  16. How can I help you?*

    I have been considering going back and getting my MSW and becoming a therapist for years. I’ve been thinking about this for the last 8 years, have read tons of books on therapy and by therapists on their practices- the one thing stopping me is I’m very concerned about burnout from the profession.

    I want to speak to someone who is a therapist about this stuff. l don’t personally know anyone who is a therapist except one person- my therapist. Is it weird to ask her for references of others I can speak to. Anywhere else I can look for this?

    1. meteorological spring*

      Can you ask your therapist for advice about where to look (professional associations or programs you could reach out to, etc) rather than specific people? I would not hesitate to ask my therapist for this since it’s about YOU making a major life decision.

    2. MarMar*

      The subreddit named Psychotherapy is geared towards folks in the field, a lot of the discussion there is career-oriented.

    3. HannahS*

      I’m not sure that your therapist will feel comfortable facilitating introductions between her own colleagues and one of her clients–it crosses streams, in a way. But if you like and trust your therapist, you might consider bringing it up with her directly–let her know that you’re interested in joining the field, share your concern about becoming burnt out, and ask her what she thinks. Since she knows you, she might be able to help you introspect on what stresses might cause you, personally, to burn out, what kinds of environments you thrive in, and what strengths you have that will protect you from it.

      Speaking from a field with a lot of burnout (medicine); burnout is really personal. Some things, I think, make everyone vulnerable–punishing schedules that don’t allow you to have a personal life, sleep deprivation, constant high stakes, critical and punitive environments–but a lot of it is about how well you fit your environment, and how resilient you are (or can teach yourself to be).

      1. JelloStapler*

        I don’t think that would be weird. You can also call local universities or schools that have MSW programs. There may be some people on faculty that would be happy to talk things over with you. It’s also a way to network. In addition, ask your own personal network if anyone knows someone in those fields- that’s what helped me decide between a MSW and a M.Ed. (I chose MSW).

        1. JelloStapler*

          Sorry this was meant to be to the OP, not to HannahS. I also realize I misspoke. It would not be weird to ask what resources they would use or if they then had contacts (stretching out the degrees of separation).

    4. Social Work 123*

      I’m a social worker and recommend reaching out to NASW, association for social workers, that has virtual network-chats for therapists, hope this helps!

  17. Grace Poole*

    I didn’t want to derail the thread, but this morning’s question about the appropriateness of earbuds, made me wonder about them. I’ve seen people wearing them in meetings, but I don’t know why. I live alone, and I feel like I can hear the audio in our video calls fine, and no one has ever told me that they can’t hear me (but that would be a mic problem, not a headphone one?) Should I be wearing headphones in video meetings? How would I know?

    1. C*

      I think the issue can be feedback. I’d suggest having a video call with family/friends and asking them how the sound is. I also live alone but have a noisy cat and the front door of my building bangs really loudly so I always wear headphones. I don’t think headphones are a must but maybe do check with a practice call.

    2. NotaPirate*

      Someone will let you know if your audio is causing issues. But, if you have any one on one meetings with people in the larger meeting zooms you could ask them specifically as well, “Hey does my audio sound okay in the larger calls?”. Everyone’s computer is different. People use them for blocking at home noise sometimes as well as blocking interference issues with the zoom call picking up the speakers and thinking that’s new sound from you to convey back.

    3. Nonprofit Anon*

      I think it depends a lot on the noise level of your living situation. If it’s quiet I don’t wear earbuds but if my neighbors are making a lot of noise, or one of my family members is around I will put in my earbuds.

      1. Nicotene*

        My coworkers wear earbuds so as not to disturb their kids who are remote schooling in the next room with the sound of the meeting. If you don’t need em, no reason to use em.

    4. Concertina*

      Headphones will reduce echo. Ideally everyone should use push to talk but mistakes happen and can cause echo/feedback/whatever. Also, I can’t hear on my speakers so I always wear them.

    5. One (1) Non*

      Some computers cause an audible echo without headphones, as the computer mic picks up the voices of the on-screen speakers as well as the person in the room. But if that was happening to you, someone would definitely have pointed it out by now, as it’s super distracting!

    6. Annika*

      A lot depends on your computer and your behaviors. A few laptops have echo cancellation built-in. If you have that, you are good. If you always keep yourself muted except when speaking, you may also be good. The problem is when your microphone is on and someone other than you is speaking/making noise. That is when the other people on the call will hear feedback. You will not hear this feedback. Not everyone will say something if they are hearing feedback. The best way is to ask how you sound.

    7. Texas*

      Reading that letter, I was honestly shocked that anyone wouldn’t wear headphones/earbuds during a video call! When people have the call audio playing out of their computer speakers, it then gets picked up their mic and frequently creates a very frustrating echo. When you have a bunch of people without headphones on a call: holy echo, batman! I would say always wear headphones/earbuds in video meetings or mute yourself when you’re not talking to avoid the echo.

      1. Grace Poole*

        I’m actually on a video call right now–only one person is wearing headphones, everyone’s on mute if they’re not talking, and I don’t hear any echoing or feedback at all.

      2. The Rural Juror*

        I also find I can better decipher the differences between the people’s voices when wearing my earbuds. I’m usually the presenter, so I can’t keep looking down all the time to see who’s little microphone is lit up when they’re speaking. While they’re speaking, I’m usually combing through documents to share something they’re referencing to my screen. Too much multi-tasking already going on!!! So it’s one less thing to worry about…

      3. Malarkey01*

        I think it depends. My office’s computers don’t cause echoes or feedback and have amazing mics. So a lot of us don’t use headphones without a problem. The other half do because of their own background noise or because they prefer the headphones/ear bud audio.

    8. CTT*

      It could be that they’re trying to drown out noise in their own homes or to augment their own hearing. My dad has been working remotely for several years now and always uses headphones when he has conference calls because he thinks he can hear better with them.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        Same – my housemate downstairs does most of his calls on speakerphone, which is fine for him and doesn’t bother me (I occasionally text him peanut gallery comments on the goofy jokes he makes during his team meetings :P ), but I take mine on earbuds mostly because it’s easier for me to clearly hear the call and to block out background noise.

    9. Rayray*

      If you have any headphones, just try them and see how you like it.

      I honestly think it comes down to persona preference. I’m sure most people can hear fine without them but maybe it’s better with the headphones. Maybe they use noise canceling headphones/buds to drown out surrounding noise. You definitely don’t need to wear them if you don’t feel it necessary but it’s possible if you tried them out, maybe you’ll like using them.

    10. violet04*

      I wear headphones because the mic on my PC is terrible. In the office, I always used a headset for calls because I was in a cubicle. My husband was laid off for a while and was home all the time so I didn’t want him to be subjected to hearing my work meetings all day.

      If no one has said anything about not being able to hear you, then it should be fine. But you could always ask others if they have issues with your audio.

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        Same here! I’m not even sure if the mic on my laptop works! But, as someone who often runs tech for large meetings, I wish more people would wear a headset. It keeps the mic at the proper distance from your mouth & cuts down on fadeout. (A lot of people use 2 screens & turn their head when talking. But the mic doesn’t move with them if it’s in the computer.)

        I also live in a densely populated area where it can get randomly noisy. Headphones mitigate that.

        And plenty of single people the past year have had family members move in with them. You might not be aware that there are other people in the household.

    11. SomebodyElse*

      I kind of hate earbuds and will wear them only when in a situation where that is my only option. The best thing in the world are the conference speaker thingies that are noise cancelling, have much better speaker quality and mic quality. So it’s similar to a speaker phone in practice, but made for computers. I had one of my employees buy and expense one because his computer speaker/mic was acting up (It sounded like someone was tapping out a msg in morse code during meetings) If you have a quiet area to work, then these would be your best option.

      Jabra makes a good one that I call the hockey puck. The USB version is $100. I used it (and traveled with it) pre pandemic to for conference calls and used exclusively for conference calls/meetings in my office.

    12. BadWolf*

      I don’t wear headphones, but I live alone. I have checked a couple times with people with both my laptops if I’m picking up noise/echo. I also recently made a deal with a coworker that they’re my “mute-fail” buddy so hopefully he’d also let me know if I’m also doing an echo/feedback fail.

      It definitely depends on your tech. Some are prone to echo fail and some are good at it.

    13. Elenna*

      Firstly, there’s the echo issue that a few people mentioned. If you’re not having issues with that (and please do ask, instead of just assuming that nobody has said anything so it’s not a problem), then I guess you’re just lucky with your setup or something.

      Also, as you have possibly figured out, earbuds are useful for people who don’t live alone, in order to prevent anyone else from hearing potentially private conversations, and to make it easier to hear the meeting over other sounds in the house. My dad is a high school teacher and doesn’t use earphones, and his desk is basically in a hallway (very open-plan house) with the result that I’ve heard several parent-teacher interviews, discussions of student grades, etc… Of course I don’t know any of these kids so I don’t really care, and even with earphones I’d be able to hear his side of the conversation, but it’s still awkward.

    14. Katrine Fonsmark*

      You don’t know why people would be wearing earbuds? Probably because they live with other people – it’s annoying enough having to hear one side of the conversation, let alone both sides. Everyone around you isn’t interested in what your coworkers are saying. If you live alone why would you wonder if you need to wear them? I feel like I’m not understanding your confusion.

    15. Been There Done That*

      I wear earphones during meetings for the fact that the speakers in my lap top stink – once it gets turned up loud enough for me to hear, the sound is fuzzy. I don’t live alone and have a spouse also working from home, so I also wear them out of courtesy for him so he doesn’t have to put up with my several daily zoom meetings while attending to his. Even though our working areas are separated by 2 rooms and 3 sets of doors that we both keep closed.

    16. PT*

      My husband has problems with the placement of the mic in his laptop with respect to the location of the fan. If the fan clicks on while he’s in a meeting using the laptop’s mic, he ends up with some weird robot feedback noise. So he only uses the external speakers/mic in limited situations now.

    17. Seeking Second Childhood*

      First conference call, the presenter was in an evening time zone, with family sounds in the background. *MY* family kept coming in thinking I was calling for them…. headphones ever since.
      There are a few co-workers I’ve had to ask switch to a headphone because their voice sounded like they were in a bathroom and I simply could not understand what they were saying.

    18. EH*

      Headsets help clarify sound – if your speakers aren’t great, it can be hard to hear people clearly. Same for the mic – my webcam mic isn’t good enough for some folks I video call with, so I wear a headset to talk with them. It’s like using speakerphone vs using a headset with your smartphone. Headsets make it easier to hear and be heard.

    19. Zephy*

      Feedback is the major thing – if your speakers are loud enough that your mic picks up the sound, then at best, the people you’re meeting with will have to deal with an annoying echo that can make it hard to understand what’s being said or hard to keep your train of thought when you have your own voice coming back to you a few seconds delayed. At worst, the mic will pick up the speaker noise, resulting in the speakers playing double sound, which gets picked up by the mic, which gets played through the speaker, which gets picked up by the mic… Honestly one of the highlights of the pandemic/transition to remote meetings is that people have figured out how to mute, either themselves or other attendees if they have admin powers, because pre-Covid it was virtually guaranteed that we’d spend 5 minutes of every remote training listening to 2 or 3 people’s speakers and mics play this awful game of sonic Ping Pong.

    20. Hillary*

      As the others said, if your audio is causing issues someone will tell you. In meetings with my team someone will usually involuntarily mute whoever’s causing feedback. I have a separate, quiet office at home, so I’ve been using my jabra puck (supplied by work) for all my calls. I also have a bluetooth headset supplied by work, so I haven’t bothered syncing any of my personal devices. The laptops work supplied are pretty good about turning off the onboard mic if another device is connected.

      Honestly, we have more problems with people trying to use headphones plugged into the 3.5mm jack and trying to use that microphone.

    21. Theo*

      I have a small, screaming child, so A, the headphones actually help reduce how much my coworkers can hear them, B, they let ME block out the howls (mostly of joy, it’s worth noting) so I can actually hear my coworkers. I also work in a field that can be highly confidential with details under embargo, so it might actually be very important that no one else in my household hear what is being discussed!

    22. Laura H.*

      I don’t do meetings for work, but I do wear headphones for virtual meetings. It’s out of courtesy to my housemates; it’d be a cacophony otherwise. I do sometimes have to keep an ear bare just to gauge my own volume.

    23. meyer lemon*

      Headphones or earbuds can really cut down on noise interference levels. As I understand it, computer mics have their sensitivity ratcheted way up so that they can pick up voices, but that means that any nearby ambient sounds, like paper rustling, typing, mouse clicking or just shuffling around, can be really magnified on the other end. In a group call, it can get distracting fast.

    24. WorkNowPaintLater*

      If you can hear your meetings and don’t need to worry about bothering anyone you really should not need them. When I was working from home, I didn’t use headphones at all for online meetings. Now that I am in an occasionally high traffic office that isn’t always quiet I wear earbuds – no one can usually tell I’m wearing them and they help keep the distractions down (especially if I’m taking minutes).

  18. katz*

    Has anyone done this?

    I’m thinking of reaching out to former colleagues via LinkedIn to let them know I’m looking for something new. I have my profile set as “Open to Work” but only so recruiters can see it – unfortunately, my boss (the owner) and I have many mutual contacts, so most of my personal network is not good professional networking material.

    Below is what I’m thinking of sending. It’s anonymized for AAM; items in all-caps will be specific. Suggestions welcome!


    I hope you’re doing well. I know this message is coming “out of the blue,” so thank you for opening it!

    I am writing to you because I am looking for a new opportunity. When we worked together at FORMER EMPLOYER, I was ROLE. Since then, I’ve expanded my SKILLSET and graduated from WELL-KNOWN LOCAL PROGRAM.

    Currently I do SPECIFIC SKILLS for CURRENT EMPLOYER. It’s been a great place to learn, but I am a one-person department, and I’d love to work with a SKILLSET team again.

    I enjoyed working with you at FORMER EMPLOYER, so I hope you don’t mind a small request. If you have a moment today, please take a look at my profile and let me know if you know of a SKILLSET team looking for a solid contributor. I’d be very grateful for an introduction or other suggestions.

    Thanks for your time, NAME. Have a great day!


    1. NotaPirate*

      If you have actual emails for any of these people that will be much more likely to get a response than linkedin. I’d try for a little less formal tone? Also add in some personal questions about their projects or life. You want to build the network with them too, not just use their connection, so trying to start a conversation more. I wouldn’t ask them to review your profile just drop that phrase rest of sentence is good.

    2. Colette*

      I don’t think it’s terrible, but I think a more personal approach would be more effective. Include some personal details, and show interest with them as a person.


      I hope you and your family are doing well. I’m doing well – the pandemic has been hard, of course, but I’m lucky to be able to work from home. Are you still involved in ACTIVITY?

      Since we worked together at FORMER EMPLOYER, I’ve expanded my SKILLSET and graduated from WELL-KNOWN LOCAL PROGRAM. Currently I do SPECIFIC SKILLS for CURRENT EMPLOYER. It’s been a great place to learn, but I am a one-person department, and I’d love to work with a SKILLSET team again.

      If you know of anyone who works in the SKILLSET field, would you mind introducing me?

      Thanks for your time, NAME. Have a great day!


      1. Grim*

        I sent a simple reminder to all of my contacts that I was looking for a full time, permanent position (Senior Engineering), after getting laid off but now working as a contractor.

        It landed me a great job at a previous coworker’s new company. Ex coworker was the only one who responded, but it worked for me.

      2. Yennefer of Vengerberg*

        I would not personally respond well to this kind of email. While I understand the desire to be friendly and personal, it feels so forced and full of ulterior motives. If I received this letter, I would be annoyed that you took so long to get to the point and that, in order to respond to your real inquiry about a job, I would have to write a long drawn out personal response to your other questions as well. I would go for short, sweet and to the point. I like the example CTT gave below.

        I would also probably use a “please let me know if you hear of any opportunities” type of statement rather than a question. That way the person on the other side won’t feel rude not responding if they have nothing of value to provide. Otherwise, you risk making them feel awkward for not being able to help, but feeling forced into responding to the message.

    3. Editor A*

      This sounds like exactly what it is: a blast-all message.

      You’ll get much better results if you tailor each message to the individual, use a friendlier tone, and get to the point a lot quicker too.

      1. Joan Rivers*

        Agree. Instead of “I enjoyed working with you at X” maybe

        “I appreciated your judgment when we worked on X at X, and your patience. So I thought of you when I started looking around. If you know of any jobs that can use my X skills — which are sharpened since then because I’ve X — your opinion would mean a lot to me.

        If not, it would still be great to her how you’re doing.”
        Warmer. Compliments, even funny ones, work if you’re careful what you say.
        I get responses from famous authors and others sometimes because I compliment them in the email title.

      2. Beth Jacobs*

        Yes. Don’t contact everyone in your LinkedIn network: I wouldn’t refer someone who I barely know. Instead, pick ten people and then be more personal.

      3. katz*

        I should have been more specific – I’m thinking of maybe 6 people, not every one of my contacts.

    4. LittleMissSunshine*

      If it were me I would only send it to people who I was particularly close with or had a pretty strong working relationship with in the past. And I wouldn’t ask them to review my profile, that’s too much work for them. I would just say something like, “if you happen to hear of any interesting Lama Groomer job openings that you think would be a good fit for me, I would be so grateful if you would let me know. “

    5. CTT*

      I think you need to be both more personal and more direct. I can’t remember how much of a preview LinkedIn shows of a message, but if I saw “I hope you’re doing well. I know this message is coming “out of the blue,” so thank you for opening it!” I would feel dread opening it – it has MLM vibes. Send it to people you really did know and work with closely, and keep it simple. I would respond so much better to “Hey! I wanted to let you know that I’m job-searching. I really loved working with you on X [+ some details on why] and I was hoping you might have some openings you could point me towards.”

  19. Mitford*

    My company is going to a system for performance evaluations where there will be only two grades: Achieved and Not Achieved. Am I alone in thinking that this sounds terrible?

    1. Nicotene*

      Is this because of the pandemic? Sounds like they’re kinda going pass/fail on this semester. It sucks if you’re a super high achiever … hopefully they’ll keep those folks in mind for some special rewards.

    2. NotaPirate*

      Unless they have a quota of needs to be failed or something this sounds fine? It’s been a weird year for almost every single field I can think of so this is probably just simplifying the process and recognizing that performance this year might not reflect your actual performance regularly and that they haven’t had some of the usual insights to your work.

    3. Colette*

      I think the grades are almost irrelevant, unless they are tied to raises (which they shouldn’t be).

      1. NoCOLRaiseHere*

        But in many places, they are the only way to get a raise. our work only does merit raises (and good lord it takes a lot to get more than a mid-grade).

      2. Engineer Woman*

        If your raises shouldn’t be tied to (performance) grades, what should they be tied to?

        1. Colette*

          I guess my original comment was too simplistic. If everyone is paid fairly to start with, then basing raises on how you’re performing is good. But often, people aren’t paid fairly to start with. So the goal should be to pay everyone fairly for the work they’re doing – which often means that some people should end up with raises decoupled from their performance.

      1. Moira Rose*

        My workplace did this a couple years back and, as a manager, it just took so much useless crap off my plate. No longer did I need to agonize over exactly which ratings everyone gets (which can be horribly political). I can just say, yes, checkmark, they did their job. Then I can handle bonuses separately.

      2. WellRed*

        I can understand your concerns, but honestly, I feel like so much of these things are subjective anyway and have no real value much of the time other than as something to be checked off on the to-do list.

      3. Colette*

        A lot of them are all or nothing in practice (e.g. the tiers are exceed, above average, satisfactory, needs improvement, but 5% must be in the bottom category, 1% at most can get exceed, 5% can get above average, and everyone else is in satisfactory)

    4. Nessun*

      It does seem to lack any kind of nuance, so I wouldn’t be a huge fan. I guess it comes down to this: how broad is the range for “Achieved”? If it’s broad enough to include everything from “did it all well, did it all passably, mostly did it all, might have had some issues”, then…ok? My major questions would be, where’s the line between Achieved and Not Achieved (is it really all or nothing), and (if it’s not all or nothing) is there a distinction between Not Achieved (But Still OK at Work?) and About To Be Asked To Go.

      1. Grace Poole*

        I agree. I hope there would be some room for the inevitable grey area between “Achieved” and “Not Achieved” If you completed most of a project, but not all of it, where does that fall?

    5. Malarkey01*

      I sort of like this, as long as they are still giving you additional feedback like I was really impressed with x or appreciate you’ve taken on y, but really so much of evaluations come down to yes you are doing your job or no you aren’t and we need to fix that. Again assuming there’s regular separate feedback on performance and goal setting.

    6. TiffIf*

      It sounds pretty bad to me, but I just got through performance evaluations where my experience may be coloring my views. It doesn’t allow for nuance or gradations between achievements. If I go above and beyond and see myself get the same evaluation as the person who does the bare minimum, what’s my motivation to continue going above and beyond? Especially if these Achieved and Not Achieved are tied to raises.

      My company used to have 4 or 5 categories but now only has three- Not Meeting Expectations, Meets Expectations, Exceeds expectations–except its on a forced bell curve (at least for the exceeds expectations-not sure on the low end) so they are super stingy with the Exceeds Expectations. I only got a “Meets Expectations” and my supervisor straight up told me he tried to argue for me to get an Exceeds Expectations but was told he wasn’t allowed to award it.

      I told him quite frankly that it was very demoralizing and demotivating.

      1. MacGillicuddy*

        Often these ratings seem ridiculous. At one job we had exceeds expectations, meets expectations, and did not achieve. I member a conversation with my boss “So if somebody is really good at their job, and they get assigned tasks that are difficult because the boss is confident in the person’s ability to handle the tasks, and the person handles them perfectly, the person gets “meets expectations” because the boss expected them to handle the tasks that way. So how would the person ever get “exceeds”?” And if you can only get promoted or get a raise if you get exceeds.

        My boss didn’t really have an explanation for that. I often wondered if the grandbosses and great-grandbosses used those rankings when deciding whose positions to eliminate for layoffs.

        1. Engineer Woman*

          It depends on how they are used. The expectations should be for the job not the person! As in: here are the expectations for a level 2 teacup tester. They should be able to test 500 teacups a day and submit their reports on defective teacups daily by 5pm. So, if someone consistently tests more than 600 per day and not only submits their reports on time but helped once to root cause the problems – they’ve exceeded expectations. And even if you assign them more work: wow, keep doing this root cause analysis, they still would be exceeding the expectations for the job!

    7. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

      I kinda like it, assuming you will be eligible for merit increases/promotions/rewards with an “achieved”. My job has exceeds expectations / met expectations / did not meet expectations, but there’s an unofficial quota where managers are told not to give more than like 5% exceeds expectations so everyone just gets met expectations anyway.

    8. Alex*

      I personally would prefer this, but that is probably my own particular resentment at my company’s system, which has several “Grades” that are supposed to reflect a range of effectiveness and raises are supposed to be doled out accordingly.

      But in practice everyone always gets the same.

      I hate that because there’s no reward for working hard, and I’m a hard worker. My lazy-ass colleagues get the same raises that I do. At least if it was all pass/fail it would be honest.

  20. Cendol*

    Q for folks with ADHD. Do you have any tips for emerging from/breaking hyperfocus at work?

    This week I unintentionally poured almost six hours into a work product in a single day. It received praise, but looking back, I would rather have been able to pace myself and complete the project over the course of a few days. (And, you know, take water and bathroom breaks and have energy leftover for non-work tasks.) I’ve read about setting alarms to help with the off-ramping, but are there any other things I can do? Do you use any Microsoft Office products to help (tasks lists, Outlook, Teams, etc.)?

    1. NotaPirate*

      Pomodoro timer app on my phone, and then place my phone across the room. Getting up to turn it off usually trips me into realizing oh hey water would be amazing, and stretching feels good. For longer things, I have a 1hr 45 minute playlist on my computer, when the songs end it’s time to switch tasks.

      Non timer, could you try visual reminds on the walls near you? So that when you glance up you see a giant sign saying “DRINK WATER”, “STRETCH”. etc.

    2. Malika*

      The hyperfocus can be great, but pacing yourself and giving enough breaks is even better! I am still figuring the best ways out but what works for me:

      -Hourly breaks. Whether it’s a walk on the balcony or blasting some dance music for five minutes, i find it gives e energy and puts perspective between me and my work.
      -A longer walk at the end of the day. I walk outside for an hour and take a round through the nearby park. Do you have a good route nearby your house? It really breaks me from my work and can then focus on other things.

      I want to prevent burnout and manage realistic expectations with my boss. It is therefore vital for me to keep the hyperfocus in manageable proportions. I will be watching this discussion because any additional tips are welcome!

      1. Cendol*

        The walking is a great idea (and my spouse will say, “I told you so!”) and I will try it tonight. Of course, I have to break “going outside” into a bunch of steps–stand up, exit room, find shoes, put on shoes…lol. It’s almost funny how long it took me to realize I *might* have ADHD…

    3. ArtK*

      My FitBit is my alarm. Ten minutes before the hour it reminds me to get up and walk. I actually arrange things so I walk the last ten minutes of one hour and the first ten of the next so that I get about 100 mins of focus time in a block.

      Of course, I have worked right through the alarm… it’s not very insistent!

      1. Cendol*

        Haha, yes! I have also worked through alarms and other notifications. Last night I told myself I’d close the spreadsheet at 7pm, but when 7pm rolled around, I didn’t want to stop…

        1. Hunnybee*

          Sometimes I end up working until 12 a.m. because of exactly this reason. I love being in the zone. But it also has destroyed my personal life.

          1. Cendol*

            Yeah, exactly! I think I managed to skate by for so long because I didn’t *have* a personal life before. My entire life was school-and-writing, then work-and-writing. Now it’s work, writing, *and* spouse and…oh, look, I don’t actually know how to juggle after all. Whoops.

        2. I'm the boss of me*

          haha – I have had my poor butt go past pain to dead numb and still will be ‘compelled’ to keep working. Mmm maybe a standing desk – or hey how about a worktop on a treadmill? (oh butt is dead now)

    4. Librarian of SHIELD*

      I feel you. My MO is that I hear or feel the alarm go off, tell myself “Okay, that’s the alarm, let me just finish up this last thing before I take a break,” and then the next thing I know another hour has gone by.

