it’s your Friday good news

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

1. I’ve been a faithful reader of every post on Ask a Manager since 2017, and I also worked my way through most of the archives. Lately, however, I found myself sometimes having to skip the Friday good news posts. It was just a little too much, being in a position that was making me miserable and wondering why all these people could make it work while I couldn’t seem to. At my worst, I could always find a reason those letter writers were in a place to succeed that I would never find myself in. In case there are any other readers in that position, I wanted to share my story.

In 2019, I was pretty happy, but open to better opportunities. I had a full-time position at a small business that had some amazing perks but, despite being a nationally-recognized subject matter expert, after nearly a decode I had only recently started earning $15 an hour. (This sort of pay scale is standard in the industry.) There were also many of the issues you’ve often talked about accompanying small businesses that led to frustration (at best). I also had a successful freelance career and part-time job in another industry, but there is no such thing as a full-time job in my freelance role, and freelancing enough to earn a living would mean much more travel than I’m willing to do.

By April 2020, I was miserable. On top of the obvious worldwide conditions, while I had kept my full-time position, the role I was in had all but disappeared. I went from unique and largely fulfilling work to a generalized role as a cog in a profit-optimizing machine. On top of that, my freelance industry has been one of the hardest hit overall. After a few months of struggling to keep my head above water, I realized I had to find some energy to improve my situation with a job search.

I took your advice to tailor both my resume and cover letter to the organization and role, so due to my level of burnout, I knew I couldn’t complete a large amount of quality applications. I decided to focus only on jobs in organizations for which I could get excited about working and for which I thought my experience was a genuinely strong pitch. It massively narrowed my field, but any other approach seemed overwhelming and likely to leave me ultimately dissatisfied, so I decided to give it a try.

One of my first applications was to an organization that I’ve long been a fan of. I was called in for an interview and felt so good about my prospects. Despite trying to take your advice about putting the job out of my head and moving on as if I hadn’t gotten it, I got optimistic. The next week, the CEO called to tell me how much they enjoyed meeting me, but that there were a couple people with more experience who they were going to continue with in the hiring process instead. (He also specifically mentioned how much he appreciated my thank-you note, which was 100% thanks to your advice.) When I got off that call, I broke down crying. That interview represented my greatest hope for moving on, and I honestly thought at the moment that phone call ended that I had unknowingly sealed my professional fate years ago, and now I was trapped. There would always be someone better than me.

Well, remember that part-time job I briefly mentioned? It was pretty eradicated by COVID too. However, I’ve always loved working for them. They value employees in ways that matter. One week to the day after getting that rejection call, I had an email announcing a position they were recruiting for internally that it looked like I was qualified for and would enjoy. That was a Tuesday. On Wednesday I wrote up my application and sent it in. On Thursday I had a phone screen. On Friday I video interviewed. On Monday they offered me the job. On Tuesday I received the formal benefits package, and on Wednesday I negotiated (for the first time in my life!) for a salary increase and accepted the offer.

After a notice period that reminded me of every reason I was leaving my old job (seriously so many letters’ worth of material in those two weeks alone), I started my new job last week. I’ve gone from internal and external pressure to work overtime hours and not slack for a second to no time clock and a bunch of updates from coworkers who are setting time off to pick up kids from school every day or watch the inauguration. At my old job, working from home meant doing so on your own resources. Now I’m working on a work-issued laptop and have been told any use of my own phone is strictly optional. And I’m making over 30% more in this position with “room to grow.” Every day I’m noticing differences that might look small, but make me practically giddy.

I couldn’t have done this without you. I followed your advice from applying, to interviewing, to thank you notes (seriously, everyone mentioned how great those were), to negotiating the offer, to giving my notice. I was able to clarify my thinking and focus my efforts in a field I’ve never been comfortable navigating before. I can safely say that none of it would have looked the same if left to my own devices, and I couldn’t be happier with the result. Thank you.

Read an update to this letter here.

2. I’ve been job-searching since I was furloughed in March last year. I was very fortunate that most of this furlough was on full pay and I survived a round of lay-offs at the end of it. Despite this, I was unsatisfied with my prospects for advancement and was feeling less and less enthusiastic about eventually moving back to the extremely high cost-of-living city I worked in (I have been living with family in a much cheaper part of the country since furlough started). Add in that when I was working again, I got moved from a lovely, warm, supportive team to a comparatively cold and hands-off, non-communicative one, and… well, things felt grim.

