it’s your Friday good news

It’s your Friday good news!

1. I’ve been a long-time reader of your site, and an infrequent commenter because I’m spending my time reading your advice and what the commentariat have to say about it — I’m still fairly young and I’m autistic, so I’m aware that I’m at a disadvantage when it comes to sussing out work norms. To add to that, I fell into several opportunities that were less than ideal due to outside of work pressures — from graduating college mid-recession to family emergencies that have seen me moving into or out of five different states in the last six years. When I started reading your blog, referred by someone I knew from college, who I believe worked with you (!), I was caught off guard by how many other people don’t just know what to do or say in work situations, and how many other people struggle with applying/cover letters/resumes etc… especially if they are one or more standard deviations away from perfect privilege.

This latest family emergency saw me moving to a small town in a conservative state to live with my in-laws, where my wife and I are read as queer almost instantaneously and the job options are… not great. I found a job doing retail and while it was — just barely — paying the bills, it was both physically and mentally demanding to the point of being burnt out within months. Simultaneously, I’ve been working part-time on a passion project for a former (and now, again, current) boss of mine, so with her encouragement and your advice, I spent two days of my covid-mandated quarantine ripping apart my old resume and base cover letter and re-doing them to target the types of jobs I really want. I also did a ton of research about what types of experience I would need in order to set an actual career trajectory — I knew what parts of each job I had held I liked the most, but wasn’t sure how to translate that into a steadily progressing “career,” until I really dove into reading job descriptions, rejections, and the LinkedIn profiles for people selected for positions I wanted.

I also got better at interviewing, and did tons of practice with my core family unit. The upshot of all of this work is that I sent out a new round of resumes with highly tailored cover letters that let my personality and sense of humor shine while still specifically laying out the skills and experience I bring to the table, and I’m happy to report that I was offered and accepted a job doing the sort of work I had identified as necessary experience for an eventual career goal. I now work from home, have a set schedule, make double what I was making in retail, and end my day with energy to invest in my relationships. Plus, I’ve only been here six weeks and they’re already giving me minor projects that directly relate to what my eventual career goal is!

I know this letter is long, because I wanted you (and the commentariat, should you choose to publish this some Friday!) to know the context and how incredibly grateful I am not just to have this job but also to feel confident and safe navigating a workplace for the first time, literally, in my life.

2. It’s finally my turn to write in with my own good news! I’ve been a loyal daily reader of the site for years. I’ve tried unsuccessfully to find a new job several times over the past five years, but I finally landed a position I am so happy about. During those years, I struggled to figure out what I wanted and it showed in scattershot job searches that fizzled out after an interview or two. This time, however, I knew what I wanted, I knew what I didn’t want and I had a very targeted search. I applied to one job a week, and allowed myself to be very picky and only apply for jobs that sounded like what I wanted, at companies I felt like I could be excited about. I tailored all of my application materials using your guides. It only took me eight weeks to find a job. I applied for a total of 13 jobs.

I landed interviews with two companies. For both, I interviewed them back. I wanted to be sure I was getting a company with a healthy culture and in one interview it was pretty clear I wasn’t going to be happy there, even though the work sounded interesting. The other company was SO impressive. I interviewed twice and had an offer within a month of applying. Interviews happened within seven days of the first contact and I had the offer letter two full days ahead of when they said they expected offers to go out. Since I was interviewing for a project management role, the level of organization they displayed was reassuring and encouraging.

I’ve been here a little over one week and I am already SO much happier than I thought I could be. I had been at my previous employer for eight years and really liked the culture, so I wanted to find a company with similar values around culture and I absolutely found that. In my interviews, I asked questions about culture and made my own values clear. It’s even better than I thought it would be! I am so supported and there are very clear and reasonable expectations around ramp-up. I’m pretty much completely switching fields, from PMing in sales for llama grooming to PMing elephant care technology and I feel so great about the change.

3. Finally, I can be one of the success stories! I have written to you in the past about a bad boss (and your advice was just to get out) and I had been desperately trying to for years. This past year was rough to many people and I certainly did not want to complain about my job when others did not have a job or the security that I did. But I could feel myself disengaging and just not caring anymore, which was just dreadful because all along I knew that I cannot be good at something that I don’t care about.

