it’s your Friday good news

It’s your Friday good news!

1. I don’t know if you realize just how frequently your advice actually turns people’s worlds right-side-up again, often when they didn’t even realize things had become unsustainable from many angles.

I am a primary example, as reading your advice over the last three years has helped me not only transition fields, but also navigate some personal issues in a very controlled manner. After a badly-timed graduation with a seemingly useless masters degree, an international move, and the pandemic, I ended up only being able to sporadically freelance for nearly two years.

Consequently I struggled with horrible depression and anxiety, but I lived your gospel and just kept applying, writing better cover letters, and participating in online network events for various industries even when I felt I had no right to. I took the free time I had to get some therapy and learn that it wasn’t my employment status or title that determined my worth.

It was your wisdom that protected me when not one, but two companies gave me incredible job offers, but research revealed that rats were abandoning ship in each case. I wanted so badly to take the offer both times, but you taught me what red flags to look for.

I heard such gems as, “Because we are a family oriented company and don’t want to contribute to the breakdown of the family, we will have to verify that your husband also relocated with you,” (from a religious non-profit). I was able to give some frank feedback to their HR department about how male staff I knew personally didn’t have this requirement of their spouse, and was rewarded with their mortified HR director promising they would change the direction they took with their questioning.

When the stars finally aligned, I did get a great job in a very low COL area. As an American in Germany, and although I was searching for an English-speaking job, I did as you advised to make myself as relevant as possible, and prepped with lots of language classes, watched Netflix in German, and spoke to my husband (and everyone) in German in the intervening months.

Because I didn’t stay idle, I was able to slam-dunk a surprise interview that was in German. It turns out that they didn’t expect me to be able to speak it at any level, but because I could at least hobble through, I was able to interview with the CEO when my American counterparts couldn’t, which may translate to special assignments later.

My transition was from education to recruiting to journalism, and the last wasn’t even a field I had been looking for. I made points as to why all of my wide-ranging experience was relevant to being able to explain things to the general population in an interesting, yet understandable way.

I am now able to work from home with my dog, which despite the lower pay, makes me feel more rested and in-control than I have in a decade. I also now know how to treat every interaction with my boss with “a consultant’s view” and no longer feel crippled by criticism. (That’s easily the most beautiful super-power you could bestow on anyone, Alison!)

I share your site with everyone professionally, and have now been tapped to write advice myself. I successfully pitched a tech advice column (a hobby of mine), as women are under-represented across the industry. I finally look forward to the future!

2. As an early-career professional in a dysfunctional workplace, I have relied on your site to learn healthy work behaviors. And it’s finally paid off for me! Just like it was for many others, the pandemic was a time of reckoning for me – I came to realize that the small, nagging things that bothered me about my employer were actually endemic issues that would only get worse, not better. I realized I needed out in the Summer of 2020, but I had to first wait out a hiring freeze in my field. It was a difficult, dark time for me knowing I was miserable but temporarily stuck.

It’s all changing now. I’ve accepted a position at a big (huge!) name in my field and secured a 25% raise in the process. This organization offers a generous suite of benefits, a supportive work environment, and brilliant and inspiring coworkers. I honestly feel like I’ve won the lottery and I’m finally excited about the trajectory of my career again. I know I couldn’t have aced the interviews without absorbing the information from your site and book over the last couple of years.

3. I was offered a job from a small health startup, while currently employed at a FAANG tech company. Since I didn’t need the new job, I really focused on negotiating for benefits that would convince me to leave. One sticking point for me was maternity leave – the current job offers some of the most generous maternity leave in the US. The startup was willing to offer a reasonable amount, but it was 4 weeks less of paid mat leave. I asked them to make up the 4 weeks in another way (signing bonus or equity). They came back to me and said they wanted to be competitive in the industry – so not only were they offering me the extra 4 weeks of paid maternity leave to match my current benefits – they were going to make that the standard company offering going forward! With a company culture like that, I immediately accepted the new job.

4. Thank you for all your advice for helping people who are non-binary come out at work. I was able to take it and use it a conversation with my own boss. I was able to use the e-mail signature option to talk to her about the change and just recently, I was able to switch my nickname! I knew my company would (likely) be supportive, but I don’t think I would have ever had the courage to do it if not seeing it so normalized on your website – so THANKS!

5. For the last 6 years, I’ve been having trouble getting hired due to a former manager giving a bad reference (I quit without notice at a very bad time).

