it’s your Friday good news

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

1. I read your recent “you need to ask for a raise” post and decided that you were absolutely right. I’ve been in my current position for 10 years and I’ve never asked for a raise. I’m a government contractor, so I have gotten slightly larger than cost-of-living annual raises, but never a raise to reflect the fact that the job I have today is substantially different from the one I started in.

I put together an email listing some of the work I do, including a recent big delivery that went very smoothly, and asked for a substantial raise. Much to my surprise, I got everything I asked for, even though I purposefully picked a slightly larger number than I thought they’d go for so I’d have room to negotiate. Yay!

Thank you for nudging me to ask. I’ve felt underpaid for a while now, but now I’m in a good place. And thank you for writing such a useful and insightful column. I recommend you to everyone I know with work-related questions.

2. I was working in an admin job at a research lab in an organization that was toxic to a lot of people and poorly run but was fairly OK for me since I was technically employed by another department and co-located rather than directly employed. This insulated me from a lot of the most toxic behavior and gave me enough influence to try and help some of the other employees.

I was sortof casually looking to either move on or relocate to the “main office” since there was no chance for advancement in my physical location. I’d (quietly) let my network know I was open to other positions and the wife of someone in my network called me with one of those “We have an opening that you’d be perfect for; tell me when you apply and list me as a reference” opportunities. It was a golden opportunity.. except it was located in the nearest Major Metropolitan City, with its associated higher cost of living.

Alison, I did my research and I knew what I needed to make the move work. It was more than I thought this organization usually paid but wasn’t out of line with industry standards. I had an interview which went great (Thank You!) and was invited over for a post-interview drink with the woman who’d suggested I apply. We rehashed the interview and I told her my concerns about the pay range, she wouldn’t tell me what they planned to pay but agreed that my number was higher than theirs. I stood my ground, explained my reasoning, and then let silence speak for itself. I didn’t get anything more from her than “I’ll pass it along” but when they called later that week to offer me the job the title had miraculously been changed to one that comes with a higher salary band and exactly matched my salary request!

I took the job, started 2 weeks later, and have had a great experience over the past year-and-a-bit. I have a great, supportive team, we’ve successfully adapted to pandemic reality, adapted our work and are doing well! My previous employer has not done nearly as well (I get “updates” on the dysfunction from the people who are still there) and I am so glad I got out. Thank you for your advice; I don’t know if I could have done it without you!

3. I lost my job in September and started a new one in February. I’m in tech, and not much happened until the new year. A lot of companies panicked, cut their budgets (hence my layoff) and they only started cautiously hiring again in January.

I kept a spreadsheet while job hunting: Applied to 250+ jobs, got a positive response from about 10%, and went through full rounds of interviews for about 5. I was close to two offers in early Feb, chose the one that came first (they tailored the job description to my skills after my first interview, so I think I impressed them), and I’m still getting rejection emails from jobs I applied to months ago.

My tips:
– Networking can be simple: connect with people you know on LinkedIn and Facebook, have a quick casual conversation and let them know what you are looking for. They may not be in a position to hire, but if they hear of somewhere else, you’ll be top of mind. Also a lot of people get referral bonuses if they recommend you and you get hired.
– Join Facebook and LinkedIn interest groups for your field or even general location. I joined Jobs for Queers in my city but really the positions are open to anyone who can do the job. (Note from Alison: This is a suggestion that you join groups of interest to you, not that non-queer people join groups intended to support LGBTQ+ people, just to find jobs!) I think FB may have replaced the old trope “80% of jobs are unlisted,” where 100% of jobs are posted (after going through budget and needs analysis) but may be promoted through different interest groups, networks and channels.
– Apply regularly, weekly usually. I found I got an immediate response when my resume caught the eye of a recruiter, and rejections came months later. I did not tailor my resume but I did focus it on my accomplishments and highlighted specific examples in my cover letter.

I found Ask a Manager gave sensible advice, and kept my spirits up and motivated, so thank you Alison and all regular commentators.

4. I found your blog years ago when I was a teacher looking to leave the classroom. In my following (spoiler: now-former!) role, I learned so much from your advice. I worked hard to build professional relationships and network in the ways you mentioned (largely, by keeping to my word, discussing issues openly when they arose, and delivering results reliably and consistently).

Since my husband and I met, I prosthelytized the word of the Alison to him and got him hooked on your site as well. During the pandemic, he was laid off. He spent a lot of time revamping his cover letter and resume, and was able to secure a new role within 10 weeks. The hiring manager and team all commented on how well-prepared and clear he was in his interviews.

