it’s your Friday good news

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

1. Even before the pandemic, I wasn’t super happy with the ethics of my company, or the way work tended to flow. I loved the people in my department, including my boss, but there were too many top-down issues that were never going to change.

Every little thought or idea was needed immediately, very often without the necessary planning and preparation. They did not give raises without promotions. No COL, no acknowledgement of advancement within the role, nothing. No reviews either. This, of course, led to a culture of people just skating by. My department was one of the last steps before an initiative went public, so we were the ones to make up the time when others didn’t plan far enough in advance, or find the mistakes when they didn’t plan well.

It was stressful, trying to stay at the top of my game AND everyone else’s. We were not allowed to just let it slide, either. We knew better, so we had to fix it, even though the people in other departments should also have known better. In fact, it was their job to know, not mine. And yet.

Add to that their awful COVID response and lack of addressing BLM at all (even internally), and I was ready to get out.

I just started my new job last week! The pay is better (38% better than my baseline with no OT, about 10-15% more than what I was getting with crazy amounts of OT that were burning me out) and salary, so while I will have to put in a few extra hours here and there, it has been made very clear that the expectation is: once you log off for the day/weekend, you are off.

Benefits are great, fully remote forever, with an annual review and raise structure, and though they’re still trying to translate company culture to the new remote work style, the previous version of the culture sounds great, and I know they’re putting a plan together to keep the same type of vibe.

Thanks to you and all your followers for all the advice, and for helping me recalibrate what I needed out of a job, and what should or could be expected.

2. This isn’t so much good news for me, but rather good news I helped make happen for a coworker.

A few years ago, my manager hired someone to be assistant manager (let’s call him Joe). Joe came from a similar company in our industry that unfortunately used manager-level titles for wildly different responsibilities than we use them for, and so manager was extremely frustrated when Joe didn’t immediately master the job with us without any real direction or training. Joe ultimately got demoted and shuffled off to another location. I was then promoted to assistant manager in his place.
Fast forward to this past June, and manager gets suspended and later fired for suspiciously sloppy money handling and a significant amount of money going missing. As assistant manager, I was the one made acting manager, and I was given a choice of employees to borrow from other locations. Joe, who was furloughed at the time, was one of them. I knew him to be a focused worker with good customer engagement, and he wouldn’t be in charge of the tasks he supposedly struggled with before, so I picked him.

He was a completely different employee than ex-manager made him out to be when complaining to me about him. He needed minimal oversight and took feedback extremely well. And after a while, people in other locations started hearing about how great he was doing (I talked up how great my team was the entire time I was in charge) and recruiting him to their teams. He transferred to another team right as we got a new manager, and from there he managed to impress some of the grandbosses of the company. Now he’s acting manager of a team in a different department of the company while their usual manager is on leave, and from what I can tell he and his department are thriving.

3. Last year, my company of less than a year laid off about 10% of our workforce, including my beloved boss who brought me into my very niche, fully remote position. A month later, my only friend at the company decided to leave as well. I was positive that I was on the chopping block as soon as my busy season was finished in six months because I felt so isolated from the rest of the company.

Instead of wallowing, I threw myself into strengthening my relationships with coworkers and senior management using the remote skills I had obtained being fully remote before COVID-19, scheduling extra time to do check-ins with junior staff and volunteering to teach or coordinate multiple remote trainings with senior management. And it paid off! Now I know (at least remotely) more people at my company, I was recently promoted into a management position and I received an internal award for my efforts in training of junior staff, which was voted by all of my coworkers. I appreciate all the advice that Alison has provided over the years on how to maintain professional communication without crossing professional boundaries, because this was the pitfall I think I could have most easily fallen into.