I worked with a great recruiter and did not struggle to get interviews but kept just missing out. I was going for a role that would be a promotion and was up against people who already had solid experience in that role. Feedback from the companies I interviewed with was very positive, so it was very… close but no cigar, basically.

Then in December I was contacted by an internal recruiter for a fantastic company in a part of the country I’ve wanted to live in for a while, for a job that is the next step up in my career and which I’ve been chasing for months. I gave the best interview of my life so far – thank you so much for your interview tips! – and got an offer this week. I’ve signed my contract, given notice at Old Job, and am counting the days until I move on.

I’ve frequently felt like I was never going to progress in my career and imposter syndrome has been kicking my backside for the past nine months or so. I can hardly believe I’m starting a new chapter of my life, but I’m so excited to do so!

3. In late 2019, I was fired from my job (just shy of three years when some of the benefits improved and vesting in the company 401k was about to kick in). I’m still not exactly sure why I was fired. I wrote the policy they accused me of violating in the official paperwork (which they clearly never read) and having spent the previous six months reviewing the department policies I can say with a great degree of confidence that the policy they say I violated was never in writing or told to me as a policy, and they definity didn’t have any record saying I was trained on this non-existent policy. As best I can tell, I was fired for asking for my salary to be raised to in-line with market rates for the new certification they required me to get and expressing my concern with the desired qualifications for the new director we were looking to hire for my department (which included an unnecessary certification and no managerial experience for a department of 20).

So I headed home and began sending out resumes. I started by contacting two former bosses who had since started their own companies. One had two open positions he was hiring for and the other wasn’t hiring but had a client who was. I had two phone interviews within 24 hours. Then another former coworker contacted me about a site that was looking. So within 48 hours, I had three places wanting to interview me.

I was able to be completely honest with my old boss and his business partner about why I was looking and they both had a WTF reaction to the story. They made an offer that was a 25% raise from the place that fired me (in line with market), had way better benefits, and at the location near my husband’s aging parents (who are increasingly taking up our caregiver energy) so I accepted.

Last week I celebrated my one-year anniversary here and I couldn’t be happier. My previous employer has not weathered COVID well and I would have likely been laid off last spring if I had still been there. I heard that they cut all wages by 30% without cutting hours and are now hounding staff about productivity. My new employer has really handled COVID well. Thanks for all your excellent advice that had me ready to shine when this opportunity presented itself.

4. After a promised promotion that didn’t come through for over a year and a half, I went on an active job hunt. The job I eventually signed with actually recruited me – and wanted me on the team so badly that they increased their budget for the position by $10,000! It’s a step up and I will be in a manager role for the first time. I promise I’ll take all your first-time manager advice to heart as I move into the next stage of my career.

5. Long-time reader here, writing in for the first time ever to share some unbelievably good news and to thank you and your readers/commenters personally. After I graduated college, I promptly moved to a completely different part of the country where I had no prior connections — and (unsurprisingly, in hindsight) struggled to find full-time work for roughly two years, begrudgingly freelancing and working part-time jobs that had nothing to do with my degree in the meantime. In an admittedly spiteful effort to prove that even if I put my all into searching for jobs, I would come up empty-handed, I applied on a whim to a very appealing remote full-time position… well, now I start next week. My starting salary alone is 30~35% more than my (heavily researched!) expectation, and the benefits have even my friends who work in much more lucrative fields than mine flabbergasted. I’m still in shock.

I wouldn’t have been able to undergo the multi-step interview process without the guidance that this blog so graciously provided me: both in preparing my resume and cover letter, and in writing questions for interviews that could both help me get a read on the culture of this particular company and signal to those interviewing me that I had researched the company beforehand. While I ended up not having to negotiate my salary, being prepared to do so gave me peace of mind throughout what was frankly a stressful and unfamiliar process. Checking this blog once every few days for the past couple of years has bestowed unto me lots of insight — and, on occasion, lots of laughter and bewilderment — that I have no doubt will continue to benefit and guide me as I head into my first full-time job EVER!!! Thank you.

