open thread – August 20-21, 2021

It’s the Friday open thread! The comment section on this post is open for discussion with other readers on anything work-related that you want to talk about (that includes school). If you want an answer from me, emailing me is still your best bet*, but this is a chance to talk to other readers.

* If you submitted a question to me recently, please do not repost it here, as it may be in my queue to answer.

{ 1,018 comments… read them below }

  1. Anongineer*

    I need help changing my mindset when it comes to jobs and career progression.

    I’m about 8 years into my career, and am applying for my 4th job (this is acceptable in my field / govt job). But I’m noticing that the jobs I’m drawn to now are farther away from what I thought I would be doing at this point in my career. I started as a roadway engineer, took on different design areas and am currently a PM that manages all types of civil / arch projects. However, the job that I’m most excited about is a PM role that is mostly facility focused, with little overlap to roadway engineering (if at all).

    I feel… almost guilty that I’m not using my degree and experience in the way that I had originally mapped out way back when. Has anyone else experienced this? Do you have any advice on how to shift my mindset?

    *another item is that my original career path is near impossible to work international with, vs this new job allows for a lot of international travel (after COVID) that I’ve always wanted.

    **another concern is if I deviate too far that I won’t be able to get back to my original path if I ever wanted to.

    1. Colette*

      It’s really, really common to change paths. Really common. Personally, I’m in a job that didn’t exist when I finished school. You’re not wasting your degree and experience – they’re what led you to where you are now.

      1. ThatGirl*

        Yes. I was sure I wanted to work in journalism, from freshman year of high school on. And I did – for four years I was a page designer and copy editor. And then I got fired and discovered a whole new career path I didn’t even realize I would be good at – and honestly I’m probably a way better content manager and copywriter than I ever was at page designing!

        1. Colette*

          And there are so many jobs that you don’t hear about until you’re actually in the work force!

          1. Fran Fine*

            This. I always knew I wanted to be a writer when I grew up, I majored in journalism in college, but then I ended up stumbling into insurance/discovering risk management careers and thought, “Why in the world did no one ever tell me this was a thing?!” If I could do everything over again, I would have gone to a school that had a degree program in risk management and would have pursued those careers.

            I’m back in the communications world now, though, and am happy (for now). But I always think about what might have been had I stuck with the risk management path.

        2. Fact & Fiction*

          I can relate to this. I came in a very roundabout backwards route to content management and digital copywriting, but I absolutely love it and am extremely good at it.

          It’s definitely okay to deviate from your original course. Most of us haven’t fully discovered ourselves in college! And some things you won’t know whether you want to do for years and years until you actually start doing them.

    2. Dust Bunny*

      I mean, that last **point is a risk with ALL job paths. If I wanted to go back to being a veterinary assistant I’d have to re-learn everything since I haven’t done it in years now. There’s only one of you–you can only do one path at a time. But if you like where you’re going apart from the unease about not using your original degree, maybe that doesn’t matter.

      Life is too short: If you like what you’re doing and can make a (satisfactory to you) living at it, don’t sweat it.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        I do happen to work in my degree field but it’s almost by accident–the job only required that I have a bachelor’s, but it didn’t technically care in what. So I could be doing this even if it were in something else.

    3. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I was reading something earlier that says making us pick majors and career paths at 17 is akin to those extreme home makeover shows where a kid is like “I guess I like elephants” and their room gets transformed into a wildlife safari.

      It’s so normal to grow, and learn things about the world and yourself, and change your mind. We never end up where we thought we’d go. You’re fine. Do what you want not what you think you’re supposed to.

      1. alwaysonefootoutthedoor*

        This is why I didn’t go to college, and I still ended up in a decent job alongside people with advanced degrees. There was no way I could lock myself into a career when I hadn’t even held a job other than babysitting yet. I enjoyed decades of honing a particular skill set that I’ve used in all manner of industries and that will see me to retirement.
        High school me made the right choice, little did I know it.

    4. Juniper*

      A little more info needed: what is facility design? Does it have anything to do with civil engineering?

      1. Anongineer*

        So the job isn’t facility design per se, it’s more management of the design of various facilities. In engineering terms, that can mean traditional buildings (offices, warehouses, embassies) as well as non traditional spaces. I overall have less experience with buildings so I’m nervous about leaving the ground design that I’m more familiar with to go vertical, though it will most likely include the horizontal element I’m more familiar with.