4. I graduated with a master’s degree in May and had been job searching since. Since it’s a degree from a top program in my field and I went into the program with several years of job experience, I was really hoping that the degree would help push me forward in my career and give me access to jobs I wouldn’t otherwise have had access to (although I know you’re skeptical of the ROI on master’s degrees!). I was also looking to pivot from non-profit to government work. Then, the pandemic hit! I was able to do an internship (paid!) for an organization I had worked with during school, but was getting a slow drip of interviews that hadn’t materialized into offers for 6 months. Then, the week before Christmas, I got two offers in the same week! Job #1 I had initially accepted before hearing back from Job #2, but Job #2 paid significantly more and was much more aligned with what I wanted to do.

I felt really really terrible about rescinding my acceptance to Job #1, but it had only been a couple days and I kept thinking about what you say about the employer/employee relationship: it’s a business relationship and the employer is going to do what’s best for them so you have to make decisions based on what’s best for you. Obviously rescinding an acceptance is not ideal and I felt so awkward calling and letting them know, but they were super nice about it.

I’m now in the second week of Job #2, and am really happy to be here! It’s only a limited-term contract for one-year, but I know that having this experience on my resume will open the door to more similar jobs in the future.

So, I just want to let people know that while it may take a while, it is possible to get the job you want in this crazy time!

Thank you for all the work you do in this blog, Alison. I’ve been a religious reader since I was in a terrible job situation where I was fired a few years ago, and it’s been invaluable in helping me rebuild and recalibrate my professional self. I’ve also used the language you suggest often in posts (direct but kind!) in uncomfortable non-work situations to great effect. As someone who tends to be wildly conflict adverse, reading your blog for years has given me a general script to use to better approach potentially uncomfortable situations where it’s better to speak up than be silent.

5. I know everyone starts their letters this way, but I have been reading your website daily for many years now. Your advice on cover letters and your interview guide have helped me — and my friends and family — so much. However, as a new-ish grad (4 years out of school, but I’ve been working a “professional” job for 8), I have been longingly watching my friends make the big leap into a career making real money, wondering when I would get my big break. For context, I’ve worked at nonprofits and large state hospitals for my entire career and although I’ve made moves resulting in a couple bucks an hour more, I’ve never broken $20/hour. I realize that this is nothing to balk at and I am grateful that I can afford an apartment and a reliable vehicle, but I don’t live in the cheapest cost of living area and I have bills! More so, I am talented at what I do and I know I should be making more for the work I do.

I started a new job in the summer and left my old position on good terms, still working very part time doing a small piece of my old role as an independent contractor. As much as I wanted to storm out of there with no notice and burn all the bridges on my way out, I am SO glad I didn’t, because this employer reached out to me with an opening they have as a result of leadership restructuring and told me I’m the only one they can see filling it. I interviewed for the opening and when it came time to discuss salary, I confidently named a number that they agreed to with no hesitation. I smiled, asked for the weekend to think the offer over, and promptly got in my car and screamed with joy.

I successfully secured a huge promotion with a 50% (!!!) pay increase, and I’m doing advocacy work for a very underserved population that I am very passionate about. I’ve read these exact stories on your website before, but truly never thought I’d be in a position to write in with the same news. I incorporated all of your advice on interviewing, salary negotiation, loving your work vs. working to live, the importance of leaving a job on good terms, leaving a job after less than a year to do what is best for you, and so much more that I feel like my “Ask A Manager” journey has come full circle. If any reader is out there thinking “good for them, but that could never be me”, please know that it is possible!

{ 21 comments… read them below }

  1. Bookworm*

    LW1: Thanks for writing. I really identified with your first paragraph, and while our situations are not the same, I’m glad you got out (and it also gives me hope!).

    Thanks to the rest of the LWs for sharing and Alison for sharing. I really needed to see this.

  2. HotSauce*

    LW1: What a great improvement, good for you! It’s sad to see businesses who treat their employees in such a blasé way, unfortunately the only way they tend to learn to change is by losing good talent.

    1. LW #5*

      Thank you guys :) I was really excited to share my news with the AAM family so I’m glad Alison was able to publish it!

  3. BradC*

    To #2, thanks for making that effort for your coworker, and for telling us about it!
    It’s great to hear about a success you’ve created for someone else!