I revised my resume and cover letter after reading everything on your website about resumes and cover letters and I started getting interviews. I was not offered some jobs that I interviewed for, but that’s okay because I later learned that I wouldn’t have been a good fit due to the culture of the organization or other reasons. Basically, I’ve been grasping at straws to get out of my current job and was applying for anything and everything.

A few weeks ago, an amazing job was posted. I applied through and got a request for an interview within a few days. They needed someone to start as soon as possible. I read all the guidance on interviewing and went into the interview with the attitude that I’m interviewing them to see if this is a good fit for me. I also had the mindset that the worst that can happen is that I don’t get the job, but I don’t have it now! The interview went great. They called me on a Saturday to offer me the job. I gave 2 weeks notice the following Monday and just finished my first week on the job. From what I can tell so far, the company culture is supportive, and it is going really well.

The other important part of this story is that since they needed to make a decision quickly, they did not contact my previous employer who was giving me a bad reference. They did ask me why I left my former employer (it was a really good job minus the manager) and I was honest without being too honest. The company was going to be taken over by another company and we didn’t know if we were going to keep our jobs. Two people had quit a few weeks before me. I was then reassigned to cover their department (completely different from what I was hired for, but I was qualified to do the work). I said I wasn’t happy with being reassigned to another department with no timeline for returning to the position I was hired for. I added in that 3 other employees left the company in less than 2 months after me.

I can’t thank you enough for all the great information on your website as well as comments from all the readers. I never would have gotten this job without stumbling upon this site last year. I feel that this is a job and company that I can retire from. Thank you!

{ 81 comments… read them below }

  1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

    I wrote #1 and am so grateful to the incredible commentariat here! One of those companies also asked me the droll question, “Are you a quitter or a finisher?” and the only thing I could think to answer was “I’m a Texan!”. Interviewing has been entertaining to be sure! I’m glad AAm helped me land a normal job!

    1. Foreign Octopus*

      Your good news was fantastic to read! And it’s so brilliant that you’re doing the job in Germany as well as that’s a whole new adventure for you too :D

      1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

        It is, indeed! I’m so grateful for the support I’ve received from this site and the incredible people here along the way!

    2. AGD*

      I loved your story, and this punchline makes it even better! Thanks so much for sharing.

    3. A tester, not a developer*

      I’ve been on enough projects that run out of time/money, priorities change, someone figures out that it was a bad idea, etc. that I’d probably describe myself as some who knows when to quit. Project teams that try to finish no matter what are going to end up in a bad place. But I doubt that’s the answer they’re looking for! LOL

      1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

        This is SUCH a valid point! I’m going to remember that for the future. That particular interview was for a job related to taxes so I’m not sure they could quit in the middle of things but I think similar situations as you described crop up more often than we realize!

      2. Stina*

        I was thinking along those lines, too. “Yes because one must know when it is not solution isn’t working and quit digging the hole and when the goal is still worth it and strike gold “

      1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

        Thanks! And I love your name, because it gives me pictures in my head of 1920’s radio show productions – but maybe you’re a HAM enthusiast. Thanks for the good vibes :)

    4. ampersand*

      Fellow Texan here who is very amused by your response–and congrats! :) I kept saying “awww” (in a good way) as I read your update–except for that part about the religious non-profit, what the hell? That’s awesome that you said something to their HR director and they were responsive! I hope all continues to go well for you!

      1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

        Howdy and thanks for sharing that little dose of happiness from home!

      2. Stina*

        I was thinking along those lines, too. One must be able to tell when the project or solution isn’t working and stop digging the hole and when the goal is within reach and strike gold.

  2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

    I’m heartened by #5; she was judged on her merits and not a total stranger’s grudge!

    1. Firecat*

      It’s a bit disingenuous to refer to a former manager as a complete stranger with a grudge. For all we know the former manager wasn’t even poisoning the well – only answering honestly that the OP quit with no notice.

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        The old and new managers would be strangers to each other, not to OP.

      2. Stina*

        It’s pretty easy for a previous manager to “poison the well” while giving a legally safe answer, just by language and tone. “They are ineligible for rehire” or “They were terminated” especially if there is no qualifying padding are often ways for ex-bosses to say someone is an undesirable employee and should be avoided. In a phone reference, the tone of voice can add even more poison.

        1. Firecat*

          I’ve always considered poisoning the well to be exaggerating how bad things were and/or living or giving am unsicited reference.

          Answering truthfully that an emoyee is ineligible to rehire, quit with no notice, etc. Doesn’t seem like a terrible thing to me.