{ 31 comments… read them below }

  1. Galinda Upland*

    Reading this column always makes my Fridays brighter! Congrats to all of the OPs!

    One tiny q: is there a piece of #3 missing? “As best I can tell, I was fired for asking…”?

  2. Unkempt Flatware*

    Yes! Congrats all! Especially OP #3. Way to go!!! Sometimes I feel like the universe got me mixed up with the “other” Unkempt Flatware and when it recognized its error, it said, “sorry about that, UF! Here’s something to make up for my mistake!”

    1. LW#3*

      Yes, I totally felt that way. It was also very vindicating to have my boss (well known in the field) hire me, and definitely made me feel like I didn’t need to worry about this incident/firing.

  3. Bookworm*

    Thanks to all the LWs for writing in!

    Especially to OP1: I’m in a somewhat similar boat (fulfilling work has become nothing more than a machine where I crank out report after report with no room to grow and no leeway to be more creative/proactive, etc.) and have been increasingly discouraged. I’m applying to things now and took heart in your path (as painful as parts of it must have been). Good luck and thank you very much!

    1. LW#1*

      Thanks for the kind words! The hardest part was letting go of the idea of the job I no longer really had, but once I had done that, I realized that the break had done me a favor. Before there were a lot of aspects of what I was doing that I didn’t like, but there was always the next cool thing on the horizon/the high of the cool thing I just did that kept me around. Once that was gone, I was free to pursue an overall better situation. I’ll always miss the most fulfilling parts of my former job, but now I realize it was past time to move on for the good of the rest of my life.

      Best of luck to you in finding your own next step!

  4. TimeTravlR*

    Wow! Wow! Wow! What great updates! Perseverance and preparation are the key, clearly!

    1. AGD*

      I heard about a case from literary circles in which a writer challenged herself to collect 200 rejection letters from agents, and this is how she found her agent (who failed to be rejection letter #134 or something).

      1. korangeen*

        Hmm, maybe I should try something like that. Trouble is, over half of the jobs I apply to never get around to sending a rejection letter. So it’s hard to wrack up that many. But as Kennedy once said, we choose to do the things “not because they are easy, but because they are hard”!

  5. SentientAmoeba*

    Super yay to OP#3 who got fired for “not following a policy” they wrote just before a bunch of benefits kicked in (that you had to wait 3 years for O_O !!) Proof that companies that care more about the bottom line than having good performers almost always eventually sink

    1. LW#3*

      Thank you. I should probably also say that I while I was very angry over this at the time after reading more and more of Alison’s advice there were huge bright red flags draped all over this place so I really shouldn’t have been surprised.

      1. 653-CXK*

        I’ve been two years into my current job after being let go from my ExJob of 21 years.

        While current job doesn’t have the perks ExJob did, they at least pay me well and don’t have a retaliatory streak. ExJob has since fired a toxic, nasty director who made lives miserable, and has merged with another company; they are also moving from a convenient, transit-accessible town, out to the boonies, where there is severely limited transit service and nothing but gas stations.

      2. JM in England*

        Your old company are worth a Glassdoor review, even if only to warn future applicants of its true colours…..

        1. 653-CXK*

          I did – about a week after I was fired :-) When I did, though, I gave them a neutral review, and stated exactly what to expect.

  6. Hotdog not dog*

    This is my favorite part of the week! As a little bit of a numbers geek, I wonder exactly what overall economic impact has been realized by people implementing advice from this blog? It’s got to be measurably stimulating the economy. Congratulations, everyone!

    1. Everdene*

      Any researchers here want to calculate Alison’s Social Return on Investment? I bet it’s good.

  7. mugs*

    LW#1: THANK YOU!! I also tend to skip the good news Friday because I feel everyone is just better/luckier/(another self deprecating word here). You changed my perspective on that, and myself. Also, congrats on the new gig!!

    1. LW#1*

      Thank you! It’s really touching to hear that sharing my circumstances could be beneficial to someone else.

      It’s always someone else’s turn until it’s yours, and I hope yours is just around the corner. I have faith bright things are ahead for you!