The pandemic opened many more opportunities for remote work that were not ever an option before and allowed me to look in an adjacent industry that simply does not exist locally. But even with that, it took several months of relentlessly monitoring new job postings, applying and interviewing for me to finally get an offer. At that point, I could not read the Friday Good News posts anymore because, while wishing well to everyone, they’d make me feel even more disillusioned about my own continued unsuccessful quest. But it was all worth the wait and the agony: I am ecstatic about the new company, it’s mission and working with my new boss-to-be and the team. And on top of that, the pay and benefits package is incredible!

4. The Context: Before this happened, I had just gotten to the highest salary I’ve ever had. That was also my pay when I lost my job in 2014 because of health issues that I was not managing well which led to absenteeism and poor performance. That alone felt like a win to me after a period that involved slowly climbing back up from 1) unemployment to 2) minimum wage to 3) just-below-living-wage to 4) “Hey I can actually pay all my bills and maybe save a little for emergencies” to 5) “Hey I can actually feel comfortable financially!”

The Raise: In 2019 (!) I started talking with management about a raise and title change to reflect the fact that I was contributing at a much higher level than my position was intended for. Everyone agreed I was underpaid compared to my work but I work for a large, bureaucracy-laden company so that process started slowly. And then the Fire Nation attacked COVID hit. My industry was up-and-down but the uncertainty delayed my promotion, seeing as we were laying people off around when out-of-period pay adjustments were happening. As 2020 winded down I started the ball rolling again and, at long last, I got word about my raise!

A 20% raise, with 10% effective immediately and 10% effective Jan 1, 2022. It was split because 20% was too high for a single year raise per my N+4 manager who had to approve this because bureaucracy. I will also be getting a title change and will become eligible for the annual bonus to be paid in Q4.

I know there are some negatives in here related to the slow process and the raise being split up but with my history it has been a long way back and this just feels like a major milestone and win for me, beyond just the financial impact.

Update – I got the official title change and the bonus eligibility that goes with it! And my new manager is pushing for that 10% Jan 1 2022 raise to be effective earlier than that!

5. I’ve been an avid reader of AAM. Especially during the pandemic — once I realized that I wasn’t in love with my job, and also realized that life was too short to stick around if I couldn’t make major changes.

In Fall 2020, my mentor announced she was retiring — the organization she works for offered everyone a huge retirement incentive, and she and many others took them up on their offer. My mentor strongly encouraged me to apply to be her replacement. She officially retired in December. The job posting finally appeared this spring. I interviewed in June 2021 and received an offer just before the Independence Day holiday weekend.

The offer was roughly equivalent, salary wise, to what I am making at my current job. Their step assignment (related to education and years of experience) was X — two steps lower than I am placed on my current employer’s salary scale. So I decided I had nothing to lose and it was time to use the negotiation tactics I had been studying on the Ask a Manager site.

“Hello!” I said, “Thanks very much. I am so excited about the possibility of joining this team. Do you have any wiggle room on step assignment? At my current [similar] employer, I was brought in at a step [X+2] 3 years ago. They gave me credit for [specific relevant experiences gained during graduate school]”. I look forward to hearing from you soon.”

And then I waited. The waiting was excruciating, but at the same time I was excited. If the answer was a resounding “no,” they would have just said that outright, wouldn’t they?

The following day right at 4pm, I received a follow up email from my HR contact. “Hello [Name]: We have reassessed the offer and have agreed to consider your [graduate school] experience. Therefore, the new salary would be: $XX,XXX annually, Step [X+4] level. We look forward to welcoming you to [organization].”

Alison, there was more than $10k difference between the two offers, and it is a 15% raise for me. My first successful job offer negotiation! I accepted immediately, and I will start my new position in August.

{ 41 comments… read them below }

  1. CustomerS3rvic3*

    Congrats to all, great updates. Thanks for posting this Allison, it keeps me motivated.