          1. PT*

            Right, but let’s say someone was fired for an illegal reason. I worked somewhere that was notorious for pushing parents out by switching them onto schedules when they wouldn’t have childcare. Then when they were unable to “you’re on call be at work in an hour” or “I can’t cover the 3-11 shift, my childcare ends at 6. I said when I started working here that I couldn’t work past 5:30.” they’d get fired and their boss would mark them as a no-call no-show, ineligible for rehire.

            Someone calling HR for a reference check and would just say, “Oh yes, Tangerina Jones worked here from June 2009 to July 2011 and it says she is ineligible for rehire.”

    2. Totalanon*

      I’m surprised that Op#5 couldn’t find a different person to verify their reference/every reference checker ended up at the former manager with the bad reference? But I’m glad they’re out!

      1. BabyElephantWalk*

        This strikes me as odd. The old manager isn’t the problem – when you quit with no notice, it shouldn’t be a surprise that you’ve burned the bridge and aren’t getting a reference there, or are getting a poor one. I’m more curious why the reference was provided. Continuing to apply and interview while offering up a bad reference source just … it’s not going to get you where you want to go.

        1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          I took that as employers calling her old employer because they’re on her work history, not that she was offering them up as a reference.

  3. WellRed*

    Thank you OP 1 for calling out that sexist question. I’m glad HR was mortified, but I also wonder, how did they not realize this was a problem?

    1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

      Because everyone who works for the company is a member of that particular faith (I was an active member at the time), and the question was on par with the culture. I am happy to report that church has has improved significantly in it’s efforts in promoting equality in the intervening years.

      1. RB*

        Thanks for following up and I would love to hear some of the other red flags you encountered at those two companies, that convinced you not to accept the offers.

        1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

          Hmm.. Well for reference I am a white woman in my late 20’s: during the first interview with a 50-something white man, he told me employees in the department needed “to carry each other and minister to each other” (tax office), and that it was good to be “soft spoken” or something like that. The follow up interviewer was in his mid 80’s berated me for “not exuding confidence”.

          He then reprimanded me for not listing a two month missionary experience from five years previously on the top of my resume, before education and work experience and insisted “even if you apply to other companies anywhere, you should put that service first so they know that you are not ashamed of God”

          At the other interview for a position as an Executive Assistant for a well-known online retailer, there was a question to the effect of, “You’ll be an EA for 8 managers. Without knowing their ranking or job titles, how would you prioritize their requests?” But that one was more of a fun puzzle to think about.

          The woman who interviewed me though said, “We make it easy to keep in touch, you’ll have a special phone you can keep by your bedside in case one of your bosses wants to reach you”. I asked if that meant this was an on-call assistant position and she explained that the company ranked assistants by how willing they were to serve the company, giving them a ranking of “3” to “5” – with the “5’s” of course being promoted and paid more. Not sure why those numbers.

  4. Boadicea*

    “Because we are a family oriented company and don’t want to contribute to the breakdown of the family, we will have to verify that your husband also relocated with you” – I quite literally gasped out loud…

    1. EPLawyer*

      Yeah. I mean SERIOUSLY. That the added bonus of MEN don’t get asked that question. SO men can relocate without spouse and its just hunky dory. But if a woman does it, well she’s breaking up the family.

      SO glad OP that you didn’t take that job.

      1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

        And it was so much money (for me) but now I’m realizing I paid at least 20k so other female applicants wouldn’t get screwed. Worth it.

      2. Ariaflame*

        I suspect they couldn’t even conceive of a situation where a man would move and his wife wouldn’t move with him.

    2. Good Vibes Steve*

      *Flames on the side of my face* kind of moment for me. I did relocate without my husband for a job years ago, and it did not break down our family, and if it had, it would have been none of my employer’s business.

  5. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

    My pause during that interview was so long they asked if my internet cut out. I didn’t include this in my original letter to Alison, but in a follow up interview I asked how they would verify, and they said that they would have my colleagues who attended my congregation at church check that my husband was there each Sunday. So I guess my job would have also depended on his faith?

    1. Observer*

      They were going to monitor your HUSBAND’S Church attendance?! That is beyond bizarre!

      How did you respond to that? And did you point out to HR how ridiculous that is? In the US, also illegal unless the organization is actually a religious institution and the job falls under the ministerial exemption.

      1. Empress Ki*

        I hope it would be illegal even for a religious institution to check on the faith of the candidate’s husband, not just the candidate herself.