      What’s actually helped has been getting my friends and family involved. If I know I’m going to be working on something that’s going to be taking up a lot of my focus, I’ll ask a friend or a sibling to text me at random points during the day to ask me if I’ve been out of my chair recently. If I just use an app or set an alarm, the only person I’m inconveniencing if I ignore it is me. But when there’s an actual person on the other end of the phone who’s going to be worried or frustrated if I don’t answer, that changes the equation for me.

    5. Natalie*

      I’m experimenting with setups that force me to get up, since moving seems to help me a lot. For example, right now I am working on my laptop away from my desk, and I’ll need to plug my laptop in within the next hour or so, which will build in a break/interruption.

    6. Casey*

      One thing that’s been helpful for me, both in and out of work, is just setting a kitchen timer (not my phone). I don’t have to do anything when it goes off but think “Oh, I’ve been working on this for an hour.” And then I reset the timer. If it’s a good stopping point, I try to take a break and walk around, but if it’s not, I just try to stay aware of time passing.

    7. Sylvan*

      Huh. I don’t typically hyperfocus at work, but I do when doing a hobby or housework occasionally. Using a Time Timer, setting a reminder with Alexa, or using a reminder on my phone (it’s never out of reach) helps me stay aware of, like, whether I’ve been doing macrame for one hour or three.

      1. Sylvan*

        BTW, a Time Timer is a silent visual timer for 59-minute-or-less periods. I think you can also buy a 20-minute one. It has a (loud!) alarm that you can turn on.

    8. Lobsterp0t*

      Ho Ho Ho.

      This is so hard for me – working from home makes it so easy to hyper focus and so hard to break away.

      I like pomodoro. 20-25 minutes is usually long enough to be productive and not too long that I get into the danger zone.

      I find myself hyperfocusing when I don’t have a VERY clear brief for the final product. This can lead me to do the galaxy brain type. Other times, the lack of a clear “good enough” benchmark leads to the Endless Tinkering Loop.

      Very short deadlines help. I don’t set artificial deadlines because I can’t trick myself that way – but if I need to have something looked over by someone else, I make them give me a deadline.

      If you CAN do something the day before, and you know for sure what is involved in doing it… just do it the day before. Hyperfocus can sometimes be burned off with the focusing pressure of a deadline. Kind of like a fog in relation to the sun.

    9. Lobsterp0t*

      The other thing is that practicing challenging your hyperfocus EMOTIONS is a really good therapeutic practice.

      Mine are usually rooted in feeling unsure, insecure, or like I have to prove my worth by doing whatever it is.

      Challenging the narrative and signals your brain is sending and reminding yourself that it FEELS like you have to keep on but the EVIDENCE shows taking breaks and forcing yourself to pause actually helps – can help.

      I also find when I hyperfocus that I am tuned out of my body’s signals. I ignore having to pee and don’t even realise I’m squirming in my seat.

      So I have to tune in. I ask myself. Do I need to pee? Do I need a drink of water? Can I write down the next two steps of this and come back?

    10. AwkwardlyOwl*

      I have a time cube (little timer with 4 preset options: mine are 5, 10, 20, and 30 minutes), and I use it a lot. I also have a window when I work from home, which has been the best thing for me: my usual office at work has no windows, and I’ve lost hours to projects without any external changes on light/weather/bird noises to remind me that time is passing. I also had one of my coworkers who would remind me to take a meal break 9he took his RIGHT before I was supposed to take mine, so he would poke his head in as he came back. It was really nice, but I have also made appointments in my Outlook calendar so that I get the alerts for things like “Lunch” and “5 minute break”

      I used a browser popup for a while that yelled at me to get up and stretch. Honestly, these days, it is harder for me to hit hyperfocus because I’m dealing with pain issues, but all of the above helped.

  21. Someone101*

    Forgive me if this is a silly question, but as someone who works in hospitality (and has no experience of office work); what does it mean when people say they work on projects? What kind of work is this? I think I just figured ‘office work’ was like insurance or things like that so I’m always intrigued when letters talk about ‘projects’. As I said forgive me if this seems like a silly question to all the professional readers!

    1. Nicotene*

      Oh it could be anything. A specific client may have a project for a company that does business with them (like “manage the rollout of our new website”) or it could be something like a big annual event, or just a discrete part of a task that is assigned to you or your team.

    2. Book Pony*

      Projects can be all sorts of things. A sample list of projects I’ve done or I’m working on:

      Creating a spreadsheet to sort data
      Managing a petroleum site for remediation
      Vision screenings for libraries
      Creating a newsletter
      Organizing a team outing to the museum (before covid, of course)

      I think of it as anything that takes research, time, and significant effort.

    3. Ranon*

      Projects are just things that have a discrete scope of work, ideally with a defined start/ end date. Could be “design this building” could be “make the x system into a y system” could be “make all the spreadsheets purple”.

    4. C*

      For me a project is anythhing that isn’t an activity I’m doing on a regular basis. So for me I am doing quality assurance testing on equipment like 80% of the time which is my ‘core role’, I would consider a project anything outside of that which isn’t as ongoing, such as creating a new waste management system or commissioning a new machine. But yeah ‘project’ is a very broad term, but I’ve always taken it to be a piece of work that has a clear beginning and end.

      1. New Job So Much Better*

        Same for me. I have tasks I do routinely on a continuing basis, but then “projects’ which I work on as I have time. The projects are worked on until done, not recurring.

      2. IEanon*

        Exactly this. If my core work is client-facing, then any major changes that happen behind the scenes (creating a new product/program, overhauling the website, designing a series of informational/promotional sessions, etc.) are projects.

    5. violet04*

      I work in software development, so a project for me involves the business users asking for updates to our software to support a new product they want to sell or enhancements to the system to automate manual tasks. I write the requirements and then hand them off to the developers so they can start their coding. As mentioned above, there is a specific start and end date for when the changes to the software need to be delivered.

      1. Person from the Resume*

        Same here. I’m a software development project manager. Our project is to develop a certain piece of software. Projects end (projects have an end date) and then the team members are assigned to a new project. People can also be assigned to multiple projects with different teams and mangers.

        But in general projects can be opening a new branch/office, reorganizing records, planning a conference, getting and setting up new equipment in a medical office or manufacturing plant, just generally anything that’s not a job that someone must do everyday for years in end with no end date in sight.

    6. londonedit*

      I work in an office, and my ‘projects’ are books. Each one has its place on the publication schedule for the year, and each one has a corresponding date for submission of the initial manuscript and a date when it has to go to press, and my job is to manage the progress of each book along the schedule. I work with various other people along the way – freelance copy-editors, proofreaders, indexers, as well as the authors themselves and in-house production team – and what I do is make sure the manuscript is copy-edited on time, sent to the authors for review, sent to Production for typesetting on time, proofs are sent to author/proofreader, corrections are made, and everything is readied for press by the appropriate date so that the book is printed and in stock ready for its set publication date. So at any given time I’m working on several different projects at the same time – and they’re all at slightly different points along their journey to publication.

      In other industries, a ‘project’ could be anything from creating a new website for a client to designing and laying out an edition of a magazine, or creating a new database system – and you’ll typically have a team of people with different skills who all work on the project together.

    7. Llellayena*

      In general, I think of a project as something that has a start date, end date, multiple different but related tasks that need to be done in order and a concrete result you can point to. In context of hospitality vacuuming the hotel lobby or setting up breakfast would be a task but not a project. Reorganizing the supply closet and taking inventory or redesigning the reservation system to accept a new category of discounts would probably be a “project.”

      I’m an architect, so my projects have a literal concrete product (building foundations are always concrete….) at the end of it that we can point to and say “we’re done!”

    8. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      This week’s example: I pulled a report of unworked records and investigated them to find out why they hadn’t been worked, to resolve whatever issues were keeping them from being worked, with the goal of reducing our volume of unworked records.

    9. Msnotmrs*

      I’m a librarian, so most of my projects involve either physically moving things around (like rearranging furniture, shifting books from one shelf to another) or getting my data and statistical ducks in a row (recataloging books, monthly reports, searching/applying for grants.)

    10. Resusable Cup*

      I work for an architectural/civil engineering firm, so “projects” to me is working on developing a bunch of plans in house and client meetings and everything almost short of getting a construction crew to break ground. And if I were in construction, projects would be constructing that building or development.

      On a broader scale, projects is something that has a larger timeline than daily tasks and projects can be broken down into smaller tasks to be completed by various people/teams over time. Usually projects have predetermined timelines but timelines often get shifted due to various external factors…

    11. Someone101*

      Oh thank you, I didn’t realise there was so much that goes on in these professional types of jobs! I always imagined answering phone calls, data entry and dealing with all these strange coworkers and bosses from AAM letters!

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Hospitality industry examples for you. General process in a restaurant is regular customers & normal business hours. Project is catering a wedding. Other projects could be designing a new menu with new suppliers, rearranging the kitchen equipment to add another line cook, or remodelling the dining area. Clear start, goal, and finish is ideal. When you can’t resist changing things about the restaurant design after the contractors arrived? That is a classic example of scope creep.

    12. Not So NewReader*

      Purging old files
      Organizing remaining files to fit current standards
      Creating spreadsheets for a particular type of information that is has not been collected/organized EVER.
      Replacing old equipment and/or programs
      Selecting new equipment/ assembling new equipment
      Applying for grants

      Our systems are more encumbered with needless complexity, micromanaging rules and picky-picky details that we have become very good at taking a 15 minute project and turning it to 3 days of work. Most recently, I read of a certain thing that must be written in a certain manner and then printed out on a CERTAIN COLOR PAPER. As if everyone has an array of colored paper for printing on hand. smh

    13. Donkey Hotey*

      When I say I’m working on a project, it’s a nice way of saying “I won’t bore you with the details.” Because conversationally speaking, the only thing worse than listening to someone go into minute details about their job is listening to someone go into minute details about the dream they had last night.

    14. Oxford Comma*

      This is all over the map for me. Today I am working on projects: two LibGuides for faculty (collections of useful links for their students mounted on a web-based platform; prepping for a course I’m teaching; my boss asked me to do some benchmarking of what other libraries do for a particular service; putting together a report for something else.

      For me they typically require longer amounts of focused time.

    15. Sandman*

      I work in active transportation advocacy, and for me a project could be anything from sending out a newsletter, organizing bike counts, or trying to persuade a municipality or road commission to improve access along a given corridor. So a project can be all sizes, too – the newsletter might take me a day depending, bike count prep to completion spread out over a couple months, and a bigger advocacy project will be a multi-year commitment. This would be in contrast to regular everyday stuff, like paying the bills or reminding the streets department to plow the bike lanes.

    16. Burnt eggs*

      I am a trainer at my company. Some projects I have are writing documents, updating the databases I use for training, writing,recording, and editing scripts for recorded trainings. Other projects I’ve done were research the classes my dept offers and which were most/least profitable, work with other groups on what should be included in software releases, track customer calls on software issues.
      There are some people who may call every task they do a project because that’s how their timesheets are set up. For others, a project is only something outside of daily work.

    17. MissDisplaced*

      I work in marketing and a “project” might be things like:

      A specific campaign for a product
      A product or service launch
      Research on a topic or market segment
      A content creation plan and execution on a topic
      An event or event planning
      Content for a website rollout

      And many other things. Sometimes a project is just a part of a wider overall campaign, or it could be a standalone thing.

  22. Nicotene*

    Am I crazy to be irritated when job boards want applicants to apply through mega-sites? I don’t want to upload my resume to places like idealist or indeed or LinkedIn, because that is a lot of personal information and Lord knows what they’re going to do with it. If a job comes up and that’s the only way to apply, I generally pass. I don’t mind as much when it’s a proprietary system like ADP or something, because I don’t assume that’s a giant data aggregator. Am I out of step now?

    1. No Tribble At All*

      Nah, I agree, it’s annoying to have to create 16 bajillion different profiles with a bunch of different sites. I hadn’t even thought about the privacy aspect of it until you said so.

    2. irene adler*

      Not crazy.
      I’ve gone ahead and applied through those mega-sites only to be hit with a ton of spam (“here’s a list of jobs for you!”). Fortunately, I was able to unsubscribe quickly.
      Never got the job either.

      1. should i apply?*

        I don’t usually apply through a job board, if I find a job on a site like linkedin, even though it lets me apply through them, I will go to the company and try to apply directly. I haven’t run into one where I can’t do that, but I also tend to avoid anything that doesn’t list the company that the job is for.

        1. Nicotene*

          That is what I usually do to, but lately I’ve been finding jobs that are *only* posted on the job boards. So far I have chosen to pass.

    3. Librarian of SHIELD*

      I’m like you. I’d rather not apply through a place like Indeed or LinkedIn, I want to apply directly with the company/organization without needing the middle-man. Sometimes, I’ll see a job on one of these sites, and then I’ll go to the actual organization’s website and look for job postings, and the job I’m interested won’t be on the list there, and it makes me very confused. I don’t know how reliable or accurate these sites are and I prefer to apply right at the source.

    4. EH*

      I got recruited through once upon a time, so when I’m jobhunting I update my profiles on the major sites – I work in tech, though, which probably makes a difference. What I hate is when my phone number and email address wind up scraped for telemarketer-style recruiters. That feels like it’s kind of inevitable, though, so I just store their phone numbers under “Cold Calling Recruiters” and have that contact go straight to voicemail.

      I have an email address I use only for jobhunting – helps keep the spam out of my main email. Next time I’m looking I’ll probably set up a separate phone number for the same reason.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      I managed to apply for jobs on Indeed without uploading a resume. Yes, the site could have a copy of what I sent to that employer but I have not added my resume to their “resume pool”. I know this because they keep asking me and I keep saying, “later”. Of course, “later” never quite happens.

    6. Canadian Girl*

      We only use platforms like that to take applications. We don’t want to continuously update our website every time one of our locations are hiring. Each Province also has their own leading platforms that provide better candidates then others. Besides our head office, our warehouses are not set up to handle anyone dropping by without an appointment and our contact information isn’t provided on the company website because of this. We found when that information was published we were treated by a lot of people as a store front and there were continuous phone calls and drop ins.

  23. Daffodils*

    Question for those in academic research and/or web design, UX design, etc:

    I’m a web designer. My company was hired by a research team at a prestigious university to build an app to be used in a research study. I designed the app, we built it, then I lead the user testing of it (the results of which were the basis of the study). Throughout the process I ended up contributing a lot of data analysis. The research team valued my insights and asked if I was interested in being a co-author of the research paper and contributing even more analysis. My company allowed me to work on the paper during work hours even though we were not billing for it. The paper is currently undergoing peer review and revision and will hopefully be published eventually.

    Is this something that is worthy to put on a bullet point on my resume, even though the paper is not (yet) published?

    I feel like the fact that I was able to impress this research team with my data analysis (even though we weren’t hired to do that) enough that they asked me to co-author the paper with them is a notable achievement, but I’m pretty far outside the academic research world so I’m wondering if that’s an accurate understanding of the situation?

    1. One (1) Non*

      Yes! In academia it’s super common to start putting a paper on your CV or resume as soon as it has been accepted (or sometimes even when you’ve only submitted it, but it’s still being considered) because academic publishing takes forever.

      1. Esmeralda*

        AGreed. List it with the title, co-authors, and journal, then put in parentheses (forthcoming).


    2. Reba*

      Yeah! In academic cv’s there are somewhat arcane terms to describe just where your manuscript is at in the publishing process. For a regular resume, though, I think putting “(forthcoming)” or similar would work with the title. Or, if it looks to you like including the citation for the paper looks out-of-step with your resume, you could do a bullet just saying you are co-authoring a peer-reviewed paper with the client.

      Sounds cool!

    3. Emilitron*

      Gosh, yes. Publications are great resume-fodder. Congratulations!

      Especially if you enjoyed the data analysis and it’s the kind of thing you want to do again, include it

      Like all resume bullet points, there might be a time many years in the future when you’re applying for a job that this isn’t very relevant to, and you’ll decide to leave it off, and that’s fine, too.

      If you google academic resumes, etc, you’ll see the proper citation format for your personal bibliography, and from the way you describe it, that sounds like overkill. I wouldn’t necessarily create a publications section just for this, I’d maybe include it in an existing section (awards and recognition? industry collaborations?). But since this isn’t the type of thing a resume-reader would expect to see on a web-designer resume, I’d also include it as a bullet point as you’re listing accomplishments of your current job.
      * Appname for University of Prestige (Dr Smith lab)
      – App design, programming (technical details, brag about schedule or budget or awesomeness). Oversaw app rollout and user testing; successful management of data from N users led to role as data analyst for study. Contributed (data, graphs, analysis) to publication in Journal of Technical Stuff (2021)

      Then you can include a citation inline, a web address to the paper (especially if it’s a journal with a good compact link format), put the publication as a secondary bullet here, or you can put the full citation in a section below per academic standards.

    4. KarenK*

      Once it’s accepted for publication, you can put it on your resume/CV. It would then be described as “In Press.” I would not do it if it is currently undergoing review, i.e., a decision has not been made. Once it’s been published, update it with the official citation (journal name, date, page numbers, etc.).

      Source: 35 years of working with and around physicians and seeing a billion (okay not that many, but a wicked lot of) their CVs.

      1. Weekend Please*

        Yep. Putting “In Review” doesn’t mean much. You could have submitted absolute garbage. Once it is accepted you can put “Accepted” with the journal name. Then once it is published you can add the full citation.

    5. another scientist*

      In academia, it would 100% go on your CV. Whether it should go on _your_ resume really depends on where you apply next. If your next place will also do contract development for clients, then you could use this to show how you go above and beyond and will be an asset. If you apply for more data analysis jobs, you can use it to show that you contributed significantly to such a project. If the next job has neither of these and not a lot of PhD holders, they may not care that much.

  24. Snarkus Aurelius*

    How do you deal with a coworker who is being anoying and ignorant on purpose? She’s very passive aggressive and does stuff like this on conference calls with leadership:

    Her, the teapot graphic designer: Snarkus, what’s the status on the teapot graphic designs?

    Me: teapot legislative director: I
    … Don’t know? The teapot graphic design team would know.

    Her: there’s a need for teapot graphic designs.

    Me: okay…

    [Repeats at every weekly call, which has nothing to do with teapots]

    Also she asks me for stuff. I send it to her. Three months later, she’ll ask again like she never got it, and I forward her the original email.

    She will also ask me for help on a problem that I cannot solve. Like if she needs money for something, I tell her to make a budget request. She doesn’t. She never talks to the budget people. Then three months later, she’s asking me the same question. As if she’s intentionally not solving her own problem.

    This is always done during conference calls. She never responds to emails.

    I can’t tell if she’s stupid or really sly.

    1. NotaPirate*

      Start just ignoring the requests if they truly are not able to be done by you? For questions you can answer I would keep re-sending the same phrasing. Worth the 2 minutes of copy/paste, resend to avoid getting a reputation as unhelpful in my opinion. Also makes a nice paper trail if she tries to say you are unhelpful, you can easily show many emails.

      For large calls where it feels like shes trying to throw you under the bus for stuff that has nothing to do with you – just know that the higher ups know your job title/role and if they’re judging anyone it’s her. You could start preemptively slipping in references to your department earlier in the call (Yes our team here in the ABC department has good numbers this quarter…). Also instead of saying “okay” in your example, switch to “Then you should ask Ms Blah Blah in that department” or if you don’t know the name just a “Then you should talk to the XYZ department, their contact information is in the shared drive”.

    2. Texas*

      When she asks you about graphic design things in meetings, has anyone reacted to the fact that she’s the graphic designer asking you (the non-graphic designer) for the status of her own project? Because that strikes me as super weird. As for the other items, it sounds like you have an email trail of proof that you do answer her questions/send her requested items so as long as she’s not blaming you and her actions don’t interrupt your workflow, it might be easiest to continue as you have been and she can dig herself into whatever hole she’s digging.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        SO WEIRD. I just got a biller (in fact, a senior biller, according to her email signature) yesterday asking me how to request a bill to be dropped. I was like “… I’m not sure, I’m not in billing, but if you don’t know either, someone on your team should probably be able to tell you?”

    3. Anon Today*

      Stupid and sly are not always incompatible. She sounds like a dim bulb who uses her limited wits to cause trouble.

    4. Llellayena*

      Call out the pattern: “You’ve asked about that at the last several meetings, is there some specific information you’re looking for that deals with *topic of meeting?” “You asked about this before, did you run into problems with the budget request?” Sound concerned as if there might actually be a problem (that isn’t her).

    5. Moira Rose*

      If you’re worried about this somehow coming back to bite you, can you at least turn on read receipts on the emails she never responds to?

    6. LadyByTheLake*

      Throwing this out for what it’s worth. I had someone who would do things like this to me, and one day I (in a bright and cheerful tone) said, “I think you might have some confusion about my job. I’m responsible for XYZ, so I wouldn’t be able to answer questions about ABC.” It turned out that the person was genuinely confused about my job and said, “Who’s responsible for ABC then?” People on the call were able to help her, and suddenly it cleared up why this person kept asking me about things that weren’t mine to deal with. Plus, by being super cheerful about it in front of a bunch of people, it put the focus where it should be because it turned out that some other people had also been confused and we were able to have a conversation about how to make sure everyone knew who was responsible for what.

      1. I'm the boss of me*

        Lady- nice, like it! I could only do that if I was channeling someone else- mmm- someone genuinely upbeat and positive -mmm Nope I can’t think of a single person.

    7. Malarkey01*

      I default to “I really couldn’t say (offer an opinion/answer that). It’s outside of my purview as the legal department”.
      That really specifically states to everyone that it’s not yours and that you are saying you have no ownership of it.
      On the requesting information multiple times, I usually resend the original with a message such as “See below. Last we emailed on this I stated the next step was a budget request. That never came through and would be the first step.” Or “This is the last I have on this issue. Has anything changed?” That calls out the non-action on her part and documents you are resending.

    8. Not So NewReader*

      Don’t be afraid to reference an earlier answer.

      “Yes, you asked me this last week. At that point I let you know that you should ask the teapot graphic design team.”

      “This is the third time you asked me about money for something. I told you that we have to put in a budget request. Do you know how to do that?”
      [Don’t be afraid to count out loud, “this is the xth time you have asked me…..” and then move to the next step in logic, “do you know how to do a budget request?” Moving to the next step is to help her get her “needle UNstuck”. So the next time she asks you, you can say, “This is the 4th time you have asked me. Last time you told me that you did actually know how to do a budget request. Did you submit your request?” Keep moving the target along.]

      Never underestimate the power of counting out loud. I have seen that cure so many people, they just do not like being reminded that they ask over and over.

      On the emails that take three months for her to open. preface and end the email with “let me know you got this.”
      This one is almost a trap. If she lets you know she got it, you can remind her later that she sent you an email saying she got it. If she does not send you an email saying she got it, you can check to see if she got it. Probably by phone, eh?

      Overall, turn yourself into someone who is a lot of work. She knows that if she asks you something you will only point to MORE work. Or what in her mind is “more work”. She will probably respond like most five year olds, she will stop asking you.

    9. pancakes*

      I’m not sure what the point of being sly about this stuff would be – it sounds like the odd questions she asks on calls would reflect poorly on her, not you. She sounds more disorganized and forgetful than malicious to me.

    10. Sylvan*

      I think she might not know what your job is or what roles other people in the company fill? I don’t know what you can do about this, except for possibly responding to the next graphic design question with, “You’ll need to ask X about graphic design. I work on Y and for this project I’m doing Z.”

    11. meyer lemon*

      This sounds odd. My best guess is that she’s angling to find someone who she can use to offload responsibility for problems she doesn’t want to solve herself. But if so, she’s not doing a very good job of it.

    12. Anonosaurus*

      I am currently dealing with someone who continually asks me about llama grooming when I am a SME in manatee tickling. My go-to is a deliberately cheerful “Oh, I only deal with manatees, I know nothing about llamas, but X in the llama grooming department can probably help, I think you should ask her”.

  25. Questions for Mentor?*

    I’m a university student and have been paired with a mentor in my field who has a career path that I’m potentially interested in following.
    What advice do you have for questions I should ask her?
    I want to ask about things like salary and hours, since I might want to work at the same company, but it seems awkward/weird to ask about those things even though I think that’s part of the purpose for the mentor pairing.

    1. anneshirley*


      I think asking about salary/hours is fine, especially hours. It could feel more awkward to ask “what are you paid?” but asking what the typical salary is for this job is a good way to go and she’ll possibly respond with more exact salary details.
      Some other questions:
      What does a typical work week look like? A work day?
      What are some skills you’ve found essential for this work?
      What some advantages for working at this company?
      What is the company culture like?

    2. NotaPirate*

      What do you want to know? Are you still deciding if this is the field you want to enter or have you made that decision and now its more how to navigate that transition? That’s going to shape your questions a lot more.

      Glassdoor will have salary information, many people can be weird about talking salary. Asking about how to neogiate a salary offer is a better topic and leaves it open for them to share if comfortable. (Many times I’ve had that answered with well they offered X thousand, and I countered with X+5 thousand and we settled at X+2).

      Asking about how did they end up in this field, is this what they went to school for, did they always know they wanted to work in this role – can help you figure out your path to that job.

      Ask what a typical day is like.

      Ask how they measure success in their role and more generally in their field. (no graded exams!)

    3. College Career Counselor*

      You should absolutely ask those questions. If you’re concerned that it’s too specific/tips your hand to wanting to work at the same company, you can ask about expectations in general for the industry (salary, work environment, etc.). Then you can ask if the mentor thinks that their organization is in line with industry norms. Or, you can say “my salary and research on the working conditions indicates XYZ–does that align with what you know of the field?” If so, great, you get confirmation. If not, you can ask what they think/where else they recommend you look for this info.

      You can also ask questions about:

      *the type of people who do well in the organization (their background education, training, characteristics/personality, etc.
      *what does the mentor like best and/or find most challenging about the field?
      *what does the mentor recommend you do (specific classes, co-curricular activities, summer jobs/internships, research/fieldwork with faculty, etc.) to get additional exposure to the field and make yourself a more attractive candidate?

      Your university career services office may have a list of dozens of potential questions to ask. DON’T ask your mentor all of them at once! Pick the ones that you feel are most relevant to finding out what you want to know and start there. If this is an ongoing university-arranged mentoring program, you’ll probably have more opportunities to connect with this person.