    1. Anonym*

      Seconding! It’s great to hear about this kind of success, too. You may inspire people to begin thinking more about how to support others, OP!

    2. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

      I know I’ve benefited in the past when someone took a chance on me, and doesn’t it feel great to be in a spot to do that for someone else? You’re the kind of person we need in the work world, #2.

    3. Jennifer @unchartedworlds*

      Yes! Just putting it on record that I’d welcome more “good news” stories about taking a hand to boost someone else’s success!

  4. Ama*

    I have to say, #2, part of me wonders if Joe’s original manager exaggerated any starting difficulties Joe may have had because he realized Joe might be able to catch on to what he was up to.

    This could be my own bias showing as I had a promotion scuttled many years ago for vague reasons that I now think were because my boss didn’t want me to have access to our budget system (which would have come with my promotion) — three months after my promotion was denied he was fired for a long term pattern of embezzlement. The very first time I did an expense report for him I noticed a “mistake” that he’d double charged an expense, and that was precisely the loophole he’d been getting away with for a decade, with staff that apparently never checked the documentation he gave them very closely.

    1. Boof*

      Yes I was wondering that too – @#$@# embezzlers. It always goes beyond the outright theft, they lying and coverups does it’s own set of damages too.

    2. LW2 here!*

      Joe did honestly struggle at times in specifically word/language-related areas. I wouldn’t be surprised if there was some kind of mild word or language-related learning disability, not bad enough to be caught and diagnosed in school, but just enough to make someone look a little slow in certain situations. He was very quick to make adjustments when I pointed out mistakes, though.

      It was very much played up by ex-manager, who seemed to expect someone who could do the entire manager job, and who turned out to be bad-mouthing everyone to each other and making up lies and setting up another (absolutely amazing) coworker to take the fall for the nonsense that got ex-manager fired in the end.

      Also, it’s worth mentioning that Joe is model-level handsome, and ex-manager was EXTREMELY weird about it, all the time.

  5. Chaordic One*

    These are all good news. I can really relate to your story, LW1.

    I wonder about your story, LW2, just what was it that you saw in Joe that made you want to give him another chance? There had to be something there, and I’m so happy he proved that your faith in him was deserved. I’m so glad it worked out well for both of you. It was really a case of you paying it forward and working out well.

    1. LW2 here!*

      I’m glad everyone is so happy about Joe! We’re glad he’s doing well, too.

      Mostly his positivity and enthusiasm for helping customers. I knew we needed someone who could handle that while I and the rest of my team unraveled exactly what was going on with ex-manager. I also figured that he wouldn’t be handling the responsibilities he had struggled with in the past anyway, so there was minimal risk there.

  6. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    #5. I think you learned – as many do – the only people who make serious money at non-profits are the people in the upper echelon. And even then, they don’t bring in the dough that their counterparts in the for-profit realm do.

    And you don’t want to burn your bridges. At times, you might leave an employer and THEY will burn the bridge as you’re crossing over it, but if they do, you can’t control that, unfortunately.

    1. LW #5*

      I totally agree! I will say that my org pays higher for the “case manager” type role than most, at least in my area-$18-20 an hour. And I’m very glad I found a way to make good-money-for-a-twenty-something and still do work that matters to me.

  7. Alex*

    I have read this blog for years, but have never left a comment. But LW #4, your experience happened almost exactly to me two years ago. I verbally accepted an offer, but hadn’t signed anything, because I was unemployed at the time and couldn’t afford to gamble on not getting the job that I really wanted. But even though it was an excruciatingly difficult thing to rescind my acceptance, and they didn’t handle it with the same grace as your experience so I likely burned a bridge at an organization that I deeply respect, I did it for a dream job and have not spent a moment in the last two years regretting it. I applaud you for looking out for yourself, and for committing to the job that you’ll bring your best work to, even if it came about in inopportune circumstances. Ultimately, it’s in everyone’s best interests to bring an employee on board who is fully committed and engaged by the work, not wistfully wondering about the job that might’ve been.

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