  8. Tobias Funke*

    Congratulations, LW1! I relate so hard to a lot of what you described that I actually began sobbing while reading your letter. Everyone here just seems so perfect all the time and successful all the time and makes all the right moves all the time and recovers from setbacks all the time and I am just not that person. Thank you for being so real about your experiences, it helps me feel more human and less like a defective thing.

    1. SentientAmoeba*

      Hugs! When you go to someone’s house, they put the nicest stuff they have on display. All the ugly, broken, chipped, regular stuff that makes up everyday is hidden behind closed doors. Social media and public forums is the same. We put the best out there and hide the bad and/or regular.

    2. LW#1*

      It means so much to me that my experience could strike such a deep chord with you. Thank you for sharing that. As SentientAmoeba says, there’s a lot of “best foot forward” on the internet that can evoke a lot of feelings of total failure when that’s not your current experience. In reality, most of us are actually living in between. Best wishes for you in all your future endeavors!

  9. korangeen*

    Similar to LW5, I’ve been job searching for about 1.5 years while begrudgingly freelancing and working part-time jobs. Maybe if I explicitly set out to spitefully prove that no amount of effort on my part will result in a job offer, I’ll trick the universe into getting me one… Though I guess now that I’ve let the universe in on my plan, it probably won’t work.

  10. ChappedHands*

    LW1 I love the approach you took to job searching
    ” I decided to focus only on jobs in organizations for which I could get excited about working and for which I thought my experience was a genuinely strong pitch. ”
    I feel uncomfortable with the bigger picture of the industry I work in. I like my current job as a dolphin groomer. I love dolphins and being able to make their lives better. But, honestly, I feel owning dolphins is immoral (in fact, I’m looking to get out of pet grooming altogether, my hands are so chapped from the cleansers). But I am having issues about deciding what type of job to move on to. Your approach sounds like a great way for me to dive into job searching.

    1. LW#1*

      In addition to being selective about applying, I focused my entire search on industry-specific job boards: Two in my former full-time industry that are sponsored by nationwide industry publications, and one that operates on Facebook for my freelance/part-time industry that is specific to my metro area. I couldn’t even wrap my head around something like Indeed or Monster. If you aren’t in a huge hurry to secure something, it definitely made everything a lot less overwhelming and meant that I already recognized a lot of the organizations and didn’t have to start from scratch with my research. It also makes cover letters a lot easier when you can speak to personal experience with the organization.

  11. wins in 2021*

    LW #1 – If I’m reading correctly, the other industry you did PT work for (that was previously struggling) hired you for the new position and pay raise after the rejection of the other company? (Not the rejection company extending an internal listing later?) That’s an incredible increase! Did you have to negotiate working remote / and the work-issued supplies as well? Amazing and congratulations.

    Thanks for sharing the whole story as well – the struggling fields and hours issues, small business frustrations, long time low wages despite expertise, as well as selecting and putting together applications amidst burnout, and being rejected after more candidates / more experience chosen by companies. It’s real! Again, congratulations.

    1. LW#1*

      Thank you! You are reading correctly (I think). I was originally working in Job A in the farm supplies industry, which had applicable skills to my education in llama training, but was a bit of a random career move that just sort of stuck. My freelance role was in llama training and my part-time job was at a petting zoo staffing the llama shows they hold on weekends. Job B, which I interviewed for but ultimately lost out on, was with a company that provides broadcast services for all kinds of animal shows, llamas included. I ultimately secured and am now happy in Job C, which meant moving from the part-time llama show staff to the full-time llama breeding program. (Obviously none of those are real job descriptions, but it’s weirdly analogous to what I actually do.) I’m happy to say I never has to negotiate for work-from-home; it was assumed due to the pandemic and the organization’s best practices mean there is no interest in me using my own supplies. I’m almost fully vaccinated now, though, and preparing to move into my brand new office! Plus, now that things are starting to look up in our area regarding live events, my current employer has even started rehiring for my almost-totally-dormant part-time job, so I’ve even been able to refer some friends for work!

      I’m also preparing to be able to go back and visit my old work (it’s public facing, so old employees drop in all the time). As much as the burnout and family business politics and undercompensation, etc. are part of the story, those are also some grade-A people, and I look forward to being able to have relationships with them that aren’t marred by the rest of it.

      Thank you, again, for the kind words.

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