On my end, I was fairly content in my role but knew there was no growth possible. My work was also going into a maintenance phase and I loved strategy and change management, so I knew my passion was waning. I talked to my professional contacts and found out about a role opening up at a company I had worked with professionally. I knew that I had a dynamite cover letter and resume due to constant revision from your blog, and with you interview tips was able to secure a fully-remote job with a 33% raise, share options, and much better benefits. And bonus – it is doing change management and strategy work!

I hope this news helps paint a picture for others that while the job market is different right now, there are still opportunities (particularly for teachers wanting to leave the classroom and go into digital Ed/EdTech!).

5. I first started reading Ask a Manager three years ago, when I had started a job that I quickly realized was a bad fit for me. I was really unhappy and actively job-hunting, and Ask a Manager was a great source of both entertainment and advice.

However, my good news doesn’t involve getting a new job. Instead, a number of things about my job have changed over time: I have gotten the chance to take on more substantive and interesting work; I’ve gotten large raises each year I’ve worked at my organization; and the head of my department, a big factor in how much I disliked my job, left, and was replaced with someone fantastic.

Throughout all these changes, your advice about not getting hung up on something being a “dream job” has been so helpful to me. The factors above obviously all helped me appreciate my job more, but I also had to change my perspective about what I valued at work. When I first started, a lot of my dissatisfaction with my job was that I didn’t feel connected to my organization’s mission. I’d previously worked at nonprofits that were “dream jobs” in terms of the content I worked on and how it aligned with my interests, but I was underpaid and undervalued. In contrast, my current job pays me fairly, gives me ongoing professional development opportunities, and allows me to have a great quality of life outside of work. I have deep respect for my manager, get along with my coworkers, and the organization has handled the pandemic in a very reasonable and responsible way.

I don’t identify with my job the way I used to when I worked at nonprofits, and that’s been an adjustment. I no longer spend much time talking about my job with friends. When they ask I say “Work’s good! No complaints.” Which is true. And while the place I work might not be a “dream job” that I’d have envisioned when I was in college, I’m really, really happy here.

{ 28 comments… read them below }

  1. Hazel*

    Alison, please keep doing the Friday Good News columns, even after the pandemic is “over”! As I was reading today, I was thinking that if so many of us have had successes during a pandemic, there must be an exponentially higher number of readers getting jobs, raises, etc. every week during more normal times. And I think it would continue to be motivating to people who are job searching and struggling with doubts, fears, lack of knowledge or encouragement, etc.

    1. Not a Cat*

      I wholeheartedly agree, please keep doing these even once the pandemic is, as Hazel said, ‘over’.

    2. 2horseygirls*


      It is great to hear real stories from readers in a consolidated format, vs. stumbling across them in comments, and not being able to find them again if there was something particularly useful.

  2. CAinUK*

    To #3: I am happy for your update (truly!), but a part of me is sad that you mention joining a “Jobs for Queers” group and acknowledge “but really anyone can do the job.” Often these job groups are for underrepresented groups who struggle to get a foot in the door because of a lot of systemic factors–to join these groups and use their community resourcing (finding and posting jobs) if you’re not part of the group is…not great. Think of it as if a group of women pooled resources to apply to jobs in male-dominated fields, and you lurked as a man in the group to use those resources…it just feels a little icky.

    I’m. not sure if you are queer yourself so this might not have been what you’re dong, but I’d caution against this advice to others….

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Hmmm, I hope that’s not the meaning! I’d read it as “here’s the interest group I personally joined because it was relevant to me, but find one that suits your own interests and it’ll still work.”

      1. Echo*

        I had a similar read (as a queer reader!) – I assumed LW was queer and joined the group because of that, but wanted to counter the myth that “80% of jobs are unlisted” by saying that those companies weren’t ONLY posting jobs to Jobs for Queers.

        1. Pocket Mouse*

          I had a similar read as CAinUK, and came here to say what they did- I suspect this is an informal platform where queer folks are sharing with and supporting each other, not where companies are posting directly. I’ve seen the phenomenon of non-queer people joining a flourishing queer online space that grew out of a recognition of oppressive structure and intended to mitigate the harm to and extraction from the community and… yeah, it’s icky for non-queers to benefit from the queer-centered care and emotional labor from members of the queer community in that way.

          1. Self Employed*

            I keep getting invited to queer spaces because I’m supportive of my queer friends. I also don’t work very hard on following female gender norms, even though I don’t specifically identify as non-binary, so maybe they’ve assumed I’m not cishet?