      Hope this is helpful–good luck, and remember the mentor probably volunteered to do this, so they’re interested in connecting with current students!

    4. Another Proj Manager*

      Ask about a typical day.
      Ask about the Mentor’s career path to get where they are at today.
      Ask what they would have done different so far in their career.
      Ask what skills do they use the most and what is not needed.
      Ask about what it means to be a professional. What soft skills are needed? What should you look out for as you enter that field.
      Ask what they don’t like about the job/field/company.
      Ask if they know what the typical pay range is for their role.
      Ask about work/life balance – what is important to them and what does the company expect.

    5. Forrest*

      In addition to the other questions — ask how the company / sector works commercially. Where does the money come from? How does it move through the organisation? How does the organisation know if it’s doing a good job? How does an individual know if they’re doing a good job? This kind of stuff really separates the good from the GREAT applicants at entry level.

      Also, make sure you are asking questions you genuinely want to know the answers to. If you’ve identified what you’re interested in and you ask questions that you find interesting, you’ll ask good follow up questions and it’ll be obviously to your mentor that you’re genuinely interested and curious. If you ask questions you think sound impressive but don’t really care about, it shows. So spend some time thinking about what really matters to you!

      Good luck!

    6. Questions for Mentor?*

      Thank you anneshirley, NotaPirate, College Career Counselor, and Another Project Manager for your replies! Your suggestions so far are really helpful. Before my next meeting with her I definitely plan to sit down and really think through all these things and come up with a list. And I’ll be sure not to ask everything at once!
      A few more details:
      The general field (accounting) is what I am definitely going in to, what I’m not certain about is the specific area and type of company (tax? corporate? Big 4? wealth management? nonprofit? etc.)
      Right now I’m doing my 2nd accounting internship (different company each time), and next year I’ll try to get an internship at hers or a similar company.
      This is an ongoing, university-arranged mentorship for the next few months, and we decide how often to meet, at least once a month.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        What are the advantages and disadvantages of working in that type of accounting that she does?
        How did she select which area of accounting she would do?

        In starting out:
        If she could change anything that she did what would be the number one thing she would do differently?
        Of everything she did, what would be the number one thing she would do again because it worked out so well?

        When she got her first professional position, what did she do to keep growing herself?

    7. LunaLena*

      I… don’t see why it would be awkward or weird to even straight-up tell your mentor that you want to work at the same company? It’s not like you’re saying “when are you retiring and can I have your job,” I assume it’s a company large enough to have multiple positions in your field. She might even be able to help you get your foot in the door. That’s how networking works!

      Everyone else has already given great advice on what to ask. The only other thing I’d add is “is there anything you encountered that you did not expect” and/or “what common misconceptions are there about this field.”

    8. Violet Newstead*

      Is the mentor just one step ahead of you in terms of career? Is she in an entry-level position or a few steps beyond that?

      If she’s more advanced in career, ask about what levels she’s moved through. How did responsibilities and work change moving from entry level to next level to current level? How long was she at each level? Did those promotions happen at the same company or did she have to move companies to gain significant upward motion? How did she develop the new skills needed at each level? Was it through good managers and internal training or taking extra-curricular courses and certifications. You could ask about salary ranges generally at those levels in the field rather than just what she makes now.

    9. Acronyms Are Life (AAL)*

      What skills/training do you think will make me more competitive to work in this industry/career path? If you still have time left at the University, do they recommend specific courses, electives, clubs, or professional organizations on campus?
      What do you not like about working as a ‘Job Title’?
      What is the typical salary range for a person entering the field?
      What is the typical day like for a person entering the field?
      What is the promotion potential in the field now? (It could have been more open when they started out, or it may be more open now)
      What is the interview process like?
      If you like a certain aspect of the job, ask what other jobs may do that aspect or other career ideas where you can potentially do what interests you most.

    10. AcademiaNut*

      Ask about the types of career progression that are common in the field – not just your mentor’s experience, but what colleagues and former classmates have done, what the options are, and the top choice vs more typical outcome (in my field of academia, for example, people tend to aim at a tenured professor position, most don’t get that, but end up in other related positions or leaving the field for tech jobs).

      For pay – ask about typical pay/hours at various point during the career (which is a little less direct that asking what she works). That will also cover things like the pay being crap when you start out, but getting better later, or having a very flat pay scheme as you get more senior.

  26. PolarVortex*

    Sort of work related because I’m still thinking about the earlier post with the interviewers comments about the “pretentious” book Les Mis.

    What “pretentious” book have you read recently?
    What book would be totally inappropriate to answer for that question?
    What would actually be a good book to be reading when you’re in an interview and get that question?

    I’ve gotten that for interviews and maybe it’d be nice to be reading something that would be a killer answer next time I get that question.

    1. Malika*

      I have re-read ‘The incredible lightness of being’ by Milan Kundera. I think I would get extra pretentions point by stating i re-read it.

      On the other end of the scale, i read a Georgette Heyer romance called ‘Bath tangle’ and it was a blast! I am sure it would not go over well if i said this in answer to the question.

      A good one in my view is ‘start with why’ as an answer to an interview question. It shows you are not just interested in work processes, but in the underlying reason you do the job you do at the organization you have chosen. This would not be the case for me at all at the moment as i have a surviving-the-pandemic job, but i hope to have a why after this is all over.

      1. Moira Rose*

        I hated Start With Why! I found Sinek’s conflation of people who changed the world on their own time and dime and risk (e.g. MLK Jr.) with people who happen to change capitalistic markets in the pursuit of megabuxx (e.g. Steve Jobs) to be really off-putting. I do like Sinek’s TED Talks, though. I agree it would probably get you interview points!

        1. Malika*

          That is a criticism i totally get! Just like i don’t think Greta Thunberg and Random Startup Founder could possibly be compared in terms of impact on societal development. And yet we do this all the time!

          Why i don’t think his examples are totally off-base is the amount of intensity, ambition, big-picture and left of center thinking plus plain ol’ sweat and tears both Jobs and MLK jr. poured into their respective enterprises. These are facets that vaulted their efforts from average to great. Great fodder for job interview. Though this amount of intensity could not be applied to me in survival job within customer service and would probs raise more than a few eyebrows.

    2. yala*

      I wonder if something like Bill Bryson’s “At Home: A Short History of Private Life” would make their eyes glaze over if you described just how *fascinating* the history of the four-tined fork is.

      Or maybe something like “Green Eggs and Ham, because it really taught me such a valuable lesson about trying things I don’t think I like. It’s what inspired me to apply for this job!” in terms of horrible answer.

      Biographies would probably be a good go-to. People find biographies to be Respectable, but they’re also things that can be reasonably mainstream.

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        But by reading At Home, I understood the scene in Cranston where the characters are served peas & can’t figure out a polite way to eat them with old-fashioned forks! (I am such a history/lit geek!)

        I agree that history books are often “safe” for a question like that.

        1. RussianInTexas*

          Lucy Worsley’s “If Walls Could Talk” is a great book about history of various rooms. It’s fascinating.

    3. Thursdaysgeek*

      My first book finished for 2021 was ‘The Plague’ by Camus. That might be a bit pretentious, and also perhaps either really odd or really right if it came up in an interview now.

      1. Dancing Otter*

        Well, there’s also “Plagues and Peoples” or “Justinian’s Flea”, if you want to be topical. (Sorry, can’t recall authors at the moment.) The Decameron and “The Masque of the Red Death” also seem timely.

    4. Okumura Haru*

      One of my previous jobs asked that question. My boss told me that it’s to make sure that the candidate is a reader, which is important for a library job.

      I don’t think that there’s a wrong answer for that question. I’d avoid anything blatantly not safe for work, and would probably shy away from the current affairs/political rants section, but that’s about it.

      1. Librarian Lil*

        Speaking of library jobs, yesterday a patron checked out the really big, unabridged version of Les Miserables, and it secretly made my day! It may be the new “laughing inside when you see Hawaiian rolls in the grocery store.”

      2. linger*

        One that comes pretty close to an automatic wrong answer in most workplace settings is Rock ‘n’ Roll Babes from Outer Space by Linda Jaivin. Which is exactly as joyously trashy as the title suggests, and I thoroughly recommend it.

    5. No Tribble At All*

      I don’t read for fun very much anymore (I know! the shame!) because my brain is mush by the end of work + grad school, so I’d actually dread that question.

      Bad answers: self-help books, romance novels (unless you’re applying for a romance novel publicist?), argumentative political books for a non-political job (for a political job you could spin it as researching the other side?), anything that’d reveal an identity you don’t want to disclose in an interview (What To Expect When You’re Expecting!), Twilight.

      Good answers: nonfiction / biographies related to your field, random other interesting nonfiction (one of my friends is now obsessed with lichen after reading a book about lichen),any other fiction as long as you can talk about it succinctly.

      1. Web Crawler*

        For fun, I’m gonna think back on the last dozen books I read and see if there’s anything that falls outside the Bad List.

        #1 – 6 Romance novels
        #7 a non-fiction about the gendered history of invalidating migraines
        #8 a how-to about civil disobedience and non-violent protests
        #9 a memoir/self-help book about autism and anxiety
        #10 a non-fiction history of white people passing as black for fame or profit
        #11 a very disturbing fiction book that ends with cannibalism
        #12 erotica

        I’m glad no coworker has asked me what I’m reading lately. I usually talk about video games instead.

        1. Web Crawler*

          “Black For A Day: White Fantasies of Race and Empathy” by Alisha Gaines

          It’s super interesting, but a little dry.

        2. Accidental Itenerate Teacher*

          Ooo, what is #7?
          My sister suffers from migraines and this sounds fascinating.

        3. Web Crawler*

          #7 is “Not Tonight: Migraine and the Politics of Gender and Health” by Joanna Kempner

          This book has been amazing for understanding cultural things about migraines. Just having somebody explain with research that the stigmas around migraines are real- that was amazing on its own. But heads up, it can get heavy if you’re sensitive and have emotional investment in the subject.

        4. Lunch Ghost*

          The last four? five? books I read were romance novels. Maybe there was a reread of a childhood favorite in there.
          Frankly most of the books I have in my house (not in my parents’ house waiting for me to reclaim them) are romance novels, childhood favorites, or the ones I kept from my history minor… and the latter category includes things like Beatles vs. Stones and The Secret History of Wonder Woman…

          1. No Tribble At All*

            Oh, I want to be clear, I’m totally down with romance novels! I just wouldn’t mention it in an interview. And the most recent book I’ve read is a textbook called Electric Circuits, so I’m not judging.

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        And now I want the lichen title.
        (I loved “Salt: A World History” and “Cod”, neither of which I had expected to enthrall me.)

        1. Homophone Hatty*

          Those were SO GOOD! I read Salt 12 or 13 years ago and I still think about it often. Whenever I see Tabasco sauce!

    6. Aphrodite*

      I would answer honestly. If the interviewer didn’t like it, well, it’s the way it is. But to answer your questions:

      What “pretentious” book have you read recently?
      Anna Karenina. I loved it!

      What book would be totally inappropriate to answer for that question?
      The Story of O. I haven’t read this and wouldn’t; it’s just not my thing.

      What would actually be a good book to be reading when you’re in an interview and get that question?
      Probably something I wouldn’t read because I am just not interested though the subject is hot right now because of workplace issues. However, when I read I read FOR ME so I would probably be reading. In fact, once I move in two weeks I will read THE RIVER OF DOUBT yet again. I love this book and I love reading the misery of it when comfortably ensconced on a sofa with a glass of wine or cup of tea nearby.

      1. willow for now*

        Hint: If you are ever on Jeopardy! and the answer has anything to do with a train, the correct question will almost certainly be “What is Anna Karenina?”

      2. Donkey Hotey*

        Anna Karenina is relevant for non-pretentious readers for one reason: the opening sentence.
        “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
        One of the best openings.

      3. Juiniper*

        Another plug for Tolstoy! I recently finished War and Peace, and was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. 8 started it as a “just to say I did it” project and then became swept up in it. Certain sections made my eyes glaze over (and it being War and Peace, those sections were the length of a normal book) but definitely one of the best books I’ve read and I see now why it’s in the hall of fame.

    7. ThatGirl*

      It makes me wonder what the “right” answer is for people like that – is Stephen King too mainstream? Is Jodi Picoult too manipulative? I love Erin Morgenstern, but is literary fiction too weird? What if I recently read a graphic novel? What if you have never heard of Hyperbole and a Half and I have to try to explain Allie Brosch’s books to you?

      1. TiffIf*

        Hey! I’m currently reading Night Circus–my first Erin Morgenstern. And I am really enjoying it.

    8. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      Most of my recent reading has run heavy to memoirs, true crime, and medical history. If someone were to ask me today, in a work-related fashion, I think my answer would be “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” by Rebecca Skloot, which I read last week. It’s both a very interesting book, and also (very) tangentially related to my career field (medical admin for academic/research hospitals).

    9. Elenna*

      Not sure if this counts as “pretentious” (it probably would to the interviewer in that letter, lol), but if I got asked that question and I didn’t want to talk about either fanfiction or YA fantasy, I’d probably answer with Lord of the Rings. Which I haven’t actually re-read recently, but I was obsessed with it in middle school and high school so I can definitely still talk about it intelligently and enthusiastically.

      (My truthful answer to “what’s your favourite book” (iirc the question was about favourites, not what the LW was currently reading) is Tamora Pierce’s Squire, in the Protector of the Small series. You can just imagine how that interviewer would have reacted to a fantasy book with strong feminism themes about a young woman who’s the first girl to try out for knighthood in a century, lol.)

      Not sure there are any super good or bad answers to that question, besides things that are inappropriate for work e.g. 50 shades of Grey. Personally I might be a little worried if the interviewee picked, say, Atlas Shrugged? And it’s probably not great if they pick something super Fancy Old English Literature-ish and then make it clear from subsequent comments that they’re BS-ing and don’t actually enjoy that book, but even that could just mean that they don’t enjoy reading much and feel the need to try to impress the interviewer instead of saying so.

      1. Llellayena*

        Ooooo, Tamora Pierce. I read those regularly (as in I own all of the Tortall series books). I lean toward Trickster’s Choice more than Squire and I deliberately would not pick those for an interview question mostly just because of the YA classification. I’d have no problem talking about the themes in an interview though.

        1. Elenna*

          Oooh, Trickster’s Choice/Trickster’s Queen are also great! (Dove <3) PoTS is my favourite mostly because Kel is my absolute favourite type of character and who I want to be when I grow up (ignoring the fact that I'm older than she is) :D

      2. Lunch Ghost*

        Hi, we have the same favorite book.

        I once answered honestly when an English professor I met on a college trip asked me the question. I started telling him about it but slowly wound down as I noticed his unimpressed expression.

        I’d regret it but once he was out of earshot a girl from his college asked for the title and author of that book I mentioned because she loved fantasy and it sounded good.

      3. TiffIf*

        Out of all Tamora Pierce’s works my favorite character is Trisana (Circle of Magic series) but the best story and writing I think are the Protector of the Small series. I’m having an inner argument at the moment though on if I like Squire or Lady Knight better.

    10. Llellayena*

      Not sure about pretentious, but I occasionally read “Why buildings fall down” which can get nicely technical. Though in my field (architecture) that’s probably in the fascinating and not pretentious category. I have been know to read Dante’s Inferno, but it’s been a while so I probably couldn’t use it in an interview.

      Inappropriate: 50 Shades of Grey or anything with a similar subject matter.

      Good book: My usual go to is Songmaster by Orson Scott Card. The author is recognizable, but it’s not his most well known book so it’s obvious I’m not trying to pick something specifically to impress. (I can also talk about it at length if the interviewer has read it and goes off script…)

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Do not skip the introduction, with its story of why the book is dedicated to an elderly relative.

      1. pancakes*

        The only thing I recognize/know about Orson Scott Card is his opposition to gay marriage. I don’t do hiring, but if I did and his name came up, I might wonder what the person was trying to signal.

        1. RussianInTexas*

          I think a lot of people read his books as teenagers way before his views came out, and it just never registered for them. I am not sure people who read them back when are even aware about his views.
          I personally found Ender’s Games boring, but I know people who loved them.

      2. TiffIf*

        Gotta say, I didn’t really like Songmaster. I went through a phase as a teenager where I read EVERYTHING by Card because Ender’s Game (and later Ender’s Shadow) was, and still is, one of my favorite books of all time.

    11. Msnotmrs*

      I low-key dread questions like this because my absolute favorite book in the world is “Infinite Jest” by David Foster Wallace. It’s a twofer because there’s been a bit of a #MeToo reckoning on DFW himself, and the book is also over 1000 pages and extremely opaque. So I sound like a jerkoff when I say it’s my favorite.

      1. IEanon*

        Haha! That is one hell of a conundrum. I never finished “Infinite Jest” (I was in my last semester of grad school when I picked it up), but what I read of it I loved. I completely understand the stigma, though.

        The book I have read the most is “Watership Down,” which I love deeply. I don’t know that that makes it my favorite book, but I would probably answer that way in an interview. I have a hard time judging others’ taste in books because mine is so wide-ranging. I even read, and enjoyed, “The Fountainhead,” though I find its philosophy ridiculous.

        Men who say they love Chuck Palahniuk or Hunter S. Thompson usually earn a side-eye, though.

        1. Msnotmrs*

          Yeah, there’s definitely a short list of books that make you judge the person (usually a man) who says they’re his favorite. Somehow or other, DFW crept onto this list a few years ago :/

      2. Double A*

        Infinite Jest is an incredible book that I’ve read twice and intend to read every 3-5 years throughout my life. I give side-eye to anyone who thinks someone who loves it is a pretentious dude-bro because I have serious doubts that said critic has read the book (in fact, this book came up in that very thread and I cast said shade for this very reason). I mean, it is truly one of the most phenomenal works of the human mind I’ve ever encountered, and if someone would like to debate me on the *merits* of the book I would be fascinated to discuss.

        I’m a 30 something female, by the way. My 70-something mother also loves DFW.

      3. Donkey Hotey*

        I laugh because the technical writing advice I gave to one of my students was “Plain language is your friend. Re-write ‘Infinite Jest’ on your own time.”

        I’m still waiting for the Infinite Jest as done by David Foster Wallace and Grommit. I think that would make it more entertaining.

    12. Not Australian*

      Adam Rutherford’s “A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived”; it’s about DNA/human genome research and tries to dispel some of the popular misconceptions about it. Not something I would have chosen for myself but my other half got it for Christmas, and about 90% of the time I know I can rely on his taste and he can rely on mine, so we swap … as long as the print is big enough for my tired eyes!

    13. The Prettiest Curse*

      I’ve read Middlemarch three times, but I wouldn’t mention that in an interview given that some people have difficulty reading it once – which I totally understand, given that it can be heavy going even if you’re into George Eliot. My recommendation for Middlemarch newbies is to watch the mid-90s BBC adaptation first so that when you come to the book, you can easily work your way through all the plot stuff about who marries the wrong person and just enjoy the language.
      I’m not a hiring manager, but if I was, anyone who admitted to liking Thomas Hardy would cause me to have a serious think about their candidacy, just because his books are so freaking miserable.

      1. Double A*

        Middlemarch is an incredible book and also one of my favorites that I’ve read over and over. The first 200 pages are a bit rough going; it wasn’t until my second or third reading of that book that I actually enjoyed them and didn’t find them a slog. Once you’re out of that section, though, I feel like it becomes a lot more accessible. Actually it’s been well over 5 years since my last reading, I should get back to that book.

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          Middle March needs more Fred & Mary. Full disclosure: I wrote a seminar paper on the character names in Middlemarch. It was fun research.

    14. LunaLena*

      What “pretentious” book have you read recently?
      Just finished Dracula a couple of weeks ago, currently have The Count of Monte Cristo on hold at the library. I don’t always read classic literature, but I go through periods where I think “oh yeah I never read that one” and then go on a classic lit spree. I would imagine mentioning anything by Shakespeare would come off as pretentious – I’ve heard too many people say that no one reads Shakespeare for fun, even though it’s certainly not true.

      What book would be totally inappropriate to answer for that question?
      Anything known to be extremely controversial or political. Not because those are necessarily objectively bad books, but because they kind of invite judgment on you, whether it’s warranted or not.

      What would actually be a good book to be reading when you’re in an interview and get that question?
      I’d say any book that you can honestly explain why you like it or what you find compelling about it. For example, I am currently reading the Vorkosigan Saga by Lois McMaster Bujold, and I love it so far. First of all it’s rare to find a sci-fi series written by a woman, and it’s an interesting contrast to sci-fi written by male authors like Robert Heinlein or Ray Bradbury. Second the world-building is excellent, and she created very three-dimensional and relatable characters and puts them in unusual situations, so the stories themselves are fun and thought-provoking.

      I think if you can do this, it really doesn’t matter what the book is. I could talk about how much I love the Yotsubato manga series – it’s a slice-of-life series about a five year old girl who moves to Japan with her single parent dad – and while it initially sounds childish, it’s not so bad when I explain that I like it because 1) it’s a look into normal everyday life in Japan, and learning about different cultures is something I always find interesting, and 2) Yotsuba’s day-to-day adventures, whether it’s the first time visit to a zoo, learning how a restaurant makes handmade noodles, or getting her first bicycle, are a good reminder of why one should stay adventurous and that there is something exciting and new even in the most mundane tasks. Seeing these things through Yotsuba’s eyes adds an extra sense of wonder, and reminds cynical adult me that, even though something may be tired and old to me, it’s something brand new and exciting to others.

      Or I could go in the other direction and talk about a book I read a few months ago, What It’s Like to be a Dog, written by a neuroscience researcher who took MRI scans of the brains of dogs, sea lions, and even extinct Tasmanian tigers to learn about their emotional states, how they perceive the world compared to humans, and other aspects of their lives. It was interesting to me because I wanted to be a veterinarian in a past life, and even though I ended up on a very different path, animal health and science is still an important topic for me and I still take a lot of interest in it.

      TL;DR I really don’t think it’s about what book you can name, so much as being able to explain why you like it and what it does for you.

      1. should i apply?*

        I just have to add that I love all of Lois McMaster Bujold’s work. I admit I always wonder, it is better to share a book that someone is likely to have heard of or not. There is just so many books out there. I have never heard of Infinite Jest before.

      2. RussianInTexas*

        The Vorkosigan Saga is brilliant, I especially love the later books, like Memory, Komarr, Civil Campaign.
        And I think I re-read The Count of Monte Cristo 5 times as a teenager.

        1. TiffIf*

          I think the Vorkosigan book that I have re-read most is Komarr followed by Civil Campaign.

          Also Bujold’s 5 gods books are great-especially the Curse of Chalion and the Penric and Desdemona series.

      3. Scarlet Magnolias*

        I am reminded of this quote from John Rogers:

        “There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs

    15. PollyQ*

      Tell them you’re reading Bad Blood (about the Theranos/Elizabeth Holmes scandal) and that you’re amazed to see how badly a company can be run. Then see if anyone in the room looks uncomfortable.

      1. Brownie*

        Hah, yes! I was thinking of Bad Blood as my somewhat okay for work option since the other non-fiction books that instantly came to mind were The Art of Deception and Social Engineering: The Art of Human Hacking, neither of which would ever be good to bring up at work.

    16. Lyudie*

      I’m in grad school so I am always reading something business-y that sounds pretentious :-p

    17. Campfire Raccoon*

      I sometimes edit/beta my friends’ books for funsies. It’s a lot of erotica and romance. It sounds fun, but mostly I count hands.

    18. RussianInTexas*

      Pretentious (maybe):
      Dress Codes, by Richard Thompson Ford. Very interesting book on how official and unofficial dress codes shaped society, and were shaped by the society. It’s interesting, but rather…academic.
      Also, “The War of Roses” by Dan Jones. Very historical, also academic.
      I am on the book #8 of the Bridgerton series, and yes, it’s a whole lot of Regency era fluff and sex scenes.
      “The Russian Cage”, Gunnie Rose Book 3 by Charlaine Harris, of True Blood fame, so you know what’s up.

      1. Dancing Otter*

        Thank you, I didn’t know the third book was out yet. I’ll have to look for it.

    19. Seeking Second Childhood*

      My pretentious book? Some of my esoteric history books would probably count for many people. But other people would be equally interested in this tiny slice of the world — or at least in finding out why it interests me. And I know that the people I have worked with the best in the past are the curious ones.
      Be prepared to discuss something that truly makes you light up and be interesting. I only suggest you find an alternative if that reveals something you do not want to disclose in an interview.

    20. Chaordic One*

      Well, not lately, but I was once asked the same question in an interview and I replied, “Jude the Obsure,” by Thomas Hardy. I had recently seen the movie adaptation of “Far From the Madding Crowd,” and I liked it and it inspired me to look into Hardy’s novels. I didn’t get the job. Must have been too pretentious.

    21. Dark Macadamia*

      I thought “The Starless Sea” by Erin Morgenstern was really pretentious. Great book, HUGE “I’m better than you because I like the SMELL of REAL books” vibes.

      I would not mention that I just read “Mediocre” by Ijeoma Oluo, especially if the interviewer was a white man lol.

      I read a lot of YA because I like it, which probably wouldn’t come across great in many fields but fits nicely with interviewing to teach middle school English!

    22. Slipping The Leash*

      Depending on the ideology of your interviewer, “Lamb: the Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal” (Christopher Moore) could lose you an offer. But if you’re looking for something funny to fill your covid-time…can’t recommend it highly enough.

  27. Amber Rose*

    My employee review last Friday went weirdly… well. Our new C-level seems to actually get it. Maybe he’ll be the change this company needs at the top level. I’ve decided to stick around and find out, since I have job security and my husband does not. We can’t both be in flux. I know people who have been following my agony over the last year are probably face palming right now over my stockholm syndrome, but I gotta do what I gotta do to live.

    The C-level hit me with two wild questions that I think I handled poorly. The worst was: if you could do any other job at the company what would it be? And I know I botched that one. But I feel like I needed more time to consider it! After I had the weekend to think I came up with an actual answer, whereas at the time I think I mumbled something about HR stuff, which is not something this company needs from me because we have a third party company that does that. D:

    Would it be too weird to send an email now that a week has gone by saying I thought about it and I think Technical Writing would be a better fit? I usually write everything as it is. Letters, notices, policies, etc. Half this company’s documents are mine. People are always praising my written skills so if I could take some technical writing classes or something I feel like that would be a good fit. Does that sound reasonable?