  2. Respectfully, Pumat Sol*

    I am LW 2 and happy to report that two months into the job I am still very happy. The shine has worn off a bit, and I am starting to see some of the quirks of the company, but there are no red or yellow flags and they are just as organized as I had hoped. I am settling into my role and have gotten good feedback from my team and boss already.

    1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

      The honeymoon period has ended. It’s the same for everyone! Congrats :)

    2. Sara without an H*

      Every organization staffed by humans has quirks. If your organization’s funny little ways are things you can live with, great!

      Congratulations, and I hope it works out well long-term.

    3. Cookies For Breakfast*

      Congratulations! I found your story very encouraging.

      Could I ask what interview questions about culture you found worked for you? I’m job hunting and still not sure I’ve got my questions right. Most interviews I’ve had were 30 – 45 minutes online meetings, and I always feel I need to know more than I can actually fit in the time employers save for candidate questions – barely enough time to ask about the role and its goals.

      1. Respectfully, Pumat Sol*

        I asked how success was measured, and what happened if people fell short of goals. I asked about PTO and how often people took more than a couple days in a row off. I asked about working outside of the expected 40 hrs and how often that happened. I also asked how they handled COVID and what their response was, because it told me a lot about how they value people. I explained that I was coming from a place with a pretty tight knit team that cared a lot about each other as people, and that was something I was hoping to find in my new role. The job I accepted was pretty clear that they have fun and are supportive, but it’s not an overbearing, happy hours all the time kind of place (which is great for me).

  3. Moving on to better things*

    Adding my own: Gave my notice on Monday of this week, leaving an environment that’s both toxic and underpaid for on that’s hopefully not toxic (and doesn’t seem that way, at least) and definitely not underpaid.

    1. Whynot*

      Hoorah! And remember the cardinal rule of someone who’s handed in their notice and has another job lined up: “what’s the worst they can do, fire me?” Take a long lunch, leave at quitting time, and respond to any toxicity with a blank stare and a cheerful wave as you leave them behind.

  4. Momma Bear*

    Since steps are even harder to wiggle out of than base pay, I’m especially happy to hear that LW #5 got them to reconsider the step and put LW off to a better start.

    1. Katefish*

      I love the good news Fridays! And LW1 and LW4, I particularly loved your turns of phrase about “standard deviations of privilege” and “and then the Fire Nation attacked.” Congrats to all!

  5. Duck*

    Can someone please explain what this phrase from letter 1 means?
    “one or more standard deviations away from perfect privilege”

    1. Sloan Kittering*

      I’m not positive how standard deviation comes into it – never was great at statistics – but I would guess “perfect privilege” would go to someone who is not affected by sexism, ageism, racism, classism, ableism or homophobia, (and probably also is considered attractive?). So a neurotypical straight white male from an upper-middle class background of middle age might be considered the most privileged in the workplace; a neurotypical white male from a middle class background who is, say, gay, would have one degree less of privilege. There are intersecting issues that make the workplace more challenging for someone who may be nonwhite and also disabled, or any other combination of factors, that I think are being called “standard deviations” here.

    2. Purple Cat*

      This is totally open to interpretation and delves into stereotypes.
      In the context of this letter, it seems “perfect privilege” would apply to a neurotypical middle-class cishet white male. With the LW not checking off many of those boxes.

    3. Murfle*

      “Standard deviation” is a statistical concept that, broadly stated, refers to how far away a data point or value is from the average/mean value in the data set. In this context, basically, it’s “how different a person is from the assumed norm.”

      And privilege refers to social/individual privilege. LW1 in this case is young, neurodivergent, and hasn’t had much of a chance to build roots in a single location – all of which have affected their ability to learn and apply workplace norms to their benefit.

      Plain language: LW1 had the deck stacked against them, and Alison’s advice went a long way towards LW’s current success despite those issues.