      2. FD*

        Yeah, that’s how I read it too, as another queer reader. I interpreted it as “I joined a queer group because I’m queer, but there are probably groups for [former stay at home moms returning to the workplace]/[people with MS]/[childless-by-choice 30-somethings]/[etc.] online that you can join for the same purpose.”

      3. Pocket Mouse*

        Alison- would really appreciate you adding a note to this effect under the letter, the same way you explicitly caution people against stealing any part of the example cover letters you share! I’m sure CAinUK, fish, and I aren’t the only people who have or will read it as a suggestion of a specific resource that anyone is welcome to access.

      4. LW3*

        LW3 here, and no I didn’t mean join groups you are not a part of just to get an inside line. I’m queer myself so I joined these groups, but many of the jobs listed were not specified only for queer people (which may be illegal discrimination, not sure). The groups were mainly for networking and surfacing posts from companies that are known to be queer-friendly.

        1. same*

          similarly, I’m in a group of my college’s alums (who are predominately women or trans – I went to a historical women’s college) and people share job posts there all the time saying “I’d love to see an alum of School in this role”. These jobs are obviously also open to other applicants, but it’s a way to share job postings for organizations that the members either 1) already work at or 2) have a mission that the group members know of/support. Just another way to get the word out about open positions!

  3. ActingAsAdmin*

    Piggybacking off LW1, tips for dealing with a wily manager (who is Head of HR) who seems loath to consider a raise at all? Phrasing suggestions welcome!
    Also, how do you differentiate btwn a role growing in scope vs. the normal progression of a new hire receiving more responsibilities as they settle in?
    When hired, they said “I already went to bat for you, this is the highest hourly rate we can offer, plus it’s more than what your predecessor was given,” cutting off any opportunity for negotiation. Later, I discover they fibbed about my rate being higher, destroying my trust in them.
    Budgets are tight, & I’ve made mistakes as this is my 1st year in the role. But I know others have gotten salary adjustments w/out promotions & throughout the year. Trying to figure out how to get a more appropriate hourly rate when it feels like negotiating with a brick wall.

      1. ActingAsAdmin*

        thanks for the tip! i worried it would be too work-related for that thread.

  4. Momma Bear*

    So many times women in particular don’t get any raises or the salary we should because we are too afraid to ask. I always enjoy the updates where people got compensated fairly. I think the more people read these success stories, the more empowered they will be in their own career.

  5. Bookworm*

    Thanks as always to the LWs for sharing their great news! Always good to end a week on a higher note.

  6. SentientAmoeba*

    High Five to LW5. Work makes up a large part of your adult life and I believe that if we move away from the idea of the Dream Job and replace it with functional workplace, where we are treated and paid fairly, that would make life so much easier for so many people.

    1. Frankie Bergstein*

      I so feel you, LW5! I could have written your post almost word-for-word. Nonprofits where you’re undervalued, underpaid but working in a content area you’re passionate about? That was my twenties. My thirties are in an organization that – like yours – invests in me through trainings and raises. It’s not perfect, I don’t (as you said) identify with it like before. But telling myself it’s “just my job” and my volunteering/causes I’m passionate about can come after work has helped.

      Like you, my job has let me have the money, time, and structure to have a really full, meaningful life outside of work.

      Cheers! Have a great weekend!

    2. Anony-Mouse*

      Yes, you’re awesome LW5! I love that you did some soul searching about what matters to you in a job and were able to find happiness with your current role.

  7. oranges*

    “Also a lot of people get referral bonuses if they recommend you and you get hired.”

    That’s such a great point. Our industry is so desperate to hire that our referral bonuses are higher than ever and emphasized in every internal message. I want to go pull people of the street just to get the thousands we’re offering in bonuses.

  8. 30 Years in the Biz*

    Congratulations to all those sharing their good news! It’s been a great way to end the week, and I’m also hopeful that this column continues after the pandemic subsides. I’d like to enthusiastically agree with a couple of statements in today’s Good News:
    “I recommend you to everyone I know with work-related questions” (and even to those with no questions – some of the stories are amazing – thinking spicy food stealing, notes left at gravesites, and quacking here)
    “I proselytized the word of the Alison”
    When we take our dog for a walk each night my husband and I often discuss the scenarios from the AAM site. Alison has improved my life for the better , especially in regard to a work crisis a few years ago. I just wish Alison had been around back in the early 1980s when I was starting out! Thank you

    1. EPLawyer*

      After the letter this morning in the quick questions, I am DYING at “proselytizing the Word of Alison.” I know this was pure coincindence but I still laughed.

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