    1. Damn it, Hardison!*

      I don’t think it would be weird to send him a follow up email. You could say that it was such an interesting and thought provoking question that you found yourself thinking about it all weekend, and as a result, you think technical writing would be a good fit.

    2. King Friday XIII*

      I would definitely send the email because it sounds like you don’t have much to lose and you think the C-level was genuine in asking,

    3. Super Duper Anon*

      I would totally write that email. If you are already writing notices and policies for your company, you have a huge head-start already. There are plenty of online technical writing certs you can take part-time that can help you transition into doing it as your primary role. I am a technical writer and love it.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      Yep, I agree send him the email. Start by thanking him for his time. If you honestly found his questions thoughtful or if you honestly appreciated something about the conversation then mention those things. But don’t lie or exaggerate.
      The go into now that you have had time to actually think about it…. and then explain like you did in the last paragraph here- nice description btw- very clear.

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

      I think it would be good to follow up with the Technical Writing answer. It isn’t the same as an interview where it would be weird to follow up after the fact with a “better” answer to a question.. Do you actually want to do Technical Writing though or is it something that would be a good fit but you wouldn’t actually be that interested in doing?

      Now I am curious what the other wild question was!

      1. Amber Rose*

        I’d love to do technical writing. I love writing, and I have a lot of time, effort and pride invested in the things I’ve already written for work. I just don’t have any background or experience in it, so I’d need some training or something.

        The other question was: More vacation time, more pay or more benefits, if you could pick only one, which one would it be? That was stressful for me because I need all those things. :/

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

          In that case go for it — my understanding is a lot of ‘technical writing’ experience is informal in that it wasn’t structured as a dedicated Technical Writer position but was essentially that. For example contributing to process documentation, user guides, departmental ‘standard procedures’, writing up test specs and results (am I remembering correctly that you’re the poster who was in a role akin to QA testing?), training materials etc are all allies of ‘technical writing’.

          If you can see how a Technical Writer could fit as a dedicated position in your company (assuming the structure isn’t already there) – be ready to discuss that. For example if there is enough writing work currently being done by other people/teams that could benefit the company by being ‘offloaded’ (from their perspective :) ) to a dedicated person.

          I wonder why they asked that second question? It seems like something that would be more at home in a (anonymous? are these things ever truly anonymous?!) HR survey than in a discussion about your performance and goals. Not least because (unlike “what role would you want to move into”) it’s unclear what use they could actually make of that information…

          1. Amber Rose*

            I’ve written most of our policies, some of our procedures, the entire Safety Manual/Employee Handbook and a great deal of internal training materials, so from that standpoint I’m already basically doing a lot of it then.

            We need one badly. We’ve known that for a while. Aside from what we need by law, nothing has ever been documented in this business before. And a lot of what we have is outdated. They were talking about bringing someone in, but maybe I could be taught.

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

              Yes! In that case – Make your experience (yes, it counts) and interest known sharpish!

              Yeah, the company already ‘knows’ (in some sense) your experience in that it was mostly garnered while at the company. But I feel like you need to draw it together for them.

              Good luck!

    6. I'm the boss of me*

      Amber Rose- Well I have heard( and I believe everything I hear) that interviewers respond to people they like. Huh- does that mean the questions don’t matter? No the whole Q/A is there as real exchange of knowledge but in the end the interviewer is swayed by like/don’t like. So I have found for myself that interviews work well if I enter into the whole experience as “small talk” – that skill some people have at making strangers comfortable. Yes I am absolutely ‘working it’ – eye contact, body language, but mostly listening and enjoying the ‘conversation’ as much as I can – even if I feel I just lost an hour of my life to a really grouchy, poopy pants – I still win, cause I can walk out that door into a beautiful day , but Mr. Poopy Pants stays put.

    7. I'm the boss of me*

      Amber Rose- Well I have heard( and I believe everything I hear) that interviewers respond to people they like. Huh- does that mean the questions don’t matter? No the whole Q/A is there as real exchange of knowledge but in the end the interviewer is swayed by like/don’t like. So I have found for myself that interviews work well if I enter into the whole experience as “small talk” – that skill some people have at making strangers comfortable. Yes I am absolutely ‘working it’ – eye contact, body language, but mostly listening and enjoying the ‘conversation’ as much as I can – even if I feel I just lost an hour of my life to a really grouchy, poopy pants – I still win, cause I can walk out that door into a beautiful day , but Mr. Poopy Pants stays put.

    8. I'm the boss of me*

      Amber Rose- Well I have heard( and I believe everything I hear) that interviewers respond to people they like. Huh- does that mean the questions don’t matter? No the whole Q/A is there as real exchange of knowledge but in the end the interviewer is swayed by like/don’t like. So I have found for myself that interviews work well if I enter into the whole experience as ‘small talk’- that skill some people have at making strangers comfortable. Yes I am absolutely ‘working it’ – eye contact, body language, but mostly listening and enjoying the ‘conversation’ as much as I can – even if I feel I just lost an hour of my life to a really grouchy, poopy pants – I still win, cause I can walk out that door into a beautiful day , but Mr. Poopy Pants stays put.

  28. Apparently not even qualified for internship*

    Are there any actual entry level jobs out there any more? I’m making a midlife career switch (or trying to, anyway) and I knew it would be hard to start over again at entry level, but it’s so frustrating. Got my MS last spring and have been job searching ever since. Jobs described as “entry level” also require 5+ years experience. I am totally applying anyway to all those jobs, but I keep hearing again and again that I’m “just not experienced enough”
    (Unless it’s a supervisor/manager position, I’m applying to everything that I am remotely qualified to do. I have worked with a mentor in the field and have a good portfolio/resume I get lots of compliments on. I get interviews roughly a third of the time. The only feedback I’ve ever gotten is that I don’t have experience. I’ve joined local & national professional groups. I’ve connected with people and in groups on LinkedIn and have been commenting/posting/asking questions as I have something worth saying. )
    So fine. A few months ago I started looking for paid internships. Would make for a tight year but I could do it to get my foot in the door. Apparently I’m not even experienced enough to get an INTERNSHIP? This week I was turned down for 2 different paid internships, one I interviewed for said “we went with someone who has more experience” and the other rejected me on the first day the listing was open, an hour after I applied, saying “we are looking for someone with at least 1-2 years experience, not someone fresh out of school.”
    And yet it was billed as an “internship” at about half market rate.
    Meanwhile I’m stuck in a field I don’t even like any more. I’m employed and can pay the bills, but I dread going to work. I am really hesitant to leave the job security for part time, temp work, or for anything less than a 6 month contract job. But even temp/contract jobs have similar, if not stricter, requirements. I definitely cannot leave my job for unpaid work.
    How long do I keep trying before I give up?

    1. Malika*

      May i ask in which career field you are wishing to enter? Yes, the entry-level requirements are baffling, but having 2 years work experience necessary for an internship seems extreme. Is it an option to build up your experience further by freelancing next to your job? I understand this can be very tiring in the short-term but it might be a way to get an in, without giving up a livable pay-check.

      1. Apparently not even qualified for internship*

        I’d rather not say, as at least 2 of the people I interviewed with follow AAM on Twitter…

    2. New Job So Much Better*

      Have you applied at any mortgage companies? We’re all busy right now, and my company is always looking for some entry level applicants. Most mortgage companies are willing to train and you can always move up.

      1. Apparently not even qualified for internship*

        That’s…not the field I want to move into. And I already have a job that’s a bad fit.

    3. Spearmint*

      I feel you, this was one of my biggest frustrations after graduating college (it took me 2.5 years to land a permanent, “entry level” job).

      This probably varies a lot by field. Have you considered reaching out to someone in the field you want to enter (preferably with hiring experience) for an informational interview? They could give you information on how someone like up can break into the field.

    4. DEJ*

      Thirding the ‘what career field is this’ question. In my previous field it wasn’t unusual to have to take two or three internships before landing a full-time job, so even for internships you were competing with people with experience.

    5. Fabulous*

      Maybe you can market yourself differently. Yes, you’re fresh out of school, but you’re not “fresh out of school” – you’re mid-career! You have ample experience, just not in the new field. I would focus on highlighting your transferrable skills from your prior profession when applying to these jobs and internships that want years of experience. That may help them see the benefit of hiring YOU over other newbies.

      1. Apparently not even qualified for internship*

        That’s exactly the approach I’m taking in interviews. I may not have experience in this field, but I have experience with workplace norms, a proven work ethic, experience collaborating with a team, etc.

    6. aarti*

      A couple things:

      -Are you applying to an industry that is super saturated, lots of people vying for only a few jobs? I know there are certainly fields that get a ton of applicants and can afford to be choosy.

      -Would you be willing to do some part-time volunteer work in your new field while still working at your old job? This may help you gain some experience.

      -I would reach out to people at your school and through the organisations you’ve joined and ask them if this is normal. Maybe you’ve just had a string of bad luck?

      You mentioned above you’re not willing to share more details about which field you’re trying to move into, so I don’t know how much help we all can be.

    7. SummerBreeze*

      I’ve hired 4 entry-level roles in the past two years and we truly wanted fresh-out-of-college folks, so perhaps it’s industry dependent? I’m in publishing in NYC FWIW. That’s very odd and feels very 10-years-ago to me, before the internship industry had the sort-of reckoning it’s had.

    8. BeachMum*

      I know I’m late to the game, but I’ve hired two people in the last nine months who had no relevant experience but had degrees. I hired accounting clerks for my husband’s company and one of the people I hired didn’t even have a business degree (the other did). Both had worked in retail for a few years. They did a great phone screen and I convinced my husband and his CFO to give them a chance. Both are great employees.

      It is possible to find jobs without experience, but it’s certainly not easy. Keep trying!

  29. Unhappy EA*

    I would love to hear success stories from people that quit their jobs due to having an abusive boss and were able to prove that and collect unemployment. Anyone? My situation is at work is terrible and my boss is really messing up with my mental health, I need out and I don’t have another job lined up. I’ve been documenting the abuse. Would I be able to collect unemployment if I quit or do I have to stay here until they fire me or I get another job? Any advice would be great. If you’re an employment lawyer I would LOVE to hear from you.

    1. Malika*

      Hope you hear from an employment lawyer soon. I don’t know where you live but in my country you can be fired with what they call -rough translation- equal say. It’s the workplace version of ‘it just didn’t work out.’ It means you are not actually fired but can still collect employment. Is there any way of suggesting this? I was an EA for 12 years, and your relationship with your boss is vital in a way other jobs can’t fathom. If you find any way to get out of this sooner rather than later it will be great for your mental health.

      If another option is transferring to another department, that might be all you need to get away from the source of your anguish. If that is an option, that is worth looking into.

      1. Unhappy EA*

        I’m in the US and it’s pretty awful here. the law does not protect people in this situation, unless you can prove that there has been “harassment, intimidation, or bullying to any of the protected classes: race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information?”. And I would not be able to prove that, despite documenting some serious verbal abuse and disrespect. UGH

        1. I'm the boss of me*

          San Diego here – there is in employment law the concept of “hostile workplace”. The first move would be to a consult with lawyer- have all the documentation you can get about your treatment at job- lawyer can give you idea if you have got a legal case.

    2. HRMgr*

      I’m not a lawyer, but I’ve done quite a bit of work with unemployment from the employer side. I can’t speak for every state, but in my state an employee quitting because of a terrible work environment would be eligible for unemployment. However, it might not be that simple – depends on your employer. Again, other states may have different processes, but in my state the company has an opportunity to provide information about the employee’s departure. Your company has three options in this situation – admit in their response that your allegations of an abusive boss are true, contest your claim and provide differing reasons for your departure, or not respond and let the state make a determination by your information alone.
      After the state makes a determination, the side that’s been “ruled against” has the opportunity to appeal the decision. The next step in the process is the appeal hearing. Sometimes this is an in-person hearing, but every hearing I’ve participated in has been over the phone. I’d guess that covid protocols dictate phone hearings right now in most states.
      If your employer is one of those that fights every unemployment claim to the end, you could be in this for the long haul. I tell you this not to dissuade you (it sounds like you have a strong case – kudos to you for documenting everything!). Rather, I want to give you a good picture of how this could play out. Is your HR department aware of your boss’s behavior? If you’ve attempted to resolve the issues with HR or a grand boss and have those conversations documented that would further strengthen your case.

      1. Unhappy EA*

        Thank you so much for all this info, very helpful. It does not look like there are laws to protect people in my situation. What I call abuse does not qualify as “harassment, intimidation, or bullying to any of the protected classes: race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information?” so according to California law, where I’m at, I get nothing. Seems unfair considering I’ve been working full time and paying taxes for 20 years and have never collected a day of employment, there should be a way to be able to leave a toxic job and get a few weeks or months to recover and hopefully find something new? UGH

        1. MissDisplaced*

          Having had a bully-boss, really the best thing you can do is job search and find something else.

          However, if the company is hurting financially, you may be able to request a layoff. I successfully negotiated that once.

          I’m sorry though, because being in this situation really does suck.

        2. I'm the boss of me*

          Right replying from San Diego CA – look-up “hostile work place”
          this is what you are looking for

          1. Cassidy*

            But there has to be a legal application of “hostile,” meaning that the OP would have to belong to a protected class and be targeted specifically according to that class. From her/his post in this thread, it sounds like that’s not the case:

            “What I call abuse does not qualify as ‘harassment, intimidation, or bullying to any of the protected classes: race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information…’”

    3. LizardOfOdds*

      My mom dealt with this. The inital unemployment claim was denied, so she hired an attorney to appeal. The case ended up going to court and my mom won. Documentation of every single situation was helpful for her case, but I remember my mom had to testify and detail the abuse, which was almost as traumatic as experiencing the abuse. This also took several months to sort out, and there were attorney fees to pay in the end, so while she ended up collecting some money it wasn’t what she was hoping for.

      I’m sorry you’re going through this.

      1. Unhappy EA*

        Sounds terrible that your mom had to testify and detail the abuse! and then the lawyer fees. There should be better laws protecting people in this sort of situation!

    4. Binky*

      On a non-legal, practical question – does your boss want you to go? If so, can you negotiate a dismissal with severance with boss/HR or even just negotiate your leaving as some sort of “bad fit” – so not a firing for cause?

  30. Pinkie Pie*

    I’m currently a contractor, hired through a company for virtual work. I don’t work closely with others and because my work is done like it’s done, I don’t get repeat customers. I tend to stay busy however. I’m getting concerned about my lack of professional references and am debating volunteering for several organizations to build that up. How does it read (with those in my industry understanding the nature of my work) that my references are personal, not professional. I’m mid-career.

    1. NotaPirate*

      Who hires you? Can you build a relationship with any of these folks? Or at least ask if you can use them in the future as a reference when doing wrap up work? Connect with them on LinkedIn, etc? I think as a contractor interviewers will understand that you don’t have a direct boss or peers, but you want some references in the field. All personal references reads off to me.

  31. fhqwhgads*

    I know it’s fairly common for employers to sometimes have unenforceable policies, but how worried do you think one should be about that? Just ignore it since I know it’s unenforceable? Point out to HR the piece that would be illegal if they held us to it? I can’t decide on the line between “they’re clearly ignorant of this law so it doesn’t matter” vs “they’re breaking this law, be it ignorance or malice”.

    Specific example: non-competes. Not legal where I am, which I pointed out and no one made a big thing of it. But they also didn’t change the practice. This I’m inclined to shrug off since it’s so common and pointless.

    Other example I’m more on the fence about: there’s some iffy language in one policy form we’re asked to sign (which I won’t quote because it’ll out me), which is functionally violating NLRA. I don’t think this is intentional, but the way it’s written is too vague to be enforceable. It’s the vagueness that causes the problem because it makes what was probably intended to be a fairly specific restriction way too broad.

    I’ve noticed a similar issue with some other policies where they’re written very broadly and then have a codicil that basically says “except when illegal, then we do what the law says”. I am wrong to feel like this is kinda crappy on their part? This seems to put an unfair onus on the employee to both trust the company to follow the law and trust the company to know what the law is, but by being so vague, the company is sort of indicating they don’t necessarily know what the law is or isn’t. I suspect it was written this way to avoid rewriting the policy constantly as laws change, but it’s making the policies sort of pointless.

    Am I overreacting? My instinct is to bring it up, but I’ve brought up other “hey btw you can’t do that in X state” before. While those call outs were received graciously, it actually makes me hesitant to call out other things. I am not an HR professional and I don’t want to gain a reputation as “the person who is constantly quoting labor laws at HR”. Although I realize that’s sort of irrational since HR should already know these things…

    1. NotaPirate*

      If it is not an issue that is harming someone, then I would let it go. HR and Legal will get into it eventually if needed. I know there’s a lot of little law differences between states with specific things, company has to use consistent language across state lines though.

      If it is an issue where someone might be harmed, I would bring it up.

      If it is a policy you are dealing with (not just signing boilerplate, but something you are going to be actively using) then it’d be better for you to bring it up with your supervisor and say hey policy says this, law says this how do we reconcile this for this situation.

      1. pancakes*

        It’s pretty unlikely the company has drafted these legal documents without the involvement of HR and Legal, but yes, it’s also not clear these documents are in active use, or how fhqwhgads interacts with them. Someone who doesn’t work in either HR or law is unlikely to be taken for an authority on enforceability, but an approach that’s more “can you help me understand this?” than “it looks like you’re wrong about this” should be fine.

        1. fhqwhgads*

          For one example, it’s something they had me (and everyone else) sign right before I made the post. Essentially it says “I will not do X as long as I’m an employee” where X is actually something employees are legally protected to be allowed to do. I suppose one could argue it’s not hurting anyone since if we do X anyway and they try to stop/fire us we could point at the law, but ideally it wouldn’t get there in the first place. Plus all the people who might not question it and thus are not doing X when the legally could.

          In the past I have raised things along the line of “the (myState) version of this document says the company policy is to do Y, but Y is illegal in (myState), could you clarify what the company does in (myState)?” And the response I got was basically “Never heard of that. Source?” so then I sent a link to the law. Then they changed (not just the doc but their actual practice) to comply with (myState) law. There have been employees in this state for at least 10 years, so they’d been breaking that law this whole time without realizing it.

          I really don’t want to have a variation on that conversation again. But I also don’t know how red flaggy it is that this type of thing keeps coming up.

    2. Another JD*

      Those broad policies are typically written with the legal disclaimer because they’re trying to use one document that covers several jurisdictions where generally the rule is X, but the disclaimer covers noncongruent rule Y. Whether to point this out to HR depends on your role and the impact those policies have on you.

    3. lost academic*

      The noncompete thing is common – and many companies are 100% aware that they are 100% unenforceable. But the existence of the document is a way that companies think they can reduce the number of people who might go to other positions with competitors or clients for instance. When I start a new job I run those kinds of things past my lawyer and if they can’t be enforced I don’t say anything, I just laugh to myself and sign them and don’t give them a second thought. The few cases I’ve seen personally where Former Company decided to do something about an employee going to New Company tended to be internal discussions about whether or not it was worth the risk to have legal send a letter about it (just to put them on notice to not do shady hiring practices) or actual letters that New Company responded to… and left it at that. All to say – there’s more risk to you raising the issue with them about it being illegal or unenforceable than there is to ignore them.

      1. pancakes*

        Non-competes aren’t 100% unenforceable. It depends on the agreement itself and the jurisdiction.

      2. Glomarization, Esq.*

        Your lawyer would do better to advise you not to sign something that is wholly or partially unenforceable. Just because something is unenforceable doesn’t mean you can’t be sued over it (and end up spending time and money on a court case). Unenforceable means simply that you are more likely to win the court case that you spend time and money on. And winning attorney fees and costs is cold comfort after having to deal with the stress and other inconveniences of getting sued.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      There seems to be an overall preference for reactive rather than proactive approach to these things. And I think you are right to be concerned about calling out too much. Putting these two things together, unless something is impacting you right now, or seriously hurting someone else, then I would let it go for the moment. File it under, “Good to Know”, for future reference in case you or someone around you needs it.

    5. Lizy*

      I think it depends on the situation and how it may affect others. At one OldJob, there were a couple of things they did that were … not legal. Some things weren’t worth making a big deal out of – like how my manager said that HR doesn’t like employees talking about how much they get paid. I just said “not that I do a lot of that anyhow, but we legally CAN talk about our wages”, and left it at that. Other things – like how HR wanted to list me as a resigning employee eligible for rehire instead of letting me take disability after my pregnancy – was much more of a big deal to me and I pitched a hissy fit.

    6. TPS reporter*

      I generally wouldn’t worry about it in relation to yourself as an employee because you can’t just sign away federal or state guaranteed rights. However, if you are in a position where you are supposed to worry about these things (like leadership, HR, legal) you have to bring them up.

  32. Very anon for this*

    I got this really interesting link today about imposter syndrome and it’s really got me thinking. It talks about how it puts the blame on individuals for what is actually societal bias. Really curious to know what you all think! Will put the link in a reply but it’s an HBR article called Stop Telling Women They Have Imposter Syndrome.

    1. Web Crawler*

      Yes. Yes. Yes. That article explains what I’ve been trying to articulate for years. Basically, I’ve spent my whole life being told that I’m not good enough, and suddenly it’s my fault that I’m not confident. But when I was confident, I got called out for being “overconfident”.

      I have the weird trans man experience of being treated as a woman for years and then suddenly treated as a man. All my contributions are valid now. I don’t have to justify my place anymore. People listen when I talk and disagree with my ideas instead of my being. On an related note, nobody’s told me I have imposter syndrome since I transitioned.

    2. Emilitron*

      Interesting article, thanks for the link – if a workplace is only demonstrating/celebrating/supporting the success of white male leaders, that in itself is treating others as imposters, so when these minority employees “need to get over their imposter syndrome” that’s doubling down on mis-assigning both the problem and the solution to the individual, as well as in some sense gaslighting the employee with a phrasing that says it’s all in their head.

    3. Analyst Editor*

      At some point you have to take ownership of yourself, even if society contributes. Because it’s not like you can measure easily how much it was society and how much it was a person’s personality or individual upbringing in any given case.
      “A person shouldn’t have to do anything, it’s society’s fault so all of society owes them” is, in my opinion, an unhealthy and unproductive take, as well as very infantilizing.

      1. Web Crawler*

        “A person shouldn’t have to do anything, it’s society’s fault so all of society owes them” is quite a stretch from that article.

        There’s a spectrum here. On one end is individualism- what you’re probably used to. Every person is responsible for their lot in life and if they have problems, it’s on them.

        At the very other end of the spectrum is your understanding of this article.

        The truth is somewhere in the middle. Our environment affects us sometimes, and sometimes we can work our way out of it. This article is suggesting not “it’s society’s fault, so sit back and do nothing”, but that society probably plays *some* part in this.

        And for the record, the article is suggesting that it’s society’s problem, so let’s change society. That’s not doing nothing. If enough people have the same problem, we’re gonna talk about it. And we’re gonna try to make structural changes so that others don’t have to suffer.

      2. Very anon for this*

        Yeah no that’s not how I read it at all! To me it’s saying that society isn’t working currently and we have to change that. Not changing it is kind of accepting that society is sexist and racist and expecting the victims of sexism and racism to just accept it.

        If anything, it’s pretty empowering to say actually no it’s not a “syndrome” because that implies there IS something wrong with women.

      3. meyer lemon*

        Okay, but what about the women who are treated horribly by their workplaces for having the audacity to be good at their jobs? They’re already taking ownership of themselves by leaving the corporate world to strike out for themselves as entrepreneurs.

        The problem with “impostor syndrome” is that it’s really the opposite of what you’re suggesting. The people who experience it aren’t thinking that society owes them and they don’t need to work hard. These are people who are working incredibly hard, not getting the credit they deserve and wondering if it’s somehow their own fault. It’s the privileged set who are taught to expect to be richly rewarded with accolades for minimal effort.

    4. AnonPi*

      Did you by chance attend a workshop today discussing this because I may have attended the same one :)

      Anyways I agree with the previous comments, its hard to feel confident in what you are doing when you have little to no encouragement or recognition. Or what you do get is not for the important things, or things that are very gendered (like thanks for your great note taking in a meeting, not your contributions to the meeting itself). After awhile I think it’s natural to feel a bit of the “imposter syndrome” if this is the kind of reinforcement you typically hear.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        We all know the look and body posture of a dog that has been beaten….
        It’s not much different with human beings. Beat a human being with words or other things and that person will downshift to survival mode. The idea of thriving is gone, gone, gone. The goal becomes getting through the next five minutes without listening to some garbage or without encountering some insurmountable unfairness.

        This isn’t impostor syndrome. This is failure to flourish. And the source of the failure is not inside the sufferer, it’s from outside sources.
        What the sources (drivers) of this misery do not understand is that when one of us fails (individuals of any group) then all of us have lost something.

        I do believe, from my own experiences that collectively we do a very poor job of encouraging anyone to thrive. We see it here on AAM where people can be starving for some type of reassurance, any reassurance will do. I think sometime we will have to look at that also. I have seen women delight in the failures of other women, same thing for men with other men. We have a substantial ingrained problem. My failure does not mean the other person experienced success by default. Except in our society we collectively seem to need someone failing before we are reassured of our own success. And that is just so wrong.

        I remember a couple of family members, a wife and a husband. Wife was trying to seed the yard for a new lawn. Husband was convinced she was doing it ALL wrong, despite the fact she had put in lawns before. Husband gloated in joy that he “knew” how wrong she was. He forgot that because he owned the property also, and it was his lawn also, her failure would not be his success by default. If she failed he lost also, he too would have a failed lawn. So why was he so happy to see her fail?
        That’s an over simplified and relatively benign example of a mindset where “your failure means I win”.
        Any time one of us in our country fails, we’ve all lost.

      2. Very anon for this*

        Haha no, I just received it on an email about an international women’s day event on Monday, what a coincidence!

    5. Anon Today*

      This is why I have such skepticism toward psychology and therapy. I know it helps a lot of people. I’m sure there are good therapists out there. But the field is rooted in misogyny and finds so many “helpful” ways to tell women we are doing it wrong. “It” being anything and everything.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Yep. I walked out on the doc who said, “You are a woman and you need to accept your lot in life.”
        For all his education, he was not very intelligent.