        I’m not sure if that made it clearer or more muddled haha. Basically I can learn it but it is farther away from my comfort zone.

        1. Juniper*

          Thanks for clearing that up! And absolutely it does. Honestly, this sounds like a natural progression in the project management world that is more an indication of your growing skills handling increasingly complicated projects than an indictment of your interest in roadway design. I used to work at an engineering consulting company, and our best project managers weren’t necessarily leading projects that they had specialized in way back when. I will say though that after focusing on a specialty for a number of years, it would be unusual to switch completely out of the discipline (so someone with 15 years of project managing new hospital buildings could take on an airport terminal, say, but not a highway or bridge project). For that reason, you may want to think about what this transition would mean if you do want to work with roads again, but you wouldn’t be working with their geometric design anyway at that point. It sounds like you’re really excited about this prospect, so I would look at your roads engineering experience as serving as an important bedrock for an increasingly specialized and advanced career trajectory.

          1. Anongineer*

            Oh good, glad it wasn’t too muddy. I’m currently in a PM role where I manage civil site projects with a hint of roadway so I still feel like it’s useful, but I guess the further I want to go the more I have to accept that career goals change. Thank you for your insight!

          2. Anongineer*

            Oh good, glad it wasn’t too muddy. I’m currently in a PM role where I manage civil site projects with a hint of roadway so I still feel like it’s useful, but I guess the further I want to go the more I have to accept that my design focus/path will change. Thank you for your advice!

        2. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Thinking of a crowded shopping mall at Christmas time, I can certainly see a place for improvement on human traffic patterns. Other than speed of travel, traffic flow is traffic flow whether it’s human or vehicles.
          It sounds like a natural outgrowth to me.

    5. Respectfully, Pumat Sol*

      It’s super common to shift over time. Think of it this way – when you set out on your original path you had less information than you do now. Over time you’ve learned more about the industry, about yourself and what you do and do not like. It’s logical to adjust plans as new information comes to light.
      I went to school for journalism, pivoted into PR, graduated into a marketing job and am now in tech project management. Somedays I feel wistful for that journalist I thought I’d be – but then I look at the journalism job market and thank my lucky stars I am not in that industry anymore.

    6. Parcae*

      Since you say you’re excited about your new job opportunities, I’d try to cultivate gratitude towards your old field/degree. It did what it was supposed to do; it started you on the path of a rewarding career. That’s a win!

      It’s the Marie Kondo approach to jobseeking: if your old career no longer sparks joy, thank it for what it’s done for you and let it go.

    7. J.B.*

      Most people who wind up in a PM role can’t really go back to the technical work they did before. If you want to continue PM go for it, if not don’t.

    8. Anhaga*

      I get feeling guilty about not using your degree! I have a BA in English, an MA in English, and finished all of my PhD except the actual fully written dissertation. Now, about 10 years after I officially quit working on my dissertation, I am in a field so different that if I’d aimed for it from the start, I would have gotten a completely different bachelor’s degree and probably never gone to graduate school. I likely also would *not* be in the position I’m in now, which requires all sorts of skills from my actual degree path and work in higher ed, but otherwise has nothing to do with higher ed. For me, looking at the whole tangled path in terms of how I learned these skills and how following the skills I enjoy using led me to this point helps me to not feel guilty about any of it. So forget the degree itself . . . what about the skills you picked up from it? How are those embedded in your new path, and would this path ever have been possible if you hadn’t started out pointed in what seems like a completely different direction?

    9. Albeira Dawn*

      Oh, I’m a civil engineer too! This is going to sound completely unrelated, but have you read any of Marie Kondo’s work? It’s about getting rid of clutter, but she specifically lays out a process for getting rid of things. You take it into your hands, thank it for its service or whatever it taught you (“Thank you for letting me wear you each day.” “Thank you for teaching me I don’t like V-necks.”) and then discard it.
      I’ve tried to take a similar mindset to academic and now professional stuff — after an internship I didn’t really enjoy, I thought to myself, “I’m glad I experienced it so I know for sure I don’t want to work in agriculture.” After a class I struggled through and barely passed, “I appreciate that it’s over, and that I learned new ways to study difficult material.”

      In your shoes, I’d probably try to think “I’m glad I took the time to envision what my future would look like back when I got my degree. It’s allowed me to compare opportunities and decide which feels more right.”