        1. Amethystmoon*

          Interfaith marriages are quite common in the US, even among Christian denominations. My stepmom’s parents were Catholic and Methodist in the 60’s when that was frowned upon here. She is Catholic. They didn’t always attend the same church every Sunday.

    2. Ooh La La*

      Soooo they’re going to deputize your coworkers to spy on you outside of work and report back to your employers. Cool, sounds like a great work environment! Wtf.

      1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

        Unfortunately! I had a comment nesting fail (it sank to the bottom earlier), basically what happened was they outlined these expectations and how they would check, and when I sent my complaint to HR after the interview they said, “Well, that’s not in the actual job description/paperwork”. Well no, it wouldn’t be, would it? It’s just what the interviewer told me :P

  6. SJ*

    Huge congrats, #4. It takes such courage to be out at work! Sending you all my good nonbinary vibes. Rock on!

    1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

      Yes, #4, that’s a HUGE step for any company, even if it seems small. You’re a trailblazer by building a more accepting environment :)

      1. Op4*

        Thank you! They’re really supportive, but they did have to change a few things and work a few things out so I’m glad I bought it out =) You almost made me cry, lol!

        1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

          Aww! I retyped my comment five times thinking everything seemed trite. Anytime anyone feels more accepted, the world is a better place, and your situation made me think how someone ten years ago, fifty years ago..anytime in history, would be in awe of the change you brought in your company!

      2. AGD*

        Seriously. My workplace welcomed its first enby employee in 2015, and there was some unpleasantness for them to deal with early on, but after that things improved markedly. I look at them and the people they blazed a trail for in awe.

  7. Chilipepper Attitude*

    These good news updates make my week. Thank you to everyone who sends them in!

    1. allathian*

      Yeah, same. I’m especially happy when it’s a regular commenter whose nick I recognize from other posts, @Teekanne aus Schokolade. But thanks everyone!

      1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

        Thank you, Allathian! Sometimes I wish this website allowed more interaction :)

  8. Recruited Recruiter*

    Because this is a good news section, I will share the good that has happened to me partly due to Allison’s advice here at AAM.

    From June 2016 – May 2018, I was employed by a small non-profit with a toxic co-worker. We were officially on the same level, and reported directly to the Board of Directors. Within the first 2 months of starting there, my co-worker had unilaterally decided she was my manager, making intense demands for unnecessary reporting, such that I was spending more time on her “required” reports than on my actual job. When I went to the board about it, I was told that “she’s older and more experienced so just do what she says.” I was averaging 80 hours per week at the 2016 minimum exempt salary. Eventually she started making veiled threats against both me and my SO. At this point, I started reading AAM, and came to the conclusion that I was crazy for staying there as long as I did, and put in my notice without anything else lined up. The board terminated my employment halfway through my notice period (because they had my replacement starting the next day.) I used Allison’s advice to update my resume and cover letter, and had secured a job (not in my field) at an employer with a reputation of being good to work for within a couple weeks, in a different city, where I could be away from the person threatening me.

    I stayed there almost three years, at which point I accepted an internship in my field, so I can complete my degree. The non-profit that the internship was at did not have a good reputation, but the supervisor for my internship did. Wasn’t necessarily the best move I could make, but I felt it was necessary to advance into my field.
    Over the first 3 months of my internship (the portion required for school), I consistently exceeded all expectations and found myself in a position of expecting a long-term position upon completion, along with an apparent path to long-term success in my field. At this point, my supervisor’s boss (the executive director) made a demand that she fire a specific one of her employees for a protected reason, and my supervisor resigned. At this point, I started looking for jobs in my field, with the plan to resign (from an internship!) if asked to do anything illegal or unethical. I made it a month. I was asked to help with a bait and switch on a job applicant. I managed to push it off on someone else so I didn’t have to quit with no notice. I again put in my notice with nothing lined up. I used Allison’s advice to avoid a company that threw out so many red flags during the interview that I knew I couldn’t ever accept a job there (this is a funny story for another day.) I only didn’t walk out because once I figured out that I couldn’t work there, I realized that this interview would be a really funny story for a long time. I finally landed a job in my field at a small local company with a strong community reputation for their ethics and giving back to the community. And I genuinely thank Allison’s advice for a lot of my newfound calm and peace.

  9. dorothean*

    This intrigued me:
    “I also now know how to treat every interaction with my boss with ‘a consultant’s view’, and no longer feel crippled by criticism. (That’s easily the most beautiful super-power you could bestow on anyone, Alison!)”
    Does this refer to a particular bit of Alison’s advice? Sounds like it would be quite helpful for me currently.