      2. Web Crawler*

        I don’t see this as a psychology thing- medical doctors are just as bad (or worse, in my personal experience).

        It’s why screening doctors or therapists is important. There’s a lot of bad ones, but I also know a handful of good ones, after “interviewing” a lot of them. (Coincidentally, most of the good ones are also members of marginalized groups.)

        Your mental health is important. I hope you don’t let your views of the field get in the way.

      3. Roci*

        Isn’t that true for every field though? I’m sure women in psychology face the same “imposter syndrome” that’s actually systemic bias, just as women in other fields of medicine, science, business etc.

    6. Quill*

      Oooh, nice.

      Been working with my therapist on the distinction between “this is in my brain because I learned it for multiple decades based on constant reinforcement” and “this is in my brain because brain chemical maker gene is lazy.”

    7. meyer lemon*

      Great article. It’s very frustrating to me when the burden is placed on marginalized people to imitate the same problematic social norms that are barriers to their success. Why should women of colour or white women have to imitate the arrogance of white men to be successful? If white men’s leadership is so healthy for society, why has it created such side effects as “impostor syndrome” and talented women of colour being bullied out of high-profile jobs as soon as they prove themselves to be smart and capable?

      I appreciated that aside about the weirdly medical flavour of “impostor syndrome” as well. But the syndrome itself is just a symptom of a more serious problem, one that women didn’t create and shouldn’t be held responsible for fixing.

    8. Juiniper*

      Thanks for a thought-provoking article! I’ve never considered imposter-syndrome this way, and have reflected on the conclusions drawn and my own experiences for the last day now. One of the biggest sticking points is my struggle to reconcile my feelings of imposter syndrome with emoloyers that have largely avoided the institutional and cultural blinders described in this article. The author seems to take as a foregone conclusion there is something inherently broken or lacking in all workplaces where this feeling is experienced. I am a woman who has worked nearly 10 years in very male-dominated fields (engineering and mining) and after having racked my brain I cannot come up with a single instance of being sidelined, pushed down, questioned, or belittled by my (overwhelmingly white male) colleagues or superiors. Instead I have been encouraged, listened to, and put up for promotions. My companies have truly been joys to work at, so I acknowledge that luck also plays a part. And yet, I struggle with imposter syndrome on a daily basis. Likely it’s been ingrained in me from much earlier experiences, so I absolutely acknowledge that wider societal forces have played a part and that those must be addressed. But to shift the focus from the individual to the workplace actually leaves me less equipped for dealing with it. In many instances it sounds like that is precisely where the responsibility should lie (the author of the article had plenty of alarming examples), but I also don’t want to be denied the tools for navigating these feelings that, at this point in my career at least, I cannot in good conscience attribute to company culture.

  33. Free Meerkats*

    Management/HR-type blog recommendations beyond AAM and Evil HR Lady for a new manager?

    I was Lead for my group for over a year and got promoted to actual manager about 6 months ago. I think I’m doing OK, my managers seem to think so. I’m still the SME and trying to shove as much as I can into the heads of my 3 reports before I retire in a couple of years.

    1. SomebodyElse*

      No recommendations but a little advice if you’re up for it.

      “I’m still the SME and trying to shove as much as I can into the heads of my 3 reports before I retire in a couple of years.”

      Start creating the culture now in your team to document things and share. I found out the hard way that tribal knowledge is dangerous. In my case I had an employee who had been on the team for 20 years (as an employee, lead, then supervisor). We had a lot of documentation, but it turned out to be pretty bad and out of date. Of course I found that out when she left the role. I also didn’t realize that the training in the team was inconsistent. Employee A would ask a question and receive an explanation and answer. But employee’s B, C, and D did not the same information. Employee B would ask a different question, but A, C, and D would not get the same information. You see the disaster waiting to happen. Add to this an almost 100% turnover in the group (long story with a combination of reasons)

      So now, I’m revamping our work aids and attempting to instill a shared knowledge culture (including documentation, training videos, and since the majority of the team is new a “Tell me and your teammates something you learned this week” in our team meetings. So far so good… I’m sure they are annoyed with my direction to “Document this thing you just learned!” directions but they are all progressing in their knowledge really well and working together to solve problems.

      1. Free Meerkats*

        Thank you. I’m working hard on this sort of thing. My new hire (to fill my former position) does an excellent job of writing procedures and we have her documenting everything we do. So in a couple of years, no one will have to disturb me on my sailboat to ask, “How do we XXXX?” Of course, I haven’t bought the sailboat yet, but if anyone here has a nice trailer sailer they don’t want anymore, HMU. :)

        I’m also rewriting our entire Program Manual. And getting new ordinances and Local Limits approved and adopted – we tend to do these every decade or so. Trying very hard to set stuff up for the next manager.

    2. lebkin*

      I highly recommend the “Manager Tools” podcast. It’s highly informative with a focus on behavior and practical advice. It is strongly data driven. There is a lot of overlap in their approach and Alison’s advice, but the structure is different and thus very useful.

    3. Scarlett*

      I’m a big fan of HBR (Harvard Business Review). Lots of great articles on wide-ranging topics, and they are all easy reads. You can sign up to receive recurring articles hit your inbox.

  34. No Tribble At All*

    Based on yesterday’s open thread — good ways to keep remote employees involved in an organization?

    1. meteorological spring*

      Caveat that I haven’t read yesterday’s open thread, but this is very general, can you say more about what you mean by keep them involved? Are you trying to make them feel more included? Create a cohesive, close-knit, collaborative team when only some of it is remote? Make sure they’re doing their work on time and meeting goals? What’s the actual problem and what’s the outcome you want?

      1. No Tribble At All*

        Ah, good points. At old!job, before covid, if you worked remotely, you fell off the face of the planet. You wouldn’t get new projects, you’d lose visibility with your boss, the only reason you were still invited to meetings what we had distros (and if you were on shift, people wouldn’t fill you in later). Because we had so many different offices, people from one location had no idea who anyone was in other offices, what they were doing, or how to work with them. It was very isolating both for your team (can’t work across the organization) and for yourself (no one pays attention to you). We had a lot of morale problems with remote workers…. eg me, who left.

  35. Flounder*

    Does anyone have experience finding/having a good experience with a career/job coach? I’ve been floundering in an attempted career change for a few years (niche/unhelpful masters degree, some freelancing) and have maxed out my current network. I’ve been googling around for help, hoping to find someone who can help me better describe/leverage my current experience on my resume and cover letters and potentially point me towards roles in or adjacent to my field I haven’t heard of/considered. How do I evaluate potential coaches? Is it even possible to find coaches who have past professional experience in smaller fields?

    1. Roci*

      I’ve seen this question asked on previous threads with many responses, maybe try the site search feature.

  36. How to Structure a Job Search*

    How have you structured job searches, specifically when you are considering making a big leap?

    I’ve been in my current job ~8 years, and have concluded that I need to switch industries/careers. I’m thinking about going back to school in some form in 2022, but in the mean time I want to get a better sense of possible jobs that are out there that I could transfer my skills to.

    The thing is, I have _no idea_ what categories of jobs or job titles I think would be a good fit. Have others been in this situation of a very broad job search where you are trying to find industries or careers your skills might transfer to?

    How did you go about finding job postings – is there something I should consider besides just combing through all the job boards I can find? How did you organize the jobs you were looking at? I want help making good categories of different kinds of jobs and also specific nuts-and-bolts stories of how people organized their job search (summary spreadsheet of each job applied to? Separate folder for each job applied to with the job posting, resume and cover letter you submitted?)

    Captain Awkwards #1156 had these notes, which I found very helpful, and I’d like to hear if people have made similar systems when they searched and how these systems worked:
    > Jobs you would be great at (and an obvious fit for),
    > Jobs you would be great at (but you’d need to make a really strong case or acquire additional experiences or training),
    > Dream jobs – what you might do down the road with a little more training or experience,
    > Career-switcher/entry level jobs that are in a field that excites you, where you would be willing to start at the bottom, and jobs with larger employers where you could start with something basic but there’s room to move up and around within the company,
    > Jobs with employers that provide excellent training & educational benefits that you could use to build your skills, again, where you could start with something basic and then work your way into a career,
    Companies where you know people, especially people who are successful and happy in their careers,
    > Finally: “Better than nothing!” Jobs you could do, where they’d be likely to hire you, and that would pay the bills right now while you look for something else. Maybe you really need a Right Now Job to pay the bills while you keep applying to things that you want to do. That doesn’t mean you’re giving up on longer-term goals, it just means you apply to at least some of those and see what happens.”

    Contextual notes: I get _severe_ anxiety around job searching, especially writing cover letters and interviewing. (Have anxiety and depression diagnosis, go to therapy and am on meds). Also, I get anxious when I don’t know how to organize a mass of information that is tangential to a thing that stresses me out. I’d like stories of how how others sorted and organized to help me build my own system.

    1. AwkwardlyOwl*

      Ok, so this may or may not help, but I’ve been listening to the Feminist Survival Project 2020, and one of the things that keeps coming up is how essential MEANING is for people to feel good.

      So when you are thinking about jobs, start thinking about what your “Capital Letter” is. This is short hand from my friends group… let me expand. There is a thing in your life that you BELIEVE in. Mine, as it turns out, is Learning (note the capital letter). I believe that learning things is good for people and that it has the power to save the world. I believe it makes people more compassionate. So, I ended up a librarian (note the lower case). I could have (and almost did) become a teacher or an informal educator or ANYTHING that connected to my something larger/Capital Letter.

      This can be hard to discover! But thinking about what you believe in is a start. Friends and really trusted family folks can sometimes give you directions to go. (My friends all kept talking about how knowledge and information and literacy were important to me, and yes, it was a helpful starting point). But think about what makes you feel like you are doing good in the world.

      Once you have a direction, you can start looking at TYPES of work: I need to interact with humans (I was briefly a cataloguing librarian, and it did not work for me… I need humans sometimes), I don’t do well with routine tasks, and I’m good and dealing with large projects. I sorta fell into academic librarianship, but it’s a great fit for me.

      And don’t be afraid to think creatively: no one I know is passionate about selling cell phones, but my friend has been doing it for a decade: he believes in making technology accessible and useful for people. Selling cell phones is a way that pays the bills AND taps into his something larger. So, he doesn’t adore the job (selling is hard, retail is hell), but he finds it fulfilling enough, and it pays the bills.

  37. Bear Shark*

    How do you deal with a manager who panics any time an employee mentions being open to other opportunities (both inside or outside the company)? Even the most mild of comments about how the Rice Department mentioned they had a Rice for Llamas project coming up and they could probably use a Llama Specialist and employee X mentioned they’d be interested in that results in Manager assuming X isn’t happy in the Llama Department and spiraling into worry about that. Then you have to manage Manager’s feelings and calm them down before you can have any kind of actual discussion regarding the employee X’s plans. It’s exhausting and means it’s almost impossible to discuss professional development with Manager without it all being about soothing their feelings. It’s like Manager doesn’t understand that people can be open to opportunities without actively looking for another position or necessarily being unhappy where they are.

    1. SomebodyElse*

      Is manager new? I’ll admit to panicking when I was a new manager and an employee resigned or moved to a new role. I’m sure it showed to a certain extent, but as I worked through it enough times this feeling went away. Now I just view it as a pain in the butt.

      Some managers never get over it, which is unfortunate, but there’s not much you can do about it.

      1. Bear Shark*

        They’ve managed the department for 5+ years now. I’m assuming this means they’ll never get over it.

        1. irene adler*

          If mollifying manager’s feelings replaces any talk of career growth for you, then it’s time to get their manager involved. Maybe HR.

          Or start with the “I” statements about how their emotions are affecting you. “When you get upset over professional development topics I wish to discuss with you, I feel frustrated. I tell myself that you really are supportive of my career growth. Can we set an appointment for when we can talk about professional development together please?”

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

      My take on this is that someone moving from the Llama Department ‘is’ a disaster level event — either in reality (in the case we see sometimes where there is a “load-bearing employee” or where losing a single person out of a team would tank everything) or that for whatever reason the manager perceives it this way. It seems that this situation is the ‘reality’ from the manager’s perspective although maybe they try to push it into the background most of the time, but then (from their perspective) any talk like employee X might be interested in the Rice for Llamas Project jolts them back into that ‘reality’ of how someone leaving would screw up everything.

      In this mindset I think “open to opportunities” and “actively looking” are functionally the same.

      Who is manager in relation to you? Are you a senior manager and they report to you?

      1. Bear Shark*

        Manager’s actually my grand-boss and I’m one of the “load-bearing employees.” I’m not trying to leave but I see this same spiral and hear the venting from other employees. Manager has wanted me to move up a level under them in the past and I have had to resist that because I need a buffer between me and their panic.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Lack of planning can be a contributing factor. If a boss does not know where the next Sr Llama Herder will come from that can cause some worry. Even having a rough idea of how to handle that could be of some consolation.

      If the opportunity comes up you can point out a couple of things:
      Employees that feel stuck are the employees who jump the quickest. Employees who feel supported TEND to stay longer.
      If employees think that the topic of leaving upsets the boss, then they will probably wait until the last possible moment to let the boss know they are leaving. In other words, the boss caused the very situation the boss feared the most.
      Small businesses talk about succession planning. While this is a similar topic it’s not the exact same, however the boss might gain some insight into how to handle planning for their own people. That panic is lack of knowledge. Once the boss has acquired more knowledge in this area, they will probably feel a bit better.

      Meanwhile, leading by emotions is a solid way to get people to leave. That stands alone as a problem.

  38. Chiquita Dave*

    I got laid off a while back due to a certain worldwide catastrophe. I’ve been doing a bit of job hunting here and there and stumbled across a new opportunity. I’ll start training a little over a week from now. Nothing is totally set in stone yet but I’m so relieved and excited!

    1. Initial B (they/them)*

      That’s so awesome! Congratulations! I hope the new job treats you well. :)

  39. Philadelphia'sStory*

    How do you handle coworkers who are threatened by you? My firm hired me for a very specific expertise and others who feel it is in their territory are upset that I am “taking their work.” But they don’t have the experience and knowledge to do this well, which is why I was hired! They are badmouthing me, which others aren’t really paying too much attention to but is stressing me out. I have been here for four months now and my boss said to not worry about it, but I am concerned they are aiming to sabotage me.

    1. meteorological spring*

      Can you say more about “I am concerned they are aiming to sabotage me”?

    2. CupcakeCounter*

      I had this happen at an old job and unfortunately I have no advise as I quit within 6 months (which was actually a joke on my boss/the person sabotaging me…I was hired to be her replacement while the company worked on her promotion and transfer to her desired location. Unfortunately for me they forgot to tell her that part so instead of properly training me and getting me up to speed, she less than half-assed it and then wrote me up for a ton of mistakes and lashed out at the assistant manager and other person on the team who were trying to help me. Well…I wasn’t the only one who ended up quitting because the official actions she took against all of us basically hampered any ability to move up within the company so they quit too. When her entire team quit on her within a month, they decided maybe she wasn’t cut out for a promotion.)

      1. Philadelphia'sStory*

        Meteorlogical Spring, I am hearing through the grapevine that they are actively saying negative things about me and my work aiming to harm my reputation (mostly untrue, but the situations where the is a kernel of truth very one sided and without any of the context. More like “she was snippy with this person!” but not telling the story that “she was snippy with this person who was actively rude to her and said, “I don’t understand why you were hired, you are not better at this than anyone else here.”). They are also not sharing required information with me and changing my work after I submit it. Leaders seem to understand my predicament, but are not saying anything to these others.

        Cupcake: so unfortunate you had to deal with this. I am senior to these people and treat them like peers, but they behave as though I am here to serve them. One of them I’ve heard has a not great reputation, he has a tendency to push a lot of buttons. The other guy is generally well liked but I think sees me as someone who is better at things he wanted to do with his role and doesn’t like that he can no longer do them.

    3. Susie*

      I was in a similar situation 2.5 years ago. I’m still at the org and so is the badmouther (Amy).

      Amy did try to sabotage me. There was an investigation. It sucked. It still sucks working at the same organization, but for better or for worse, it’s the choice I made.

      Things that helped me:
      Document everything-all interactions with badmouthers, and things you have heard from others. You may not need this information, but it will be helpful if you do. In my situation, Amy would change shared documents or not share things that I needed.

      Push back on the boss when they say not to worry about it. If you have concrete proof of badmouthing–say that you’re concerned about implementation of your work and ask for specific supports. And if the badmouthers are concerned about their work being taken away, this is a manager’s job to clarify what their job responsibilities are… (this is one thing I wish I had done better…my previous employer was trigger happy with the firing button, so I was really tentative in this position about pushing back)

      Build relationships with co-workers. Now, I get asked all the time for feedback on various projects and initiatives because I have earned that respect. Figure out how to show you are an open minded collaborator–even though you were hired for your expertise, you still need to figure out how the organization works and how to merge your expertise to the org.

      But doing the above doesn’t make it easier in the moment. As much as I reminded myself that Amy’s behavior says more about her than me, my stomach still drops in dread whenever I see her.

      1. Philadelphia'sStory*

        Thank you Susie, this is very helpful! I thought I had responded with more detail, but Lloyd and Harry are basically changing my work, not sharing information, and telling others heavily skewed information (like, “Philly was snippy with Amy” but not including that Amy had spent 20 minutes on a call grilling me for my credentials and asking why I was possibly qualified to do this work.”). They are both junior to me in the organization, and behave like I work for them (“Philly, I need you to create these documents, please get my a version by X”) when my work does not overlap with theirs in a way that this is at all appropriate, they just want to show me “who is in charge.” It’s hurtful, but I think your advice is spot on.

        1. Susie*

          Yeah, your Lloyd and Harry sound like my Amy. She has more years in the field as me–and is really good at what she does….when she does it. Ultimately her fear was that all the deflecting she did to cover how little she did was discovered. Even though we had the same job, I have more years in leadership positions and I did more outreach in the organization. It was pretty obvious once I started how differently we operated. One thing she never understood is that google docs save all past versions and editing history…The boldness of what she would do makes me laugh now in hindsight.
          Things got better once our boss was very clear about responsibilities and her position was changed so that it is much easier for our boss to see if she was doing her job or not. I suspect more guardrails were put into place, but couldn’t be shared with me. Other things happened within in the org, unrelated to her, that resulted in her influence being reduced.

          So there’s hope that this dynamic can be changed. It definitely is hard, but hopefully resolve soon.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          Have you told the boss these specific examples?
          For example not sharing information IS actively sabotaging your job. You don’t have to worry about the future on this one, it’s already happening. :(
          You are senior to these two but they are actively badmouthing you? Again, this is sabotaging your job by stealing your authority/expertise.

          Unfortunately, the boss needs to tell them their marching orders. If he can’t do that then you are being set up to fail (intentionally or unintentionally, no way to know.)

          Don’t make yourself stay in this situation if they have no plan on fixing it. Four months is long enough.
          Tell your boss that you can not do the job effectively, if you are not given the information you need to do the job, if others are undermining your authority or expertise, there is really no point to you doing this work.
          You may have to loop in the big boss. Eh, if my company was spending money on salary and that person was being sabotaged routinely, I would want to know. This is basically wasting company money- but it’s not YOU who is wasting the money. It is the cohorts who are working AGAINST company endeavors.

          Try to think about it this way: They have personalize it- they don’t like you. They have forgotten that if their company does not succeed they will lose their jobs. You were put there to help the company succeed. They are blocking your success and as such they are a detriment to the company.

    4. AnonPi*

      All I can do is sympathize, as I went through this myself. Nothing about the situation changed while I was in that job. Well, other than ironically the insecure person went from coworker to team leader.

      The important thing is your boss being aware of the situation. That’s how I made it through this kind of crap for years, they knew this person was insecure and would throw me under the bus whenever they got a chance. I suppose it didn’t hurt she’d try to throw the bosses under the bus too, so they knew I wasn’t making stuff up. Otherwise I’d suggest documenting everything just so there is a record in case anything changes, such as getting a new supervisor that isn’t aware of the situation.

    5. BRR*

      Based on my experience and what you’ve said, expectations have to come from higher up and be incredibly clear and direct.

      Other than that if the rest of your coworkers are decent and it’s a small group who are awful, they good coworkers will brush off whatever is said about you.

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

      In this kind of “change agent” role you need the backing of your boss / the organization in order to succeed. Sounds like you don’t have it, or not to the degree needed. IMO you need to go back to your boss with something more strongly worded. I don’t have a lot of confidence in the boss to be honest (based on one of your other comments) but…

      Stop treating them like ‘peers’ and start delegating or asking them to change processes or whatever it is you are meant to be doing in a more senior capacity. If they try to assign you work with “please get me a revised document by X” push back with them as well…

      My other thought on this is the boss sounds kind of passive in this. Are you sure the boss has actually communicated your role accurately to them?

      1. Philadelphia'sStory*

        Captain: part of the issue is that we have the same grandboss but not boss. Grandboss heads the business unit (Llama Grooming) and it needs to come from them (and I am in Llama grooming sales while they are in Llama grooming payments). I do not think that my role was ever accurately communicated which is definitely part of the problem.

        I do have the backing of my boss and grandboss, but grandboss isn’t being as clear as they need to be and I think is caught up in other stuff.

  40. Call out problems*

    How do you honor people’s mental health and chronic pain care when you legally have to have a certain amount of people at work? I work in child care and we have to maintain ratios, not only legally but for the well being of small children. We try to help people take time when they need it but we already have a small staff and when one or two people are calling out often it always takes a toll and other staff members start to get resentful. Also admin can only be in one place at a time and can’t cover everything when several people are out. This has been particularly hard since this past year if any staff member even has a slight sore throat or runny nose they can not come back to work until they have a negative test. So we regularly have had people out more often than usual anyway.

    I don’t want to be that old person who just says “buck up” I know people’s health is important, but I also can’t stop other staff being upset that one person is constantly making it very hard at work. I understand both chronic pain and dealing with mental health issues (especially this year) first hand, so I get it. But I am also GenX and do the classic “whatever I’ll just keep going” when I am having issues. But 100% understand that is not how society should deal with these kinds of issues!
    Thank you!

    1. BubbleTea*

      It sounds like you maybe just need more staff? I know that is easier said than done, but if people taking time off sick leads to difficulties meeting legal ratios, you need some slack in the system. You absolutely can’t make this the problem of the person with the health problems.

      If they aren’t actually able to perform the job duties due to their health, that might be a different question. I’m not sure of the answer there.

      1. Call out problems*

        In a perfect world we could over staff each room, but then people would get paid less. Child care is not a business that makes a lot of money or where we have a CEO making a huge salary and bonuses. Nobody makes a lot of money, how are we supposed to just pay extra people to cover just in case? We have a few subs they can call but that’s also not a job we have people knocking down our doors for.

        1. Librarian of SHIELD*

          Can you hire a handful of floaters? When I worked at a preschool we had about half a dozen people who weren’t assigned to any of the classrooms. They went from room to room releasing the regular teachers for things like bathroom breaks, and they were on hand to fill in if any of the rooms were short-staffed for the day.

          1. Call out problems*

            Yeah we are only a staff of 17, so “extra people” is a pretty big deal for us. And there would certainly be days when they would have nothing to do. It’s just a hard thing to over staff for, like last week there was a day when we had less then half a class (the children) show up because they all had colds so that room was overstaffed and was able to help out another room that was under staffed (but that is very unusual).

        2. WellRed*

          I don’t know much about the child care biz, except that yes, it’s poorly paid and understaffed. From a bigger picture business perspective, however, your expenses/overhead, including salaries for “extra” staff, would take all that into consideration. The idea isn’t to take the pot and spread it thinner, the idea is to increase the size of the pot (charge people more). I realize this is oversimplifying a complex problem, but I also think you or your company is also oversimplifying it.

    2. SomebodyElse*

      Lots of questions… Are you over or under the employee cap for FMLA? Have accommodations been discussed under ADA? Have your staffing levels been reviewed for adequate coverage recently? Have your staffing contingency plans been reviewed/are they reviewed periodically?

      At the end of the day, taking into account legal obligations, you are a business that provides a service with legal staffing requirements. Being as compassionate and understanding as possible, you do need to understand if you are able to absorb the absences.

      1. Call out problems*

        We are actually usually staffed above state requirements. so compared to other centers we are usually “over staffed” but when you look at state requirements they say that two people should be in a classroom with 8 infants, 14 toddlers, and 10 3-5 year olds. It’s all well and good until 3 of those toddlers have blow out diapers at the same time and the rest of the children are hungry and one is biting another one…we have a staff of 17 and 55 children. But we also have a 10 hour work day and people need breaks so those people are spread out throughout the day.

        We are a part of a slightly bigger (but not a national chain) organization, we have four centers. We do fall under FMLA and that has been used for employees. We also have an HR person who is great and knows all about these kinds of things. I guess the question is more about morale or how to help staff with issues but still acknowledge that everyone else was working harder. This is more like people getting migraines several times a month, or have endometriosis, or anxiety. And we are almost all women and obviously (because of our career choice) caring people. But we are also human and when a day is completely crazy because we didn’t have enough staff to go around we can still get annoyed and it’s hard work and exhausting. The last thing I want to do is fire someone, even if it is legal, which I might think is not?

        1. SomebodyElse*

          I hear what you are saying. But I think you are maybe looking at it a little sideways. You are trying to find a way to make people feel good about work and less frustrated about being short handed. The way to do that is to fix the problem.

          At a high level that fix may include:
          Replace the people calling out*
          Hire additional staff
          Restructure/redeploy existing staff

          * taking into account all legal and ethical requirements of course.

          I mean you are going to have crazy days when everything happens at once. The question is what do you have in place to deal with that? Have you asked your employees, I’m guessing they have some pretty good ideas.

          At the end of the day though, people will get grumpy with their coworkers if the perception is they are off work more than normal or they feel like they are working harder/longer because of people calling out sick. So the question is not “How do we get people to stop feeling that way” it’s how do we do a better job with coverage.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          Agreed. You need to actually fix the problem.
          Start with the idea of reasonable accommodation. If your staff is stretched out then this is not reasonable. You can’t accommodate all these absences it’s hurting your staff and that in turn will hurt your business.