      1. Anongineer*

        It’s interesting Marie Kondo is coming up so much in the comments, I never thought to apply her teachings to career goals (side note: very excited for her new show coming soon!).

        I guess it is good to look back at my old jobs and think of the positive ways they’ve led me to where I am – very similar to building blocks.

      2. Seven If You Count Bad John*

        My grandmother told me when my uncle was young and starting to work, he’d come home and say “Well mom, I’ve found something else I don’t want to do for the rest of my life” :D It’s valuable information!

    10. Meg*

      I’m not working in my degree field. I’m working in a job/field I didn’t even know existed when I was in college, and I love it. And when I look at the jobs that are in the field I studied, I don’t want any of them. They don’t excite me, and frankly they don’t play to my strengths in the way my current job does. I wouldn’t say you’re not using your degree, you’re probably building on things you’ve learned to get to a job you’re excited about. That’s great! Don’t hold yourself to something you mapped out a decade ago when you’ve found something else that you found along the way.

    11. OtterB*

      There’s a lot of overlap between engineering disciplines. My husband has an undergrad degree in chemical engineering and a masters in mechanical engineering and is currently working as a PM for facilities maintenance projects, closer to civil engineering than he ever expected to be and doing a lot with HVAC which was not his area of mechanical engineering at all. If you like your organization and your boss and are learning new things and setting yourself up for further career moves then I would say you are fine.

    12. Free Meerkats*

      There’s a proverb attributed to many people and cultures, “Man plans and God laughs.” I don’t know anyone who is on the path they mapped out when they were in school. Lard knows I’m not.

    13. RagingADHD*

      It is unreasonable to expect 20-year-old you to accurately predict what 30-year-old you will want to do, or the future opportunities that would present themselves. You were not psychic.

      Teenage/20-something-you did a great job getting you started in useful interesting work that would lead to bigger and better opportunities down the line. That was the entirety of their responsibility, and they apparently nailed it.

      It is a fantastic thing to be able to choose from multiple good career options and focus on what excites you and that you like best. You absolutely should not feel guilty for pursuing what you like. It is your reward for all the study and hard work you must have put in to get that degree and those prior jobs.

      Younger you gave present you a wonderful gift. Not a loan, a gift. It would be a pity if you didn’t enjoy it.

      1. Tinker*

        Ooo, and to extend on this:

        Your younger self had the power to make decisions in their life… when you were younger. You are not that age anymore, and to an extent your younger self is a similar person to you rather than the same person as you. The person who owns the power to make decisions in your life now is you, not any other person even if they are very similar to you and possibly made of some of the same parts.

        While you are allowed to delegate that power to other people (inclusive of your younger self) if you care to, THAT is a loan and not a gift — if they continue to have that power, it’s by your consent and you can withdraw consent for any reason inclusive of pure caprice. And additionally, there probably are good reasons why you don’t want your teenage self running the show anymore.

        Me being the spoopy sort, I imagined a ritual confrontation with my younger self where I spoke to them with respect regarding the decisions that they made in their time for the reasons they had at the time, and also told them that the power they had in my life now was at my discretion, that I now choose for me to have it rather than them, and “that belongs to me and I want it back”.

        I suspect the exact technique here varies a lot from individual to individual — that particular form of it is something that typically works strikingly well for me, but other people probably want to do different things. The point here, I suppose, is a fair bit like that Marie Kondo thing others are talking about — to have a moment of being polite and appropriately grateful and also firm about what you’re now choosing to do, in a way that makes the decision feel comfortably resolved and closed.

    14. EnfysNest*

      I absolutely get this feeling! I’m in a facility focused PM role myself and I actually want out and to do something else, but it’s hard both to find something that doesn’t list a requirement for experience in exactly that type of position (despite the extensive overlap in experience, I’ve been quickly rejected for facility safety positions or my identical job in a slightly different field) and it’s so frustrating. I often feel like my only option is to drop back to an entry-level job, which I’ll do if I have to because I really need to move, but it’s definitely hard to remind myself that my interest in changing specialties now doesn’t mean that I made a *mistake* in choosing this job 8 years ago or my degree before that. I’m trying to convince myself this wasn’t a waste, but it’s hard when it doesn’t seem to be helpful so far in my job search in trying to find something new…

      1. Fact & Fiction*

        I just have to ask in case this helps: Are you making the clear case in your cover letter for why the experience you DO have is directly translatable to what you’re trying to move into doing? If it’s not, try your hand at that. I’ve been job-searching since being laid off a job I took a leap of faith on in January (after they actively pursued me when I already had a job for several years where I was happy and reassured me I had nothing to worry despite it being the middle of a pandemic. After only three months at the new job. Ouch!), so I can fully relate to how difficult it can be.
        Good luck!!!