    4. Save the Hellbender*

      In stats, (and bear with me it’s been a minute), the standard deviation is the average distance of all the datapoints from the mean. So like IQ, the mean is 100, the standard deviation is 15. This is then a number used to kind split up the data – if you see a curve representing IQ, there are big chunks in it, representing intervals away from “normal”, and those intervals are standard deviations along the x axis. 85-115 being the normal-esque set, 70-85 being just below normal (I know IQ is BS)
      So I’m imagining if privilege is on a scale of 1-5, 5 being perfect privilege, the average person is a 3, the standard deviation is like .5, the letter writer is a 4 or 4.5 on the privilege scale??

    5. JanetM*

      I would interpret that as meaning, “the farther away someone is from ‘perfect privilege’ the harder things are for them.” And I would interpret “perfect privilege” as “white, male, middle class, neurotypical, no disabilities, educated, and physically attractive.”

      “Standard deviation” is a statistical measure of how much a dataset varies: a dataset of {1, 1, 2} will have a smaller standard deviation than a dataset of {1, 3, 100}. If a dataset forms a perfect bell curve, about 67% of the values will be found within one standard deviation from the mean, and about 95% will be found within two standard deviations from the mean.

    6. ActuallyAutistic*

      I’m OP1. I use that phrase to refer to people who are not typically advantaged–people who are (like me) physically disabled, neurodivergent, queer, etc or (not like me) a person of color, a re-entering citizen, an immigrant, someone who speaks English as a second language, etc.

      Basically anyone who is not white, straight, cis, male, advantaged by education, etc

        1. Working Hypothesis*

          I did too! I’m going to start using that as a way of describing those of us with some assortment of reasons why we’re not 100% the default that out society has been trained to expect and account for.

          Congratulations on the job!

    7. Nerdy*

      One standard deviation includes 68% of the population, so someone who is within a standard deviation of perfect privilege is the 68% that are male and/or white and/or wealthy and/or whatever is privilege in your area.

      I use standard deviation in a similarly vague way when I talk about quirky behaviors. Unlike heights and incomes, we can’t easily define an ‘average’ normal person, but we definitely know when someone is a few standard deviations away!

  6. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

    #4, your letter just speaks to me! I also went from highest salary to having to build from the ground up, I feel this!

    1. LW#4*

      It’s nice to have someone else in that place! I was hoping my good news my help give some strength to people going through the same – it IS possible to rebuild after a setback. It may take some years but it is possible. As part of my “comeback” I have been lucky to be in positions where hard, conscientious work has been rewarded.

      1. Tipcat*

        Congrats. Also, what does “N+4 manager” mean? Is that your great-great-grand boss? That is serious bureaucracy!

  7. Chauncy Gardener*

    I just love Fridays! It’s so great to hear everyone’s success stories. Congrats to all!

  8. Lily Rowan*

    Congrats to all! Love good news on a Friday!

    #1, I also wanted to say — I wouldn’t worry too much about “A Career Path.” I think if you continue to do work you like and are good at, and seek new opportunities as it makes sense, you’ll be able to look back and see a career, but most fields don’t have a straight line to follow. You are doing great!

    1. ActuallyAutistic*

      Thank you! I just want to keep making enough to care for my family and be reasonably interested in/excited about going to work every day

  9. Bookworm*

    Thanks as always to the LWs! Also for #1: I enjoyed reading the context. Therese are often journeys and I appreciated that you shared yours. :)

  10. Working Hypothesis*

    Cheers to all the happy LWs… and especially to #4 for the ‘Avatar: the Last Airbender’ reference! I wouldn’t have picked that up if my teenagers hadn’t been getting me into that recently. ;)

  11. I take tea*

    Well done 4! Negotiating is really scary. I was very proud of myself once. I had done a lot of things outside my main work, because I was interested and wanted to expand. I got officially offered those things (and some others) as part of my work. I remember taking a deep breath and saying “yes, but not at this salary and not with this title”. Turned out they were “of course” offering me both a better salary than I would have dared ask for and a nice title, but I still remember the nervous and exhilarating feeling of asking for more.

  12. B Wayne*

    Saved the Updates until the weekend to stretch out AAM over the entire week. Updates continues to be one of the better things to come from COVID work/employment situations and I hope they continue post recovery.

Comments are closed.