          Put pencil to paper and see who is having absences and how often. Use numbers, this takes out any personal feelings of like or dislike and other issues- it’s down to just looking at numbers. It could be that one person is having excessive absences which is tiring others right out and causing them in turn to have more absences. It could be that you do something with the high absence person and the whole situation dials back.

          Let’s say you find that Jane has had 20 absences this year …. and it’s only March. It’s pretty clear that Jane is struggling. Perhaps HR can suggest working PT hours for a while and one of the floaters can pick up the remaining hours. Perhaps Jane has a plan and will stop needing so much time shortly. Perhaps Jane has to be let go because her chronic absences are stressing the remaining employees’ workloads.

          I would like to point out something that is not always popular. When a boss decides to allow a lot of absences go unchecked, they are giving away something that is NOT theirs to give. They are saying, “It’s okay the others will pick up your load.” Well, the others have no say in this matter and they have not given their agreement to this arraignment. The boss is giving away others extra labor, extra energy and doing so without consent of those who are doing the extra. This can cause people to just up and quit. Then you have a bigger problem.

          One thing that I have done with some success is to address the entire group. Here is what I said, “You all have taken turns working down one person and sometimes two or more people. So you all know it is NOT FUN working at less than full staff. What we really need you to do is to carefully consider each time off request. Ask yourself, do I really need this time?”

          In my case there were hours where we could get by on less people. So I added, “If you absolutely must take time off, we really need you between x o’clock and y o’clock. Anything you can do to schedule appointments before or after that time or otherwise work through just those hours would be very meaningful to your peers.”

          But it’s not that realistic to get a person to be happy about doing the work of two people.

    3. Natalie*

      As mentioned, the first thing to do is make sure you’ve done what you can to maximize staffing. But I know that can be incredibly challenging in childcare.

      Once you’ve done that, if the same people are calling out consistently I think you have to address it with them. It’s an unfortunate reality that childcare might not be a good fit for someone who’s health prevents them from consistently being at work. I don’t think anyone likes that possibility, but I just don’t see a way around it. You have legally required staffing ratios, you don’t have an unlimited budget, you presumably can’t just hire random temps.

      1. Call out problems*

        Right we can’t hire random temps, everyone who works here has to be registered with the state. I know that it might not be the right fit for some but if it’s only for the reasons of health care that feels really bad. If someone’s passion is working with children that is who we want doing this work! I guess maybe there isn’t a solid solution it’s a tricky situation

        1. Natalie*

          I hear you that it feels bad. I’m in healthcare, so we have similar staffing issues with clinical staff. We are thankfully a larger organization and the margins in health care are better, but it is still an enormous challenge. We have float staff driving all over the state.

          I don’t think these situations are emotionally easy, but it is important to remember that these are big systemic issues. Keeping someone on because you feel bad about it doesn’t do anything to change those issues, and it’s to the detriment of your other staff.

          I think you can approach people with compassion, and still be clear eyed about what you need from them to do the job.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          Would another child care center be willing to share employees with you? Can you set up a list of 3-5 people who would willingly go back and forth?

    4. PT*

      I had a coworker like this at one of my jobs that was coverage based. She had a lot of chronic health conditions, as did her minor child for whom she was solely responsible. In addition, our job only provided a limited amount of paid leave, so once she tipped into unpaid leave, she’d wait until the very last minute to call off because “what if I feel better and I missed a day’s pay for nothing.”

      As a team, people did everything they could to cover her: skipping breaks, staying hours later than planned, getting last-minute wakeup calls and rushing into work as fast as possible. But ultimately her absences took such a toll on both staff and customers that she was suspended to FMLA. She used that time to improve her health and came back on a modified schedule that was within the limits of her health condition so she wasn’t working so hard that she was making herself too sick to work.

      1. Call out problems*

        Thank you, this is a helpful story. I am glad it worked out and that she was able to come back. It gives me hope, none of this was to imply I want to let anyone go or that we don’t like these people. Just like you we all try and accommodate as much as we can, working extra to help them. But it does get exhausting, especially when it is already exhausting work!

    5. pancakes*

      “I know people’s health is important, but I also can’t stop other staff being upset that one person is constantly making it very hard at work.”

      You can’t stop them from being upset but you can and should stop them from sniping about this person when they’re not present, if that’s what is happening.

  41. anneshirley*

    Would it be absolutely odd to try and buy my work computer and use it for both work + personal use? The reason is that I’m currently working part time at a nonprofit (have for years) and am also attending grad school. With the way my day is, I find myself coming the work computer, opening the personal, closing the work, opening the personal…I’d like to be able to switch more easily between annotating my pdfs for 30 mins for school and then doing a couple hours of work, my brain would just like it more. Also, next fall I’ll be physically moving to grad school (though still working for them) and I’d prefer to cart around one laptop.

    We do everything on google drive, except I do video editing on this computer (and hence it’s much nicer than my personal).

    Since all work documents are on the cloud, not the computer, with the exception of these video files I edit + they have no software to monitor us on the computers, would it be weird to ask them if I can buy it from them and use it for work/personal? Based on what I’ve read, I’m guessing the answer is yes, yet I still wonder if anyone has done this. Thanks!

    1. NotaPirate*

      Talk to your boss. It’s going to depend on their policy. I’d be leery of having personal documents on work computer, especially when you have to give it back someday. Also who is responsible if you break work computer in personal time? It might make a lot more sense to buy your own laptop and just do work stuff on it as well if they don’t have any policy about confidential documents etc.

      Logging into firefox type browser might help with some of the back and forth, you can quickly transfer bookmarks and store login information.

    2. Kiko*

      I’ve done this before and I don’t recommend it. I know it’s a pain in the a** to carry around 2 computers, but I would rather do this than deal with the headache of figuring out who owns what. In my case, I owned my laptop, but it got to the point where the company felt like they owned it. After using it for years and once it started acting up, I asked for a new, company-owned laptop. My company asked if I could keep using my personal one until it broke so they could save money…

      Never again.

      And I would feel nervous about accidentally uploading personal documents to the cloud. Especially if you get to the point where you want to job hunt and have a zillion different versions of your CV on the laptop. There are just too many things that can go wrong.


      I would not do it. Keep your personal and work laptops separate. Anything you do on your work laptop could be construed as owned by the company. They could be tracking the websites you go to (most likely they are & they dont need software on your computer to do it) . It’s just better to have a black line between work and personal when it comes to electronics. Honestly, these people that have BYOD policies, I dont know how they make them work.

    4. PollyQ*

      Oddly enough, I bet your employer would be happier for you to use their computer for your personal work than to have you use a computer they don’t own for their work. Maybe ask your boss or IT what their policy is on using their computer for non-work activity? It might also help to have separate user accounts on the same machine, one for work and one for personal.

  42. yala*

    welp. guess who’s on a performance improvement plan.

    On one hand, it really doesn’t feel great. On the other hand, a lot of what is on the sheet is stuff that I *have* been doing (my boss just hasn’t had a chance to check my work for the past couple months), and I feel…fairly confident that I CAN improve as required?

    One thing that worries me is that on the actual paper one of the goals she mentions is that I’ve been told to paint and glaze an average X number of teapots per day. I have been increasing my output, but I asked for clarification, because I can only paint the teapots that come to me, and we don’t always have teapots, and I can only glaze ones that she’s checked over, but lately she’s been very busy and understandably doesn’t have the time to check over them. She said she will take that into account, as well as the work I do on other projects, but THAT isn’t on the paper, and I get itchy thinking that that loophole could be used to hurt me if a few months from now I can’t make the numbers average out to X/day, purely because I don’t HAVE X teapots per day to paint and glaze.

    I can give a written response, and I’m thinking of something along the lines of a short letter committing to making the improvements laid out in the PIP, and saying something like “I will paint and glaze X teapots per day, as they are available.”

    Does that sound like a good idea?

    1. NotaPirate*

      I’m sorry. That’s rough. You will get through this though! Plenty of people go through PIPs and come out the other side. Look at it as they want to try and keep you (else they would have just fired you straight out). But do start reviewing and updating your resume, hopefully it’s not needed and you are just saving yourself some effort for the next job hunt. (Expect the best, prepare for the worst).

      I would just sign the thing. Then document any time you go to glaze teapots but they aren’t there in writing, like email Boss (I have glazed 2 teapots and painted 4 this week, my quota is 6, but I have none waiting in loading bay to paint while waiting for your approval on these 4 painted but unglazed ones, can you come approve them?).

    2. Not A Manager*

      I think you can be more explicit and detailed without being adversarial. “As you and I discussed, teapot inflow can be inconsistent and therefore affects my teapot outflow. We agreed that I will paint and glaze X teapots per day, as they are available.”

    3. SomebodyElse*

      Each day while you are on this plan you need to keep a log. See example below… obviously tweak it as you need to, it’s a little clunky, but the general idea is that you want to show what is pending her review, what you had available to complete, and what you did complete on a daily basis. This is honestly something she should be tracking as part of the PIP, but make sure you do as well and review with her as part of your periodic check ins that you should be having.

      Start: 5 TP pending review: 3 TP available to glaze
      End: 4 TP pending review: 0 TP available to glaze: 4 TP completed
      Start: 8 TP pending review: 4 TP available to glaze:
      End: 0 TP pending review: 12 TP available to glaze: 4 TP completed

    4. RC Rascal*

      My heart goes out to anyone in this situation. I am going to frame my response with this opinion: I don’t consider a PIP to be a legitimate management tool. In a 20 year career I have never seen one used that way. I have only seen them used as a documentation tool to fire someone who is politically unpopular, or as a pretext to scapegoat an employee when the actual problem lies with the manager, or with a larger root cause too unpopular to address.

      You have to sign the PIP. I would sign it and add “Receipt Only”. As you are allowed a written response, I would take advantage. Be very specific in your response as to how you believe you are meeting your required duties, and your manager hasn’t been checking your work. If it isn’t already, try to add an “improved communication” requirement with your manager. Actively manage up and force this person to interact with you, and review your things in a timely manner. Specifically write how you cannot paint pots that aren’t available, and express in writing that this is an issue. Document throughout the PIP progress on that.

      Here’s a secret: Everyone will tell you to document, but your documentation will probably only matter to an employment attorney. To that person it will matter VERY much; everyone else in this process will try to use it against you. Usually what they will try to do is something along the lines of criticizing you for your documentation; claim that your need to document is indicative of trust issues with your supervisor that are YOUR fault; claim the documentation time indicates a larger time management issue (i.e. you could have been working when you were writing stuff down), and then claim that your need to document shows you have a larger accountability problem and want to blame others instead of improving your own w0rk.

      Also–is more than half of this PIP based on either subjective factors or factors outside of your control? If so, that is conformation that this is merely an exercise in railroading you out the door. Anything your supervisor or HR says verbally during this process should be disregarded. Only what is on paper matters.

      Between your comment about the supervisor not checking your work and your concerns about the teapot inflow/outflow imbalance, it indicates to me that your manager is probably lax at their job and fielding questions from senior management about output concerns. Rather than address legitimate lags in the process, your manager just wants to blame you. If the manage has legitimate concerns about your work, she should been checking your work closely, both ad hoc and one on one. Prior to the PIP, has your manager every spoken to you about concerns regarding your work? That is another red flag if she hasn’t. Putting you on a PIP without previously addressing work concerns, and documenting those concerns, is a further indication this is a pretextural.

      1. yala*

        Honestly, I really *haven’t* been meeting my requirements. I mean, maybe in the past couple of months. And while my boss has…a lot of problems as a manager (this is her first time and hoo boy it shows in a lot of ways) her not getting to my work isn’t really one of them—by this point I shouldn’t need someone to check my teapots before I glaze them, but I kept making small mistakes. A lot of that was previously untreated ADHD, which I’m…still not on great treatment for tbh. (And yeah, some of it is definitely personality problems that make it difficult to ask for help when I need it, or mean everything I say is taken in the worst way, so I subconsciously try to interact with her as little as possible. It doesn’t help that the whole “untreated ADHD” thing was at its worst during my initial training). I’ve put together more meticulous methods to make sure my work is up to standards lately, but I don’t blame her for being frustrated.

        This didn’t come out of nowhere.

        Like, that’s the thing. I DON’T blame her for taking this step. I DO need to improve. And I think I can.

        I just worry it won’t be enough because she personally does not like me at all. Like, maybe I improve this, but then I use the “wrong tone” or something.

        I have every intention of thoroughly documenting my work (and interactions), not just as proof of my improvement, but also so *I* can physically monitor and track my own work. I asked that we regroup in two months so she can review my progress.

        (Altho lol you’re very right about the documentation. She’s definitely gotten upset with me for writing down interactions etc, even tho I primarily do that because otherwise I might forget exactly what I said and they said.)

        1. Lobsterp0t*

          If you’re in the UK, (I’m guessing not but you never know) and your employer knows you have ADHD, then putting you on a PIP for behaviours arising from that disability and failing to make reasonable adjustments may be discrimination.

          That isn’t to say it’s illegitimate to have you on a PIP – but it does mean that they need to fulfil their duties under equality legislation.

      2. SummerBreeze*

        From the other side: we put a coordinator on a PIP. It didn’t go well, but through the process we realized her strengths were much better suited for a different team in our department. So we offered her the chance to move over. That was 7 years ago and she’s since worked her way up from coordinator to manager and now to director, and she’s absolutely killing it in her role, and is well loved.

        Good companies can do it well.

        1. Cassidy*


          Also, some people simply are bad employees, and a PIP is a strategy for offloading them and letting them manage the consequences of their own *chosen* acti0ns.

          Nothing wrong with that. (But speaking generally, OP. Not saying you fit the bill).

    5. Not So NewReader*

      I’d definitely do this.
      And I would tell her that i am starting a tracking sheet that shows the total number of teapots available for that day and how many I did.

  43. Grits McGee*

    There was a letter a week or 2 ago in Dear Prudence about how to reconcile diversity initiatives with business needs, and I was curious how other folks are negotiating these kinds of issues?

    To give an example- I work for a government agency in a field that is notorious for unpaid internships and low salaries, and one of the big recommendations has been to have paid internships for college students. However, because we are a gov entity, we can’t receive outside funding and carving out money for this would defund mission-critical activities. Complicating matters, we are still being closely monitored for employment issues because my agency was illegally hiring students to replace full time employees, so there is zero room for flexibility. I think we are headed to a discussion about whether we should offer internships at all if we can’t pay for them.

    1. Forrest*

      If you aren’t offering internships, you’re really relying on other people to fund the development of your talent pipeline– funding them properly shouldn’t be see as “taking away” from the mission-critical stuff, but as a cost of doing business and ensuring the agency’s longterm workforce.

      What if you switching to paying your interns the minimum wage (or more), but also making sure they do actually do work of value? Are there any paid temporary roles or project work which is currently done by temps or casual workers, but which could be combined with higher-level learning experiences to create roles that benefit both the organisation and the students and are worth paying for?

      1. meteorological spring*

        Overall I think you’re very on point, but I sort of disagree with the statement “If you aren’t offering internships, you’re really relying on other people to fund the development of your talent pipeline.”

        Is there any reason you can’t begin the development of your talent pipeline when you hire someone for your entry level jobs?

        Obviously many places say “entry level” and mean “we want you to come in fully trained with at least 1 degree and many years of experience for a measly salary,” so, also don’t be a place that does that.

        But if you can’t afford to pay your interns and pay them a living wage, you should not have interns, and it’s not a bad thing to land on “we should not offer internships at all if we can’t pay for them”

        1. Forrest*

          If you’re willing to hire graduates with no professional work experience to paid entry level roles, I agree! But if you want to hire people who have done internships but not offer them, then yes, I think you are letting other people find your pipeline.

          (That said, even without internships, I think the way the burden of training has shifted from employers to individuals via student debt is a very bad thing.)

      2. Grits McGee*

        So unfortunately, there is very little chance that students who intern with us will actually go on to be employees- we’ve been in a hiring freeze for years, and an MA is often required to do our mission-related work. Our agency sees internships solely as an educational experience for the interns, especially as a resume builder. (We are a very recognizable federal agency.) We are allowed to have a small number of student workers, but because our previous employment shenanigans, there are strict limits on the kinds of work they can do and they aren’t allowed the kinds of learning and cross-training opportunities we provide to interns.

    2. Natalie*

      Could you find some of these positions through Americorps? It’s not a lot of money but it’s more than $0.

  44. Throwaway Throwback*

    I’ve been working in the marketing & management field for about 20 years. I have the opportunity to get a master’s degree fully paid for – either an MBA or an M.Ed. (master’s of education). The MBA would be more applicable to my current work, but what I’d love to do is move into nonprofit or government program management in a specific education-adjacent field, and the M.Ed. would help with that.

    I don’t want to be stuck doing marketing for stuff I don’t believe in for the next 25 years. I’d love to do a career swerve and take a leap. What do you Internet strangers think?

    1. Unladen European Swallow*

      If your end goal is to work in an education or education-adjacent field, then I think the M.Ed. would be more useful. You’d have the marketing and management skills from your work background. The M.Ed. would help you better understand the education sector and it’s own peculiar norms. I think these two things together would make you more attractive to potential employers after the degree. Also, be sure to highlight both in your cover letter: the skills/experience you bring, and the education-specific knowledge/context you have from the degree.

    2. College Career Counselor*

      Does it have to be an MBA or M.Ed? What about a Master’s in Nonprofit Management? Alternatively, you can explore possibilities with an MBA program that has a Nonprofit focus, perhaps.

  45. Forrest*

    How do you cope with the double headspace of “I do not like my job, I want to leave, I want this other job and I am putting lots of energy into it but I also need to continue to invest in my current job because I am not counting my chickens”? I have been doing it for the last four months and it is EXHAUSTING.

    1. WellRed*

      Can you be a bit more specific? Have you been looking for another job in general for four months, or looking at one job for four months? Because that does sound like a lot. Generally, I think when applying to a job, do the best you can and then forget about it. When it comes to the job you hate, well, how much do you really need to invest in it?

    2. olusatrum*

      I’m in a similar position, investing a lot of energy into a job search while trying to maintain my current job. It might depend on how much you don’t like your current job. For me, I can’t really think of a single thing my company could do to convince me to stay, short of radically changing the attitudes of every member of leadership and the entire company culture. So while I want to hedge my bets and position myself for the best outcome regardless of how my job search goes, I mostly just keep reminding myself that I am fundamentally not invested in my future at this company and I am being intentional about conserving my energy for the future I actually want. Even if that means I miss out on some advancement at my current job (to be fair, there’s very little opportunity for advancement at my job, so I might as well just put in the bare minimum of effort. It’s not like going above and beyond will get me anywhere!)

      But if you’re more invested than I am, could you maybe try focusing your CurrentJob energy on projects related to your own interests? Like picking and choosing what to really put energy into by if it will look good on a resume, help you improve on a skill you want, etc. Manually tracking down and fixing errors in a broken automated system my boss refuses to take input on becomes “getting practice in SQL.” Putting in energy at my current job always feels more palatable when I can sell it to myself as valuable experience I can use in the rest of my career, far, far away from this place.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      I can’t tell if you have this other job or if you are waiting to hear.

      If you know the end of bad job is on the horizon, then keep your eye on that goal.
      If you do not have a firm date yet, can you do anything to firm up the date?

      I think that actually getting extra rest is part of your answer because, yeah, this stuff is tiring, really.

  46. Anonymous Tech Writer*

    It is the time of year to submit training plans. My manager needs me to become involved with records management and document project tracking. I need to come up to speed fast. Our tech writing group now supports global engineering projects, and tool-specific training only goes so far. I need to know what the tools can do that we don’t do yet, and what other tools can improve how they work. here is no STC chapter within a hundred miles, but happily there is AskAManager.
    What subjects and online courses should I research?

    1. I had the same training plan*

      We are looking at TASK PLANNER in Teams to see if it will do for our document project tracking in 2021. I don’t know anything about it so I was going to look at Youtube for videos to see what its about.
      I am hoping that there is something in TEAMS that will work for us since the mgmt does not want to spend any additional $ on software or training!

  47. many bells down*

    I am very proud of myself this week for asking for a promotion. Sort of.

    I was hired as part-time and my boss has just told me that our new director wants to ask the board to give me full time hours in next year’s budget. There’s been discussions that my job title is inadequate to the work I’m doing, but our organization ties salary to titles so there’s not a lot of wiggle room in changing that.

    But I feel that if I’m important enough to go from part time to full time, and I’m certainly already doing things well outside of the scope of my position, I should also have the better title. So I told my boss and she said she totally agrees! I’d honestly rather have the title bump than even the hours or the pay raise. I feel like the better job title makes those things more certain in the long run.

  48. irene adler*

    Has anyone ever experienced the hiring manager quitting DURING the hiring process?
    As in, I interviewed with everyone in the department and was waiting -on Zoom- to interview with the hiring manager -when no one showed up!
    The other interviewers had indicated hiring manager was working from home at this time but did not think that was an issue with interviewing me. After 15 minutes all alone on Zoom, I let HR know that the hiring manager hadn’t shown up.

    The interview with hiring manager was rescheduled for 2 days later. Then 30 minutes before the scheduled start time, I receive an email informing me that the hiring manager is no longer available. The HR contact person would get back to me regarding what the department wanted to do, vis-à-vis hiring me.

    Now, if they choose to hire me and THEN replace the hiring manager (to whom I would report), is that a good situation for me to be in? I’m thinking not. Wouldn’t the person replacing the hiring manager want to interview/hire their preferred candidates and not have someone (me!) thrust upon them?

    Love to hear your take on this please. Thank you.

    1. Bear Shark*

      I haven’t, but I once had the HR contact person get let go in between her leaving me a message offering an interview and me calling her back later that day! No one from their HR ever followed up so I assumed they changed their minds on interviewing me for some reason. I only found out a few years later when I worked at another company with someone who came from that company and was telling the story of getting ghosted and they asked about the time frame and told me what happened.

    2. orson*

      Yellow flag? Could be a larger issue, could be something in the hiring manager’s personal life. No way to tell without more info. Waiting to learn more seems like the best idea.

    3. Overeducated*

      Oof! I’m in a new job where the hiring manager moved on for a “temporary” assignment (promotion to a different part of our organization) that is likely to become permanent. He was at least able to least stay involved in the hiring process and is helping me with transition questions, but I’m really nervous about who the replacement will be. It’s definitely a risky situation. If the job sounds good enough, maybe worth it, you have to weigh it against all other factors.


      I took a job where the hiring manager turned in his notice after he hired me and before I started @ the company. It was not good. He was going to train me, promised me his temporary replacement would hire me, then the replacement took another job, a CIO was hired and one week later I was fired for not having the skills to do the job I was hired to do, which was known when I was offered the job.

    5. Super Duper Anon*

      I would wait and see what the outcome is. Any decent company would put hiring your position on pause while they sorted out getting in the new hiring manger first. Then they might resume and have the new hiring manager interview you. At that point you can determine whether or not you like the new manager and can take it from there. If they try to rush into hiring you first, I would call that a red flag, or at least a yellow one.

  49. Elenia*

    I’m super irritated this week because people suddenly want to meet in person again. Can’t we just wait a little longer? And I am not sure I have the capital to expend on avoiding these meetings. I am middle management.
    What really irks me soooo much is the first person to ask for an inperson meeting is someone who has already been vaccinated. What a bitchy horrible thing to do. “I’m safe, so all of you endanger yourself for me.” What’s worse is everyone else, who has not been vaccinated, chimed in to agree! Apparently I am the only one who is hesitant?

    1. NotaPirate*

      Just say “Hey I am not vaccinated and not comfortable meeting in person, can we setup a zoom as well?”. Plenty of meetings are happening in hybrid forms right now as some people reenter and others are still at home. Whether that’s projecting a zoom call in the conference room or just doing an audio traditional conference call with a speaker phone in the room others are physically present. If there is pushback talk to your boss or collegues and speak up as a group. It’s a safety issue so you could escalate to HR eventually if those routes fail.

      1. PollyQ*

        All of this. Yes, new case rates and deaths are way down from the beginning of the year, but thousands of people are still dying every day. There’s no reason for anyone to take any risks just to have an in-person meeting.

    2. Analyst Editor*

      Even in the recent nyt article about how you shouldn’t put your masks away yet, they Scott that it seems like the vaccine is working at reducing transmission, but all the evidence isn’t there yet. If the degree to which vaccinated people expel virus and transmit it is much lower than non-vaccinated cases, then it is safer then it is a bit of a stretch to look at it as then endangering you, especially if you meet with masks on.
      I get the desire that everyone just wait a little bit but who knows what your particular definition is of “a little bit”. Because if for you you need every case of covid to be stamped out everywhere and everyone vaccinated before it’s ok, that’s a tall orde, especially as the weather improves.

      1. tangerineRose*

        I was coming here to say that the vaccine isn’t guarenteed to be 100%, and there’s a lot of advice to be careful even after getting the vaccination. You said it better.

    3. Autism Dad*

      Is the person asking to meet in person, or telling you that you need to meet in person?

      Because if they’re asking, it’s a request. It’s not a “bitchy horrible thing to do,” and it’s not a personal affront.

      Without knowing more, it’s hard to give advice. Will there be social distancing in place when you meet in person? Will someone be taking proper steps to sanitize? How is your relationship with this person who wants to meet in person, and how is he/she regarded by co-workers and management?

  50. Spillz*

    Not sure if I’m looking for advice or just a place to vent but…

    I started a new job on the exact day that lockdown in NYC started. Given that, I’m not doing the job I was hired for (events) so have cobbled together a job over the last year of random things – some webinar work, which is technically an “event”, but definitely not my forte at all, some virtual events like wine tastings etc, and then a bunch of “odd jobs”: helping write communications, place random gift orders, creating powerpoints….basically whatever they throw at me, but I feel like I’m not doing well at any of it, and beating myself up for that. 

    Not helping things is the fact that this is one of the strangest, most scattered workplaces that I’ve ever worked, and I don’t think that’s due to being remote. The entire firm seems to operate on being as vague with their requests as possible, but also getting buried in the absolute minutiae of everything. 