        1. Fran Fine*

          Oh, that suuuuucks. I hope you both find something better and more fitting for your particular strengths soon.

    15. cubone*

      Not to get super psychotherapy here, but if you’ve ever done CBT thought records, one of the questions you ask about the “thought” is “what would be the worst thing about this?”. My therapist phrased it as “what would this say about me if it were true?”. I’ve always found this to be the most helpful question when I’m weighing something and feeling disappointed in myself, but can’t quite articulate why.

      So, I guess my question to this: “I feel… almost guilty that I’m not using my degree and experience in the way that I had originally mapped out way back when” is:
      What would be the worst thing about not using your degree in the way you mapped out previously? What do you think it says about you if you take a different path than you planned? What do you think it means when other people veer off their original path – do you think they do/should feel guilty? (note: if there is a difference between how you perceive YOU making this choice vs other people making this choice…. ding, pay attention to that!).

      From my perspective/experience: I have always been someone who hates long term plans and loves learning new things (will drop a recommendation here for Barbra Sher’s work on “scanners”, which was life changing). So, I’ve never really had a mindset that sticking to one path anyways. But I’ve noticed over time that a lot of people respond to this quite negatively and fearfully. I posted last week about switching career paths (thank you to everyone who gave me great ideas!) and I’ve also been talking to some friends about it too.

      I will say something like: “I’m not super happy in this role. I miss jobs where I did Y and was super happy. So I think I might look into transitioning into those types of roles” [those types of roles = less pay and less “title” than I have no]
      Some of my friends’ response: “what if you regret it? I want you to be happy, I just don’t want you to lose all that you’ve gained in your career”.
      It is so genuinely fascinating to me that I can say “X is making me kinda sad and Y made me happy” and the concern is “but you might regret losing X”. Is that a greater risk than staying with X forever, which I literally know is making me unhappy NOW? It’s like the fear of a hypothetical future of regret is more important than current suffering. Sunken cost fallacy and all that, I guess.

      Getting super off topic here but my point ultimately is to say: it sounds like you know what interests you now and that, in my books, is a win. You only got to this point because of everything you’ve done so far, so I’d say you’re using your experience. It’s just not what you thought it would look like.

    16. A Simple Narwhal*

      It is sooo common! You are forced to pick a major with almost no real idea of what a career in that field would actually look like – it makes perfect sense that as you get real world experience and discover what you actually like to do that you would drift away from the generic-ness of your original major. As long as you’re drifting in a direction you actually want to go in (and it sounds like you are!), you’re doing great.

    17. HigherEdAdminista*

      I think a great thing to do is to remind yourself that as you grow, your priorities might change. When I was still in College, I didn’t think much about anything besides the topics that interested me when selecting a major; I certainly didn’t plan on working in higher education myself. I figured I would want a job doing something I liked, and so it made sense to focus on the topics that interested me.

      However, I also found I wanted a career that was better paid, and with some element of stability and predictability. That is what I get from my current career. I enjoy the work and the environment too, but really I prioritized a higher standard of living and more security, because I want to be comfortable in my out of work hours. When I was working in my previous career, I had very little money for travel or even for a lot of adulting. My quality of life was what was really important to me.

      It sounds to me like you enjoy your current work and that this opportunity could lead you to a career with international travel, and that might be more important to your quality of life than sticking with roadway engineering. Since you worked in this area before, I don’t think it would be impossible to return to it if you found out this position isn’t what you wanted, but it really just sounds like your vision of life has evolved as you have grown, and that’s really the ideal thing to have happen.

    18. TiffIf*

      It is really really common for people to end up in different industries or focus than their degree is in! It is not a bad thing. Sometimes your needs and desires change, sometimes the job market changes. Sometimes what you study in school doesn’t turn itself into a job in the real world. It is fine!