    1. PegS*

      Me too! I don’t remember reading that particular phrase, but the concept seems to be something I need to adopt.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        The idea is, basically, that employees tend to personalize their relationships with their boss, the feedback they receive, whether or not their suggestions are used, etc. Consultants, who have clients instead of bosses, tend to approach clients from a more emotionally detached place. The idea is to try approaching your work like a consultant — so for example, responding to critical feedback the same way you would respond to a problem that didn’t feel personal and emotionally charged (by just gathering information and collaboratively problem-solving or whatever).

        1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

          Though I’m not perfect at it yet, I realized my boss was dramatically relieved when I didn’t respond in tears as a colleague had, though that very well could have been me at my last job. Same stress, but I realized that my boss really valued me when he realized I just cared about getting the job done right, but that it wouldn’t impact how I felt about myself.

          1. allathian*

            Yup, this is really great advice. It’s also one reason why I look askance at any hint of “passion” for the job. Passion just means that you (general you) identify with it so strongly that you internalize any critical feedback as criticism of your person, and that is, in my book, never a good thing.

            1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

              Wow, I never considered that passion could do that but you’re absolutely right!!

  10. Observer*

    #3 – That’s really great! Not just the new job with great benefits, but the fact that they’ve upgraded the benefits for everyone.

    1. Anhaga*

      +1 to this! One of the best things ever is to not only make benefits better for us individually, but also to help cause change that helps everyone else in the company. If you get a hand up, pull as many other people as you can.

  11. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

    I went back to the email I sent to HR: “Finally, although I understand the Church’s stance on keeping families together, I felt that my employment was made conditional on whether or not my husband was able to relocate with me, which requirement does not apply to everyone. ”

    They did reply saying that wasn’t listed in the job description (of course it isn’t) – and no, there was no ministerial exemption as it was in the financial department. It was odd, to say the least, and I hope they took my perspective under advisement.

    1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

      @Observer – again another nesting fail – the website is driving me batty today!

  12. asteramella*

    Wanted to share some good news in the comments as well if that’s ok :)

    I’ve been struggling with burnout in my current role for a while, and realized after moving into lower level management at my org that I don’t enjoy managing people (or at least I don’t enjoy it at this point in my life, with the current skills and supports I have in my current org). But, to step back down to my previous non-management role, I’d have to take a significant pay cut. I also worked remotely for about a year and realized after returning to in-person work that remote work fits my preferences and personality much better.

    I saw a posting for a role at a similar org that’d be a great fit for my skills that would be 100% remote, non-management (but only a small pay cut from my current management role). I re-read through all of Alison’s advice on cover letters and applied, had a couple of great interviews that felt very thorough and honest on both sides (“what separates someone who’s just okay at X from someone who’s really great at X” is a very helpful question tbh), and got a verbal offer today! I’m planning to put in my 2 weeks notice on Monday and I will even have a week to rest/decompress before I start my new role. I’m very excited to start a new chapter of my career!

    1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

      This is so wonderful!! The Golden Question works so well! Congrats!!!

    2. allathian*

      Congrats and good luck!

      A word of caution, though, I wouldn’t resign from the old job before getting a written offer. Verbal ones aren’t enforceable.

      1. asteramella*

        I was expecting the written offer today (Monday) and put in my resignation after receiving it. In my industry employment contracts are not usual, though, so even written offers aren’t set in stone (although it would be very unusual for an employer to back out of an offer after giving it in writing).

  13. Jackalope*

    Hope it’s okay to share my Friday good news here too. I’ve been at my job for over a decade now, and just won an award that I’d been hoping to win for years! It’s an internal award so doesn’t matter too much outside of this employer, but internally it’s prestigious and super helpful if I want to move beyond my current position (I’ve had a few other positions here but this is the one I’ve landed on for the indefinite future; still, it’s nice to know I could have options). I recognized last year that even though I was having a rough time of it, I was still more or less doing the pandemic on easy mode – no children, able to work from home full-time, no underlying conditions, enough room to have a private space to work in…. So I did my best to try and support my co-workers who weren’t so fortunate. Lots of work trying to make sure that our office stayed on keel even when some people weren’t able to do their best, and it was a really rough year (see: pandemic). But winning the award made me feel like my bosses actually saw what I did (they did – we talked about it!), and made me feel appreciated. So it was such a nice affirmation to get this award.

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