    I wish I could go to my boss for more guidance, but she is one of the worst offenders with this. She will send out a vague one-sentence email out to our entire marketing team, and I’m so lost on who she is expecting to pick things up. People on our team don’t seem to have defined roles at all – it’s a free for all. I’ve asked for clarification several times, but have been told that this is an effort to help “spread the work out.” To me, it just seems like chaos, and I’m never sure when I should jump in. I also have barely spoken to my boss over the last year. We were supposed to have weekly 1:1s, but she cancels them almost every week, so I’ve probably spoken with her a total of three hours over the last year? The last conversation we had was in December and so I’m just out on my own little island, trying to figure out what I’m supposed to do. 

    On one hand, I’m thankful to have survived the last year with a steady job, when so many of my event colleagues found themselves out of work shortly after the pandemic started. However, I feel totally like a fish out of water and am increasingly demoralized, and very often paralyzed by inaction and not knowing what is being asked of me. 
    On top of all of this, I feel so incredibly alone. In my last job, I had several people with who I was very close, and here, I have not really been able to connect with anyone, so I spend most of my days alone except for the rare times when someone calls to ask something of me. Our team meetings are few and far between, and I feel like every time I speak up, either everyone talks over me or whatever I say just doesn’t “land” or comes across as weird. I’m just left feeling stupid and like I wish I hadn’t said anything at all.No one has ever really asked anything about me personally, and whenever I try to strike up a conversation, nothing ever really comes of it. I would write it off as them just trying to separate work and personal life, but it seems like they ARE having conversations with each other – I’m just completely left out of it. 

    This was also the worst year of my life personally, with my grandmother passing away at the same time my boyfriend was in rehab for a month, so I left alone to try to cope with it all. He is better now, but my mother then was diagnosed with cancer shortly after that, and so I have been taking some time off to try to deal with it all, and I feel like my team members just see me as an unreliable burden that they constantly have to pick up the slack for. 

    Sorry for this rambling diatribe – I guess I hadn’t realized how much this was affecting me until I typed it all out.  I’m not even sure what I can do to fix the situation, but as a social person and someone who has always prided myself on being good at what I do, it’s really taking a toll on me. 

    1. Not a Real Giraffe*

      This sounds awful, I’m sorry! Your entire first paragraph sums up what my job looks like, too, though it’s meant to be that way and is less chaotic.

      I’m wondering a few things: When your boss sends out an email where it’s not clear who is to take the lead, do you ever forward it to all your teammates and ask “How does the assignment of these projects work? I’m happy to take something on but don’t want to jump in if someone always handles X requests.”

      Do you have any sort of officewide IM system, like Teams or Slack, where you can create a chat group with your teammates under the guise of “I am working on this project but could use some institutional knowledge,” and then weave in a smattering of friendly chit-chat?

      I have both witnessed and been a part of an existing team having a hard time remembering to include a new person in the camaraderie. Most of the time, it’s from sheer forgetfulness (especially now that we’re virtual and someone isn’t literally in front of you!), not from meanness.

      1. Spillz*

        Thank you! These are helpful tips.

        We do have Skype, so I can and do chat with my colleauges sometimes, but even when asking for help, I feel like it’s pulling teeth to try to get an answer. It’s the strangest thing!

        I think I’m also feeling stuck in a zone now where I feel like I *should* know things, so getting in my head about asking about it, but I do realize it’s better to ask than spin my wheels constantly!

        Thanks for your thoughtful advice.

  51. Overeducated*

    Yesterday’s “ask the readers” post on commutes got me thinking. There was a lot of talk about “everybody makes their tradeoffs.” Did anyone else see their tradeoffs change radically with COVID and make a major move that they will have to hope works out post-COVID – or am I the only potentially stupid risk-taker here? If so, what are you hearing from your employer about the future of telework, and if you haven’t heard much yet, how will you make your case for greater WFH flexibility?

    My situation is pretty simple. My employer was culturally somewhat unfriendly to WFH, even though our jobs can easily be done that way, because managers liked being able to just walk up to someone’s desk and get information from them. Also, we had a lot of paper files. Those are literally the reasons. So I lived with my 2 kids and spouse in a very old and frequently mildewy apartment 6 miles from work, and didn’t have indoor and outdoor space and modern amenities like “a washing machine” and “a dishwasher,” in order to have a feasible commute of less than an hour by bike/transit. This became really difficult during the pandemic, but my spouse’s field of work is being impacted negatively, and to make sure we could afford more space on just my income we had to move MUCH further out. Like, I’ll have a 2 hour commute when the office reopens. Yikes.

    Yes, I had choices here, but none of them were great (and “find a new job in a LCOL area” is not as easy as it sounds if you have a specialized skill set, especially during a pandemic). So we took a big big risk. And when the office reopens, I don’t want to go back 5 days a week, or even 4. I want 3 days a week telework. If we’ve all spent a year doing our jobs remotely with success, and many many of the people we work with inside and outside of our organization have different work locations within our region already, I don’t see how that’s unreasonable. But nobody knows what the post-COVID expectations will be at this point, all our supervisors can say is “well, Employer will HAVE to be more flexible after this, won’t they?” Anyone else in a similar situation? How are you thinking you’ll approach this when we “go back”?

    1. Forrest*

      Haven’t done it yet but I’m trying to. I’ve applied for a job that I’m *extremely* well-qualified for which is two hours and a half hours away. Pre-pandemic, it would definitely have been office-based and absolutely no way I’d have applied. Currently it’s WFH. I have contacted them and asked whether post-pandemic they would be open to keeping it as a remote / WFH role, with attendance at the office every 1-3 weeks. They’ve said they’d definitely be open to discussing it for the right candidate. So– we’ll see!

    2. Not A Manager*

      Take this with a grain of salt. I have more of a background in negotiating and less of one in office politics. But it seems to me that the beginning of the After Times will be an unusual one in terms of businesses’ experiences. They’re going to need to pivot pretty quickly in an environment that might still be uncertain for them.

      For that reason, you might consider being less deferential and less accommodating than you otherwise would be. When they start talking about bringing people back to the office, you could straightforwardly state “That won’t work for me. Due to the pandemic, I’ve had to move too far for a five-day commute to be sustainable. I’ve been able to perform all my duties [using X metrics] remotely, and I should be able to perform all my duties in the future [using Y metrics]. I can be in the office one day per week to cover any gaps, and that should take care of it.”

      In a way, I would almost analogize this to Alison’s strategies about asking for a raise or a promotion. You’ve been able to benefit the company while working remotely this past year, you will continue to benefit the company while working remotely in the future, therefore it’s in their interest to let you keep working remotely.

      Unless they have a line of qualified people to move right into your role the minute the office re-opens, I doubt that they are going to fire you or seriously ding you for taking this position. If what you suggest doesn’t work for them, they’ll tell you. But I think you are more likely to get closer to what you want if you start with the assumption that this is completely reasonable than if you are more tentative.

    3. Lobsterp0t*

      Mine is a good problem to have, sort of … we bought a flat in the city we live in just as our employers indicated they were embracing remote working forever.

      I mean we aren’t going to have the struggle you mention – but I sure wish some events this year between June and November had happened in a different order!

  52. Initial B (they/them)*

    I have recently been reassigned (in a rather botched manner, which most people I’ve talked to agree with) to a new org within my company, doing almost all the same tasks to the one I held previously, but my new manager has no idea about the projects that I’m working on and tends to go on tangents when I try to describe to her what I do. Compounding the weirdness, my previous manager is now my peer in this new organization, and I’m never sure what he’s told her about our work so I feel like I speak redundantly pretty often.

    This month we have to have the annual goal-setting talk that’s compulsory for all employees, and I have no idea what to do. Along with all this craziness in my work life, I’m still working on getting my associate’s degree and getting a handle on some other IRL stuff. Would it be appropriate to state that my degree, at least, is a personal goal for the year? Or is that something that’s considered irrelevant to work, generally?

    1. Bear Shark*

      Usually you don’t include personal goals in your work goal-setting. You can probably include your degree as a work goal though as part of professional development unless it’s completely unrelated to what you do. It doesn’t even have to be directly related if you can find something you’re learning that is related to your overall job skills.

    2. PollyQ*

      I wouldn’t include anything at all personal in your goals, not even your degree work, unless it’s something that’s a work requirement. Besides it not being relevant to your company, the goals you set now are going to be used, in part, in next year’s evaluation. If you don’t get your degree, for any reason, you don’t want to be marked down for it.

  53. Hogsmeade AirBNB*

    My big project at work went off really well, and I’m really proud of myself. It’s the first time I’ve ever had ownership of a big project all on my own. We did an employee event that went over really, really well, and raised about $6,500 for Leukemia research. Go me!!

  54. Editor A*

    Question about an MA in publishing

    I have the opportunity to do a Masters in Publishing or possibly Publishing with Creative Writing through my work. I work in technical publishing in the UK. Most of my job is editing and writing very technical content, and I think the MA might be a good way to diversify myself so I could potentially move into trade publishing at some point.

    However, I work LONG, INTENSE hours already. I am willing to put the work in after hours to get the MA, but only if it is actually a useful experience. I especially don’t want an overly academic experience, in which I’ll have to write a lot of long and pointless essays about various aspects of publishing to prove I have a good theoretical understanding. Workshops, discussions, and work experience are great, but I already did an undergrad degree and wrote about 200,000 words of essays whose only use was to get the grade and which I have not looked at since.

    Has anyone done an MA/grad degree in publishing who can speak to this? Was your course overly academic, or practically useful?


    1. londonedit*

      Hmm. I’m not sure whether my advice might be different because of your particular situation, but in general (as someone who works in trade publishing in the UK) I’d generally suggest steering clear of doing a Publishing MA. I just don’t think the benefits outweigh the work and the expense (although if your employer is paying for it, that might make it a different consideration). I haven’t done an MA myself, so I can’t speak to how academic or otherwise the programmes generally are, but I’d say that if you want to make a move into trade publishing, a better use of your time would probably be to network with people in trade publishing, maybe use that time outside of work to do some freelance editorial work for trade publishers, that sort of thing. Again, could be different because you’re not just starting out, but I think many people expect a Publishing MA to be a way into the industry, and they then find they still have to do a load of internships/work experience/entry-level stuff on top.

      1. WellRed*

        I agree, I worked in academic publishing for a year (BA, english). First job out of college. Not only was an MA not needed, publishing pays peanuts so the MA would have taken forever to pay off. I have been working as a writer/reporter/editor ever since. Still just have the BA (they look for relevant work experience and published clips, not the degree). My editor has an MFA in creative writing. She still writes and edits the same crap as me.

        1. WellRed*

          OH, and I see you are talking about trade publishing. Yeah, I’m working for a trade publication.

    2. SummerBreeze*

      I taught at a well known publishing post-grad course in the US. The whole program was designed to be very practical and to use working professionals as teachers (hence why They wanted me to teach…I don’t even have a masters degree!), and to have a lot of the coursework be hands-on, real-life stuff.

      So just my experience from the teaching end!

  55. Quill*

    Posting just to accumulate motivation for my last two weeks at this job. I’m moving, my contract is ending early, and now that I can see the light at the end of the tunnel (the guy I am training to fill in for me on my pandemic era duties is just like “wait, this isn’t your whole job?” Lolsob) I’m just kind of out of patience?

    I like everyone and want to leave with a good impression (Except for one vendor who I’ve been at BEC level with since last march,) but I am just. Made entirely of senioritis at this point.

    Tips for not going insane when I have to wrap things up and my official leave my house date is the day after my last day in office?

    1. Hogsmeade AirBNB*

      Think of how good & proud you’ll feel knowing that you finished out this role on a strong note. Sometimes when I feel this way, I try to remind myself of how… solid I feel when I complete something thoroughly and well.

    2. Hotdog not dog*

      Focus on departing with grace, and amuse yourself thinking of all the ways they’re going to miss you after you leave. That helped me get through an almost unbearable last 60 days at a prior job. Congratulations!

      1. Quill*

        Already had the “darn it Quill, now I can’t give notes in spanglish! I have to remember to speak english!” from some overseas colleagues. ;)

  56. Bimini Bom Boulash*

    Reading the comments on that project manager post from a couple days ago was eye opening! Someone in the comments said that just because you were working hard at a job and not doing well didn’t mean you necessarily had to work harder, the job just might not be suited to your strengths and weaknesses. And WOW. It’s sad but that never clicked with me. I always thought that you had to just ram through and give it your all and eventually, you’d have to get better at it because the only other option is to be a “quitter.” (Also, my workplaces have never been open to the concept and it’s usually “You’re not good at this/don’t enjoy this task? Too bad. We need someone to do this and we’re short staffed already.”)

    I’ve been at my job a year and I’m miserable! Not that it’s a bad workplace, it’s just that every major task in my job gives me deep anxiety like I’ve never had before. I’m going to go on medication for the first time now. I thought it was just me not trying hard enough, or being X enough, when now I’m realizing… maybe this job is not my strong suit? Compared to other activities I’ve done outside of work where I just feel so…settled. Nervous still, but excited about what I’m doing. This is not the case here. I don’t want to be a “quitter” but… I also want to be happy. COVID this year really helped me focus on that and life is too short.

    Have you had a time where you realized your job was not feeding into your strengths and weaknesses? How long do you give it a go before you’re like “Yeah. This is not it.”?

    1. Mockingjay*

      It’s perfectly fine to realize you and a job aren’t a good fit and you want to do something else. Sometimes you just can’t tell from interviews what a role or the environment is really like. Or you tire of doing certain tasks and want to try something else. We accept change in every other facet of our life, why not work?

      Work can be like shoes – we’re all seeking that “just right” pair. Funny how what constitutes “just right” changes over the years. In my 20s, the perfect taupe pump. In my 30s, mom sneakers. In my 40s, flat loafers. Now, barefoot or socks as much as possible. (WFH is a godsend in this regard!)

      Go seek. Find your “just right.”

      1. Mockingjay*

        And I learned all these things at ExToxicJob, which I took because I was laid off in a tight job market. I figured out pretty quickly that I didn’t mesh with the “culture.” It took a while to find my “just right,” but I found AAM during this period. AAM helped me figure out what I personally wanted in a job and how to screen companies better. (I rarely screened a company at all and ignored a bunch of red flags about ExToxicJob.)

        I’ll be at just-right Current Job for 5 years this summer. I’m much happier.

    2. GoryDetails*

      “Have you had a time where you realized your job was not feeding into your strengths and weaknesses? How long do you give it a go before you’re like ‘Yeah. This is not it.’?”

      I had a couple of those, one a very low-grade one and another a possible career-changer. The first one: I worked at the ticket booth at my university’s movie theater, and learned immediately that I. Cannot. Make. Change. A math major, mind you. But for some reason, when another person is standing there waiting for me to count out their money I freeze. Oh, I can get it, but it takes time. So that immediately took a lot of part-time or summer jobs off the table for me.

      The more significant one: when I started college I thought I’d like to be a teacher; I loved school and learning and studying and all things academic, and it seemed like a good plan as I knew I wasn’t cut out to be an industrial chemist or something of that kind. (Was minoring in chemistry at the time.) Got to the student-teaching part of the course and lo! I can’t teach! Couldn’t find the balance between teaching, showing, helping, and doing-it-for-them-because-I-lost-patience. That was with younger kids; I tried again later on with adult-ed courses just to see if that went better, and… it didn’t. I was great with the people who were good at picking things up on their own; I could answer their questions once and that would be enough for them. But the people who needed actual help and patience and repeated instruction and different methods of conveying knowledge… I couldn’t do it.

      Luckily for me I stumbled into computer science in college, when it was just becoming a regular degree-program/career-option, and never looked back.

      I don’t know how helpful that is in your case; my stabs at these types of work weren’t full-time-employment situations where I’d committed to a long-term effort, so it didn’t cost me as much to back out.

    3. Erika22*

      I’m getting to that point now! I always thought I wanted to be a project manager – I enjoy creating budgets, schedules, workflows, task trackers, etc, and I love solving problems, however like the LW and you there are tasks in my role that give me SUCH anxiety and cause me to procrastinate. I also really hate chasing people for some reason (maybe because I’m so busy and I hate being chased myself, plus I feel like such a bother!) I haven’t run into major issues with my work, but I think long term this career path won’t be a good fit. I think I’d be much better if I could move into a more specialist role where I focused on tangible outputs, however I don’t think I have the necessary specialist skills to actually make that transition. I enjoy learning specifics about a lot of different areas (which is also probably a mixed blessing for a PM role – I’ll take a project in any area but I always want to get deeper into the details than I really need to) and I think I’d need to focus on one area of expertise for a while before trying to make the jump.

      As a side note, I started my current job a year ago as well, and I’m trying to give it at least one more year before I start looking for something new – I can’t really say if I’d have less anxiety in “normal” times or not, but I’d at least like to give the job a chance when I’m not stuck at home all the time and I can see friends and do outside-of-work things.

    4. Worker Bee*

      Yasssss! In my industry there’s some pressure to become a manager or project manager. I tried it a bit and just hated it. I’m not suited at all. I am so much happier as an individual contributor. And those (worker bee jobs) are easier to find since there are way more than manager roles. I had to get over feeling I’m inadequate because I didn’t climb the ladder. But the lower stress & ample job opportunities made up for it. Plus I was able to become a contractor & make really decent money.

    5. Storm in a teacup*

      UK hon?
      I think the thing to do is flip the question on its head – what is it you’re good at and enjoy? Then think about whether your current role can fulfil that. It sounds like not, but then that’s ok – you have your answer and you also have a clearer idea of what your skills are when considering an alternative role.
      In my last job I felt I wasn’t working to my full strength. Management were happy with my performance but I knew there were aspects of my role I hated and avoided if I could. However because my performance overall was good I was able to move sideways into a different role in the same company which is a better fit for my skills and experience.

  57. Moira Rose*

    Have a couple questions I’d like the readers’ take on! One is big and one is very small.

    1) I am looking to leave my job because of how badly they’ve handled Covid . . . but Alison said in a very recent column that badmouthing an employer is seen as gauche. It’s pretty important to me that I be honest about my motives; ginning up a fake reason really sits wrong with me. Is “my employer doesn’t take Covid seriously” not an answer you’d give in an interview for “Why are you looking for work?”

    2) I haven’t had a haircut in ages and the results are really nuts. If I’m in a Zoom interview for a new gig, should I acknowledge this? Just something like, “Don’t mind the hairdo, I haven’t been able to get it cut in a long time”?

    1. Ranon*

      Remember the real question you’re answering every time you answer an interview question is “why should we hire you?”. As an interviewer, knowing your company handled Covid poorly doesn’t help me answer that question. Asking about the interviewing company’s Covid protocols is more useful to you. If you’d like to say something, consider that how you phrase it is saying something about how you handle difficult professional situations and that’s information you’re giving your interviewer about you.

      1. Moira Rose*

        I guess I’m specifically thinking about how to answer the question, “Wow, it looks like you’ve been with ORGANIZATION for the better part of two decades; what made you decide to leave now?”

        1. irene adler*

          You might deflect with how attractive the job at hand looks to you.
          Or use the old “no more opportunities” or “no place to move within the organization” stuff. Or “their business priorities have changed and I’d rather focus on a different business priority”.

          Yeah, I get asked that at every interview (resume indicates I’ve been at my position for 15+ years). My comment is “the company is not growing” . It’s not; it is shrinking. That seems to satisfy them.

    2. irene adler*

      I wouldn’t make any comment about the hair. Do the best you can styling it. Focus on the job, the interviewer and what they have to say. Otherwise they are gonna keep looking at your hair-now that you’ve brought it to their attention – and not focus on your words.

      Lots of folks out there with hair not in its best these days. For me, pony tail. Always. A friend chopped her hair short herself as she didn’t have anyone to style it. She’s happy with the results.

    3. Librarian of SHIELD*

      I don’t know if I’d be in the majority, but I would personally see “My workplace didn’t take adequate safety precautions during Covid” in a very different light from other ways people would be tempted to speak poorly of a former employer. If a candidate says “my supervisor was a micromanager” or “the higher ups always choose their friends for promotions” or things like that, those are situations where there can be multiple sides of the story and as an interviewer I would feel like there was no way for me to know if the candidate has truly been wronged or is a person full of drama. But with the workplaces who haven’t been giving their workers adequate protections during a pandemic, I don’t feel that same “well, there might be a reasonable explanation for this.” Because there’s not a reasonable explanation for not protecting employees from a deadly disease.

      So, if you feel like you can be matter of fact about it, I think it might be okay to say something like “I had difficulty negotiating proper safety procedures during the pandemic and it made me realize my workplace and I had differing priorities. I’m looking for an organization that is serious about keeping its employees healthy and safe.” But if you can’t figure out the right wording or the right inflection to carry it off, I think you can still do the traditional “New opportunities” approach.

      As for the hair, I wouldn’t mention it unless it’s something very odd indeed, like, you had a green mo-hawk before the pandemic and now it’s grown out into ridiculousness. If it’s just that your hair is longer and more unwieldy than you prefer, it’s doubtful that any of your interviewers would even notice it. If it makes you feel better, practice with a headband or some hair clips and see if there’s a way disguise the things you don’t currently like about it so they won’t show up on camera.

      1. tangerineRose*

        It would probably be good to give specific examples of the issue. For example, people are allowed to be maskless in the office with other people around.

      2. Laura H.*

        I also feel this isn’t “badmouthing an employer”, but add the caveat that if one isn’t careful, it could be.

        It’s not a classic and time-proven response, but it is a legitimate concern; I would also argue that it can be presented tactfully and with reasonable language that exposes the problem while not completely blasting the employer. (Blasting the employer doesn’t do you any favors.)

    4. Donkey Hotey*

      “My employer doesn’t take Covid seriously.” is talking about your employer.
      “I value safety, health, and science” is talking about you.

    5. Haha Lala*

      “The pandemic has caused a lot of uncertainty at my current employer and I’m looking for a position with more stability.”

      No need to elaborate that “uncertainty” means “the company is not taking COVID seriously and is putting my health at risk.” It’s definitely not a lie, and it keeps the focus on you, not on the irresponsible employer.

  58. Henry VIII Was a Gasbag*

    Can we talk about communication issues and what to do about them?

    I’ve always been a competent, capable professional in every position I’ve held. I’ve had great relationships with supervisors and colleagues and have literally never had the issues I’m having with my current position, so I’m eager to get any advice people have. I think it all stems from issues surrounding communication. My supervisor supervises several projects and has given on-boarding and task assignment to my teammates (I’m very new; they’ve been here awhile). In several cases now, I’ve been told to do something with little or no detail–seriously, I wouldn’t even have known where files were unless someone on another team hadn’t shown me–and then when I’ve attempted to put something together have been told it’s not what right for whatever reasons, usually boiling down to context or prior work I wasn’t told about. I’m currently working on a project and submitted a draft based on a project I was told to use as a model and then my supervisor and colleague both expressed frustration because it didn’t include what they wanted included and was instead framed towards the model document. After discussion, it was clear that the model document isn’t actually a model, yet, until I pressed on my colleague about it, I had no idea of what the expectations were for my work beyond that particular model.

    I’ve seen this pattern play out with other colleagues who help our team, as well. Recently, I worked on a project with one person and they asked if our work had to match a certain format. I didn’t know, but they told me prior work they had done had to be re-done because it wasn’t done with the expectation it would match the format because that expectation wasn’t shared. I then confirmed that the work needed to be done a certain way, but had the co-worker not mentioned it I would not have known.

    I feel like I’m floundering in this work in a way I’ve never, ever felt before, and it’s not because it’s more challenging than anything I’ve done. My supervisor is extremely close to my colleagues and I’m at a loss for how to address the fact that my work is off because I don’t get what I need from them to be successful. Help!

    1. tangerineRose*

      Have you talked to your supervisor about this? How do your supervisor and co-workers deal with questions?

      At one job, I ended up taking a LOT of notes and eventually writing up FAQs with what I learned so that hopefully the next person wouldn’t have to fumble around like I felt like I did.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      I had success with, “I always feel bad when I have to redo something. It bothers me that I have wasted company resources like that. What can we do to cut down on my number of redo’s?”
      I also have examples ready if needed. “If I had know X needed to have ABC, most certainly, I would have included that.”
      Here the tone is you are one of the most accommodating people on planet earth and you just want to do a great job. No finger pointing because, you want to get to an action plan.

      So let’s say this does not work. Yeah, BTDT. So your next step is what I call dragging it out of them. Here you still remain the most helpful individual in the radius of 200 miles, but you go ahead with your questions.
      Is there anything I should know here?
      Okay so this is similar to X that I did last week, do I need to do ABC again or was that a one-off?
      Now I have never done Y here. Is there anything special I should know? (Notice it is the same as the first question but it might provoke a different response.)

      Key part, remain cheerful/helpful in tone.
      This eventually wears them out, so that they start providing some information upfront. From my experience, they can improve but will never be ideal. Meanwhile you will get better at guessing what questions to ask and how to handle some things. So you kind of meet them in the middle somewhere.

    3. Pocket Mouse*

      One, try to ask as many questions as you can think of up front- where do the files go, are there any meetings I need to join, who’s the best person to ask about X, are there any examples from the last time we did this, what should I be sure to include and exclude, any context I should know, what’s a pitfall I should look out for, are there specific terms to Google if I get stuck?

      Two, check in often. Send the barest-bones outline for review with a note that this is where you’re starting from, please review and let me know if you see anything that needs to change. Then send a partial draft. Then a full draft. Ask for specific people to review specific parts–do this in writing so any guidance you receive or don’t receive is documented–and ask again in face to face meetings.

      I’m sorry, this sucks.

  59. Stephen!*

    I recently (2 weeks ago) left a job in my state’s government. I contributed to a pension, but I left before it was vested. In other jobs, my 401k was rolled over into an IRA; how does it usually work in a pension program? I want to know what I should/could expect before I get in touch with the old job.

    1. Spearmint*

      You should be able to contact the agency that runs your state’s pension and ask about this, I imagine they’d have resources (my state’s does).

    2. RC Rascal*

      Pensions are usually governed by their own rules. There is no standard set like with 401k.

      They might let you role it out in an IRA. They might not. Regardless see if you can have it valued. The valuation will tell you a lot and you might be better off leaving it there if you have a choice.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      They should have a written policy on how that is handled. They can’t take people’s money without jumping through a lot of paperwork hoops. Maybe you can find out something by googling or maybe someone you know would be happy to help you get started.

    4. It happens*

      Not vested means that if you leave you lose it. Sorry.
      Vested in a pension would mean that hen you reached retirement age then you would get payments based on the service years and salary. For example, if you left at 40 with 15 years service you might get $300/month from age 60+
      If you had a defined contribution plan (like a 403b or 457) you should be able to roll that over to an IRA.

  60. F is for Failure*

    Can anyone share when they’ve failed at work (majorly…minorly…but mostly majorly) and you turned out alright? I have a crippling fear of failing and getting fired (which I think is normal) but it’s interfering with me acting on my job or speaking up. My workplace is very high pressure and high performance though, so I wonder if it is exacerbating that fear. Every day I’m afraid I’m f’ing it up, without much evidence, other than reading people’s faces in meetings and internal comparisons.

    So I’d love to know when is a time you failed and you turned out to be OK. Or alternatively, you were not OK, but you did XYZ to get back to a better place.

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      Many moons ago, I was responsible for paying an organization’s ambulance bills. The contract people were negotiating the ambulance contract and they told me not to pay them until the contract was sorted out. Then they never told me when the contract was done and I forgot to follow up. Until my five-greats-grandboss was like “So how come we haven’t paid the ambulance company in nine months? They say we owe them almost one and a half million dollars.”

      I freaked out, cried on my boss, and had the ambulance company paid within two workdays, and nobody ever mentioned it again.

    2. orson*

      I was teaching a college-level course. The administration demanded thorough student attendance documentation. Naturally, the students thought it came from me. One day I showed up about an hour late- which was completely uncharacteristic. They’d left documentation on their own. I gave them all an extra credit boost, but I was absolutely, totally mortified. Nothing ever came of it, thankfully. The disorientation I experienced that day ended up being a symptom of a health issue, but career-wise, I was fine. It was just a blip in a really strong semester.

    3. LadyByTheLake*

      I think that most of us who have worked for a long time have LOTS of these stories.
      — The time I missed an important filing deadline (I’m a lawyer)
      — The time I accused a colleague of impropriety and escalated the issue and it turned out I didn’t have the right facts
      — The time someone overheard me say that I half-assed a project and reported it and I got fired over it, only to be rehired the next day when I was able to provide the full context
      Etc etc etc — the issue isn’t making mistakes. EVERYONE makes mistakes. The issue is owning up to the mistake, fixing what went wrong to the best of your ability, and showing every effort to not make the same mistake again.

      1. LadyByTheLake*

        PS — every one of the above (and most of the hundreds of other mistakes I have made over my career) turned out fine.

    4. Natalie*

      I have a crippling fear of failing and getting fired (which I think is normal)

      Gently… I don’t actually think this is normal, certainly not the crippling part. And it’s interfering with your ability to function at work.

      I don’t want to go down the common advice road and just tell you to get therapy. But there are a lot of options, including therapy, for learning to better manage anxiety, and I really encourage you to prioritize this.

      1. LadyByTheLake*

        Gently . . . I agree with Natalie — having a crippling fear of failing and getting fired is not ordinary.

    5. AndersonDarling*

      I had an A-hole boss that I couldn’t do anything right by his perspective. I felt like a failure every day and was terrified that I would be fired. I eventually walked off the job with nothing lined up. I didn’t know how I could explain that I left that job when I was interviewing.
      Two months later I had a new job where I had good managers and I felt like a new person.
      So, if you do get fired, you will find a new job. You won’t be unemployed for all eternity.
      And if you feel like a failure, then you probably work for a crappy company that makes its employees feel like failures. It’s not you, it’s them.

    6. Donkey Hotey*

      OH MY YES. I once, through inattentiveness on my part, cost my company approximately $75,000.
      When the fact of it came to light, I told my boss, “I can solve the problem or if you want my resignation, you can have it.”
      She said, “No, I want you to fix the problem.”
      Reader, I fixed it, and I worked for that company for 10 more years after that.
      And, for the next ten years , I had to do this Jacob Marley schtick where I went to the new hires in the department and told them the tale of how one simple mistake could cost a ton of money, but to always focus on owning one’s mistakes when they are made and to focus on solutions.

      1. The Prettiest Curse*

        Ha, I am imagining you as Jacob Marley, but with a briefcase containing $75,000 chained to your ankle…
        The only good thing about making such a huge mistake is that if you’re a good employee, you will never make THAT mistake again for the rest of your career. And you handled it perfectly too.

    7. The Prettiest Curse*

      So, I am a perfectionist and did have a fear of failure early in my career. I would be convinced I was going to get fired every time my boss wanted to meet with me. What helped me get rid of this fear was that my job before last got me into working events, which, as any events coordinator can tell you, have endless opportunities for horrible errors.
      My first big event was supporting a mid-size (300ish attendees) health conference. I came to the coordination way too late in the planning process to make a difference to all the errors that had been made (error #1: not shutting down registration before they went way over venue capacity, because we were a nonprofit and needed the registration revenue.) The event did NOT go well, I got yelled at by an attendee who was irate that we’d chosen a venue that didn’t have more women’s bathrooms than men’s bathrooms (!!!) and the whole thing was excruciating. The next year, they involved me in the planning process from the start. I made sure that none of the previous errors were repeated. New stuff (inevitably) went wrong, but it was a lot less excruciating and I didn’t get yelled at. The next year was even better planned, because I could anticipate even more problems. And so on. Working events more or less rid me of my fear of failure, because something almost always goes wrong, but it’s very rarely the end of the world. And 90% of the time it’s something that the event attendees don’t even notice – or if they notice, they don’t care. (The attendees don’t know that you’re supposed to have 6 signs instead of 4, or that your best banner got sent to the wrong place, or that your A/V guy is hung over.)
      Oh, and one other time I screwed up and it was fine – I once accidentally gouged a big hole in (and ruined) a sign that was supposed to be used at a press conference. My perfectionism saved me because, right after I gouged the hole, I realized there was a major typo on the sign. So I was able to go straight to my grandboss, confess to gouging the hole and point out that they wouldn’t have been able to use the sign anyway due to the typo. So they just had it reprinted with the typo fixed. I was very relieved.
      One last thing: fear of failure means you care about your work. Paralyzing fear of failure can be an obstacle, and it’s helpful to mentally sort through the difference between the two. Good luck!

    8. olusatrum*

      I help corporate customers of a particular service manage their operations in that area and their relationship with the vendors. The nature of my job means I can pretty easily cost any given company a large amount of money (at least it seems to me) through any number of small mistakes or lapses in attention. And as we’re month to month with the vast majority of our clients, they could drop our service at any time.

      For the first year or so I was so, so nervous about this all of the time. Any tiny little thing out of order gave me so much fear and anxiety because I was certain the client would fire us and it would be my fault. Over time, I realized that actually, clients rarely fire us. There was a lot more latitude in the relationship than I was assuming. People mostly wanted to work WITH me to solve the problem, rather than immediately giving up on me. My coworkers and I have all managed to cost companies money in the 5 digit range, and had the client stay on with us. Sometimes we recover all or some of the money, sometimes we don’t, but the client almost never leaves regardless

      I still get anxious about it and I have developed a lot of very meticulous habits to prevent any mistakes. But I’m mostly embarrassed of the times I thought it was life and death, because this sometimes led me to show unwarranted frustration to other coworkers who just made simple mistakes anyone could have made.

    9. Damn it, Hardison!*

      I had a half million dollar software project go down the drain. It was a disaster from day one, and I was the project lead. I had seen other project owners and managers let go for failure, so I was worried. The best I could do was alert the powers that be that there were issues and what I was doing to mitigate all of the risks. In the end I was fine, and 2 years later got an unexpected promotion. I think it was because I had an otherwise excellent track record, and in the scheme of things the project wasn’t as big of a deal as I thought. It can be hard to have the perspective when you are so close to the issue.

    10. Girasol*

      I was new in the networking department, doing all my new employee reading and studying new skills and so on, when my mentor-counterpart went on a week’s vacation. He gave me pass-down info before he left and said, “Building X is connected by this older technology. You’ve read up on it. It never has problems anyway, but if it does and you get stuck, call John at corporate and he can help.” As soon as he’s out the door, bam, someone from building X drives in to say they’ve no phone, no data connection, nothing. A hundred people can’t work! So off I go with my textbook to solve the problem. Three hours later, I’ve tried everything. I’m at wit’s end. I give up and call John the expert. I step through everything he says and still no luck. My new boss calls and says “What’s the problem? I’m coming down there.” This is where I know I’ll be fired. But no, the boss sits down on the wiring closet floor with the textbooks and the manuals and the phone to John and all three of us work on it together. Still no luck. My boss calmly tells the manager of all those people, “No ETA. Keep up the workarounds and we’ll have it up as fast as we can.” And when I expect to hear, “Do you know how important we are?? This is unacceptable! Who is to blame?”, the Building X manager just says, “We can do that. We’ll be fine.” The next Monday my counterpart returns and says, “A whole week, huh? Bet it’s the junction equipment. Sorry, forgot to tell you about that part,” and he fixes it. A whole week of crisis ended and I never saw anyone angry at anybody. That job was full of crises like that but I learned to love the challenge. It was my favorite job ever.

    11. Not So NewReader*

      I had a new job. It was the first new job after my husband had passed and I was going through my year of firsts. First holidays without him, first broken car without him, first snow storm with out his help, etc. I was TIRED.
      I also knew I was a sitting duck for a whopper mistake because I had a colander where my brains should be.

      60k. I made a $60,000 error. I thought my knees were going to cave.
      I went and found the boss. “I understand if you have to fire me.”
      He said, “Naaa, you’re not going to get off that easy. I am going to show you how to fix it.”
      And we fixed it together.
      “I bet that scared the crap out of you and you will never have that problem again!”
      This boss soooo got me.

      I never made that mistake again. Furthermore I learned how to fix mistakes of that type.
      Unfortunately, I was able to pay my boss back. His department’s numbers for the month were skewed and he could not figure out why.
      I said, “That is because for 45 minutes there was a $60K error in the system!”
      He took off to go review the numbers.
      He came back to me and said, “That’s flippin’ brilliant. You are exactly right. That 45 minutes with the additional $60K threw everything off down stream from it.”

      In the end, it did not matter that I made the mistake. It was of higher value that I had the boss’ back. I told him the truth when it happened. I fixed it according to his instructions even though I was pretty shook and it took concentration. Then weeks later, when I hoped the situation had died, it came BACK. But my boss placed a much higher value on the fact that I gave him a thinking person’s answer to his skewed number problem.

      I was promoted shortly afterward.

  61. Hopeful Wishing*

    I work for a small department of two people as part of a larger organization, with each department being fairly specialized. My supervisor, the director of the department, left the organization recently on good terms, and since then I’ve been a department of one. They have interviews scheduled soon for the replacement. I know all of the candidates because our field in this area is relatively small. I reeeeeeally want a specific one of them to get it. I learned from someone else in the field that this person had applied and was overjoyed to learn they are interested. They are extremely qualified and well liked in our field. The management of my organization is less in tune with the specifics of this field though. While it’s fairly well known what sorts of priorities our organization has coming up, I know the specific topics they will be asking about (which would be obvious guesses by any qualified candidate), but would it be wrong to reach out to the person I want to get it and mention more specifically what those topics will be so they can be well prepared?

    1. NotaPirate*

      Don’t do it. That could get you in a lot of trouble. And it is an unfair advantage to give that information to one candidate and not the others. Also it sets up a weird dynamic, if you use insider information to get your direct boss their job.

    2. ferrina*

      The best thing to do is talk to your organization’s management! You can just say “I heard through the grapevine that Excellent Person has applied for Position. I think they’d be excellent because of XYZ.” Just one conversation, though- don’t keep bringing it up.

      After that, let the process roll as it will and be ready to (cheerfully) work with any of the candidates. Worst case scenario, you’ll talk up how excellent Excellent Person is, then the organization hires Other Person, and when Other Person starts as your boss they will hear about how you were rooting for another candidate. That’s not a good way to start with a new boss.

      For reaching out- unless you’re already in contact with the person, I wouldn’t. Since you say it will be obvious topics, the person is likely already prepping and might find it a little odd that you reached out (especially if you have no prior relationship).

    3. PollyQ*

      Yes, it would be really wrong to do that. It’s deeply unethical, in exactly the same way a TA telling a favorite student which areas she should focus on while studying for an exam. If I found out that someone who worked for me had done something like that, I’d at least think about firing them.

      ferrina’s advice, on the other hand, is perfectly ethical, and probably even more effective, since who knows how well the candidate would use the inside information.

      1. pancakes*

        +1 to all this. If I were the candidate and someone from the organization seemed to be trying to prepare me to take the lead over other candidates this way, I’d be wary of them and the job.

  62. Language Lover*

    How to you handle interviewing at your current employer and being asked questions asking you to reflect on negative experiences (disagreeing with a supervisor/having to put an employee on a PIP…etc.) when some of the only concrete examples that can be given come from the current job?

    I didn’t know how to answer “tell me about a time when you had to coach an employee” when the only employees I manage not only are at the same company but are coworkers of people on the hiring committee. I felt like being too honest would be sharing information I shouldn’t be sharing.

    1. AndersonDarling*

      Perhaps, you may want to reframe those questions from being negative and think of them as being supportive. Coaching an employee doesn’t have to be about them doing something wrong and correcting it, it can be about teaching the employee new skills and giving them guidance. PIPs are about focusing an employee on success, even if the end game is termination because they couldn’t achieve the goals. And disagreeing with a manager happens all the time. It shouldn’t be confrontational, but instead it is collaborative.
      If you frame your stories from a perspective of support, there shouldn’t be anything confidential that has to be shared. Or it may be that you coach all the time, but you are thinking about the extreme cases that you don’t want to share. You probably have coaching sessions all the time but you haven’t thought about those conversations as “coaching.”

      1. Language Lover*

        Thanks. That’s what I’m thinking as well. I just think some of my best examples of coaching were from helping struggling employees.

        1. Librarian of SHIELD*

          I would say, focus less on the specifics of how the employee was struggling and put your emphasis on what you and the employee were able to do together to overcome the struggle. Leave the names out, it doesn’t matter if people on the hiring committee are able to put two and two together and know who you’re talking about, you don’t have to be the one who puts it out there. And focus on how you knew the employee could do it if they had the proper assistance, which you were so pleased to be able to provide because you love being able to help your team members become even more successful in their careers.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Pick and chose your stories. I would search my memory banks for a story that lands on, “I won and the employee won”. The conclusion would look like, “And Bob went on to become really great at teapots. Now I think he is almost better at it than me.” (But don’t lie.)

      For the arguing with the boss example, pick a story where the boss was right and you eventually came to understand that.

      Typically we tend to think of the stories that started bad and ended bad. But you don’t have to use those stories.

  63. M2*

    What kinds of things do you put on a resume for a teaching position? I’m applying for a full time position, but I have mainly only been a substitute teacher. I’ve had a couple of extended positions (where I was in the same position for 2-4 weeks while the regular teacher was on a leave, but they weren’t contract positions). I can’t think of anything to put as an accomplishment. I just come in, follow the plan, and walk out at the end of the day. For the times when I was covering the same teacher for more than a day or two, either the had left a plan for the work for the times I was there or else I was just scrambling.

    1. PhysicsTeacher*

      Definitely include your longer-term positions. Did you have to grade for them (or pick up other duties that a daily sub wouldn’t ordinarily have)?

      1. NotaPirate*

        Seconding this. What experiences might you have had as a longer term sub that short term subs wouldn’t? Did you get to design lesson plans, track curriculum goals, interact with parents, administered tests etc?

        Accomplishment could be as simple as: kept consistency in following curriculum while teacher was on maternity leave.

        1. M2*

          I did have to do some grading and lesson planning. But honestly, I was scrambling. I only had a day or two notice so it was a lot of whatever I could figure out that night to use for the next day. So if I say I did daily planning and get pressed on it, it wasn’t really well thought out planning. It was a post it note where I’d go la – continue (they were NOT fast workers, so something that I’d think would take one class would take 2 or 3), math – continue, sci – read text, ss – chpt review questions.

          1. Dark Macadamia*

            “Adapted sub plans based on student progress” and then describe a few of the things that entailed: assessed student work, planned enrichment/extension activities, developed review lessons, provided additional learning resources…

        2. AlsoTeacher*

          “Accomplishment could be as simple as: kept consistency in following curriculum while teacher was on maternity leave.”

          Honestly, this combined with the fact that you did these long term substitute positions is what school administrators are looking for. As someone who has read resumes from newer teachers whose resumes mostly include subbing (as a hiring committee member, not the hiring manager – I’m not an administrator), the LTS position is less about accomplishments (because honestly the most important accomplishment is maintaining the status quo) and more about “Okay, this person actually has some idea of what the long-haul work of teaching is” (because one really doesn’t get that as a day to day sub).

          Other things you might note: Reflective practice (when did you have to make decisions or adjustments based on the learning that was occurring?), participation in grade-level or departmental work (such as common planning times). If any of these LTS jobs were either because of your performance as a daily substitute (you were so great they wanted you to cover a longer absence!) or were at the same school (you were so great in 4th grade that they had you cover another maternity leave in 5th grade!), that also speaks well of you – although it doesn’t by any means reflect poorly on you if that’s not the case.

  64. Mimmy*

    Workplace culture and neurodivergence

    (This is a bit all over the place, so apologies in advance)

    I know there are resources on workplace culture, but I’d like some help talking through what I’m looking for. I’m hoping to change jobs within the next year and I want to be sure I don’t end up in an environment I dislike. I think I’ve spent my entire career ignoring red flags due to desperately needing a job.

    If I’m understanding correctly, workplace culture entails factors such as how formal an office is (dress code, coworker interaction), level of supervision and communication. Correct? Anything else I should look for?

    Things that have irked me: lack of communication and over-reliance on employees being flexible

    Things that have helped me: Supportive supervision, collaborative environments. That’s is some of what’s missing in my current job. My direct supervisor is extremely supportive but isn’t always available. Also, while I sometimes consult with other instructors about students, I’m the only instructor of my discipline while other disciplines have at least 2 instructors. From past experiences, I know I’d flourish if I were on a team doing similar work due to bouncing ideas off of one another.

    The other thing is that I think I’m neurodivergent. I’ve built up a lot of knowledge and skills over the years that I really want to use; however, I’m less comfortable with navigating “office politics”. As I write this out, I think part of my problem is fear. I know not every workplace is 100% ideal, but my mental health is important to me and I want to be able to do well and grow in my career.

    1. NotaPirate*

      Questions you could ask in interview:

      What’s a typical day like in the role? How often do you make plans for the day only to have immediate concerns needing addressed?

      How frequently would someone in this role meet with their supervisor? Are those formal check ins or more informal meetings as needed?

      How many other people are working on similar projects in this role? Are their opportunities to learn from more experienced instructors in field X ? If not, what are some opportunities for professional development?

    2. Mockingjay*

      Culture can also pertain to how the company wants to be perceived in the marketplace and community. It’s the “tone” the company wants to set: whether formal, relaxed, growing, established, big on charitable donations/drives, etc.

      It might help your comfort level during interviews to focus on process, not politics or people. I consider workplace environment to be about daily routines. Discuss during the interview: Can you tell me how work is disseminated? Is a team approach? Hierarchy – assignments handed down from top, with swim lanes (each person has a specific role and roles do not overlap)? How is work evaluated or checked (process)? How is personnel performance evaluated – within context of teamwork or individual contributions?

      Also look at industries for your career – some have the structure you seek, others don’t. A software company uses Agile processes with collaborative teams. Manufacturing has to meet stringent safety protocols, so work processes are usually rigid – do it the same way, each time using checklists and rules. Some companies might be a mix of departments doing different things. Ask these questions before you take the job. If you forget something, follow-up with an after-interview note.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      I am not sure what employees being flexible means.
      If you mean that your schedule will vary a lot- ask about how steady the schedules are.
      If you mean that the employee must do everything from write company policies to plunge the toilet then ask about the range of tasks in the position and what additional maybe required from time to time.

      I do think that I have learned a lot reading here and I seriously recommend that you keep reading here to help you fortify against fear. Knowledge is power. Fear can be the absence of knowledge. We’ve all got fears to some degree, it’s helpful just seeing the types of things that concern others- that can make one feel less alone.

  65. Anownynaugh*

    I’m curious people’s thoughts on this process.

    I’ve always been a very fast worker. In the office this was miserable as I would have to find ways to pretend to be busy for perceptions sake (and yes I’ve taken courses/revamped processes/reread the employee handbook/offered to assist coworkers/etc. etc.).

    At home I do non work things with my time. My mental health is far improved and my work quality and speed is about the same. I do sometimes “savor” work and purposefully draw it out – I did this in the office too – I’ve just learned that some people assume a poor work quality if you don’t sit on work a few days even though I finish the work in an hour.

    But every once in a while I feel really guilty. On the one hand – I’m paid to get work done and I’m exceeding those expectations. Certainly sometimes there is a crunch and I stay late, but somehow being home to say read a book, do some dishes, play with my cats, during my “look busy” phase has me really feeling guilty.

    Should I be fiddling around on my work computer looking busy like before?

    1. nah*

      You can only do so much. You’ve made the appropriate offers and they were all declined. So, do your work and do it well, but I wouldn’t give it much thought beyond that. Longterm, it might be worth considering trying to find something you find more challenging.

      1. Anownynaugh*

        Oh I’ve tried. Most of the jobs that would likely be more stimulating and fulfilling require a masters or PhD in my field and that is not something I can swing financially. Especially since my pay on those roles would not be much more, if any, then I am making now as a SME a step or two below them.

    2. PT*

      No, part of your job is doing your job the way you were told, which is slow enough to not draw any undue attention to yourself. So in a way, reading books, etc., is part of your job.

    3. AnOtterMouse*

      in short- no.

      If you’re clearly getting all your assigned work done in a timely manner, keeping up on communication, and tackling whatever’s thrown your way/offering help when you’ve got the time– and you’re salaried — that extra time should be yours. I would personally check in on my email every hour or two to make sure nothing urgent has come up, but otherwise use that time to care for myself/house/dependent creatures in whatever way I see fit. No need to put on a show without an audience, right?

    4. Grim*

      Your post reminds me of a past commenter who came into a new job involved manual data collection and sorting through various spreadsheets; it took the worker he replaced all week to complete the data analysis for final spreadsheet that was released every week for the team’s use.

      After several weeks of doing the job manually, he created several excel macros to do the job for him. He fully automated all his work with 3 or 4 keystrokes and spent the remainder of the week surfing the Internet, looking at YouTube videos and basically doing what he wanted.

      If I recall correctly, he held the job for about 3 years before he moved on to something more meaningful.

    5. WellRed*

      As long as you are “available” and otherwise getting work done, I think this is A-OK.

    6. Chas*

      I struggle with this a lot, in part because I have control over the practical side of my job (choosing when to set up what experiments), but not the office/admin side of things (having to join meetings, or produce figures by a certain deadline, react to new new health and safety rules). That combined with my manager’s tendency to ask me to do things at short notice mean I often find myself in situations where I’ve not got much to do on Thursday or Friday because my boss needed me on Monday and Tuesday so I couldn’t do earlier steps of the experiments I wanted to do. Or they’ll be times when I ‘choose’ not to do work that I know I could get done if I pushed myself, because there’s a good chance I’d end up being over-burdened if anything unexpected happens.

      Not to mention the whole 4 months of Covid lockdown where I outright told him ‘there’s nothing useful I can do here at home, I’ve just finished up all my writing and data processing and need to go back into the lab to generate more data, you should probably furlough me so we can save my salary costs for later when I can go back” and he refused because he wanted me available to help him navigate the groups finances and help with other admin stuff he’s supposed to be responsible for.

      So before Covid there were a lot of times I was sat browsing the internet or writing fanfiction while pretending to be working, and since Covid there’s been a lot of times when I’ve ended up taking a quick power-nap or playing a video game while periodically checking my emails to see if there’s anything I need to respond to.

      The way I’ve come to see it is that an important part of any workforce is being able to respond to unexpected occurrences. But if everyone is working to their fullest 100% of the time, then that isn’t possible. So employee downtime is something that ought to be happening, but at the same time it can create resentment if someone sees someone who isn’t working when they’re busy with work (even if it’s not someone who can help with the work they’re busy with), so when we’re working in person we do this whole thing were we pretend to be busy for the sake of appearances. But there’s no need for that pretence when you’re by yourself at home. (Plus, on the whole, I’ve still been surprising busy with work and haven’t had that much in the way of free time, so I think I’ve been managing it well).

  66. Lovecraft Beauty*

    TW: cancer, grief

    Five months after telling my boss that my beloved grandmother was in the hospital and I was under a lot of stress (she recovered! I didn’t end up having to take time off other than taking some calls during business hours and also being an emotional mess), I am now faced with the prospect of telling him that my adored stepfather is in the hospital and doing very badly (fuck cancer, seriously). He was mostly great during the previous conversation, including telling me I could take time off as needed, but I am even more of an emotional trash fire right now and absolutely cannot deal with the fear I’m going to seem like the girl who keeps saying the dog ate my homework to explain why I’m struggling. I’ve been handling the pandemic reasonably well, working from home and keeping my performance up to standard, but this team is …pretty cool, emotionally, and I don’t feel safe being vulnerable. Can someone reassure my brain weasels that this is not something I’m going to get penalized for?

    1. Moira Rose*

      I have managed people who’ve lost both parents very close together in time, or similar situations, like the one you’re describing. Five months actually seems like a long time to me, particularly in the pandemic fog. I’m not saying that managers shouldn’t have compassion whenever tragedy strikes, but the inadvertent “oh no, not again” that a manager might think to themself would be more at like a 1-month interval, not 5 months.

      I guess my only advice is to communicate your needs via text instead of voice (so you can be as composed as possible, since you can sob while writing an email but still write a perfectly even-keeled email) and thank him in advance for the understanding attitude that you know he brings to all these situations. No one is going to punish you.

      I’m sorry about all your sources of grief. It’s really unfair.

    2. Colette*

      Are you asking for anthing in particular, or do you just want to let him know you’re dealing with stuff? Because I think you can be vague – “I just wanted to let you know that I have a close family member is quite ill. I may need to take some time off in the next X weeks.”