      I got a BA in Linguistics with minors in Political Science and Editing. You can’t really do a whole lot with an undergrad degree in Linguistics! To really get into Linguistics you need at least a Masters if not a PhD and much more specialization. I ended up as a Software Quality Assurance Analyst—which has mostly absolutely nothing to do with my degree. QA is a weird duck–in my company you aren’t required to have the ability to code (some QA roles are more technical) but what you do need in spades is critical thinking and analysis skills and the ability to troubleshoot an issue and think through the potential consequences of new changes. That QA mindset can be found in a lot of different places! On my team, besides my Linguistics degree, we have people with degrees in Digital Media, International Studies, Mathematics, and Biology.

    19. higheredrefugee*

      Also, consider that you interview employers as much as they’re interviewing you. Through that process, you’ve flexed on your education and experience into a deviation from the original plan based on not only availability but also your interests.

      That said, yes, you may not fully ever be able to get back to your original path fully, but if want to, you can relearn pieces or end up managing it again, though maybe not executing it daily, in the future. Very common with engineering and some hard sciences. But if you decide you want to do that, you learned it once, you can do that again. As an engineer, you do that already in looking stuff up or trying to fix problems or know which regs and standards to apply, etc.

      I say this as a lawyer who didn’t practice for more than 10 years, and figured out my way back in. We all figure it out as we go anyway!

    20. AnonEMoose*

      A saying I’ve heard is “Life is what happens while you have other plans.” It’s so, so common for your career path to look nothing like you thought it would, and there are so many reasons for this. From not being able to find a job in your field to finding out your intended field wasn’t what you thought, to finding out you simply prefer to be doing something else and being able to do that instead. None of it is anything to feel guilty about, it’s just life!

      I know way more people who are doing nothing to do with their actual degree than people who are. And the people who are, are mostly in a specialized type of field that requires that specific degree. I personally am one of the “not particularly related to my degree” folks. Or, well…sort of. But in my case, the job came first and the actually related degree came later. Life is way more complicated than people tell you when you’re growing up.

    21. Smaller potatoes*

      Fellow engineer here and at my 20th reunion hardly any of my classmates were doing actual engineering. Heck, many ended up working in finance and never took a real engineering position at all.

    22. Snow Globe*

      A slightly different perspective- I am someone who has spent 30+ years in the same industry that matches my degree. But I realized that after a few years, very little of the knowledge that I needed to do my job came from what I learned in college. Most of what I need to know is what I learned on the job, from coworkers, managers, or just doing the work. I think in many cases what we learn in school is just a baseline to get started in your career; it’s not very useful 10 years down the road, even if you were to stay in that career. So, changing career paths isn’t really wasting what you learned in school; time and experience will push that knowledge down in importance no matter what.

    23. Beth*

      At my ten-year college reunion, I was the only person with my (specific, targeted, professional) degree working in that field — everyone else had gone into a related or unrelated field, some farther away than others.

      In my 40s, I made complete career jump myself. My degree was absolutely not wasted, though! The most important thing I learned with my degree was how to Get Things Done So the Thing Can Proceed. My degree studies and practicum and hard work are part of who I am now, even though I’m not doing anything like what I thought I would do; in fact, one of the recognized qualities of that type of degree is the extent that it prepares you for handling wild changes and unexpected shifts in demands.

      I really doubt that I could get back to my original path, but I’ve never wanted to. The reasons I moved off of it were and are still very good, and I love what I’m doing (most days, anyway).

      Don’t martyr yourself to the vision you had when you were younger and less experienced. You know much more about yourself, and about the professional terrain, than the younger You who made that map.

    24. I'm A Little Teapot*

      I’m going to assign some random ages here. Input your actual age.

      You picked your major somewhere around 18-20 years old.
      You picked your field somewhere around 21-22 years old.
      You’re now 8 years in, pushing 30.

      Do you have the same interests as you did when you were 18 or 21? Do you wear the same clothes? Have the same friends? Think exactly the same? Have you learned more about yourself in the past 10 years?

      You have grown, and matured, and changed. Which means that what you thought you would want to do when you were 18 isn’t necessarily what you actually want to do. This is normal.

    25. Cascadia*

      When I was concerned about this, I just repeated this quote to myself: “There was another life that I might have had, but I am having this one.” – Kazuo Ishiguro

    26. Not So NewReader*

      This is something I find unsettling about degrees: I can only conclude that degrees are to help us launch then after that degrees have very little meaning. I try to avoid such articles now, but for quite a while, I kept finding articles that said our degrees are stale by the time we reach our junior year. So we haven’t even gotten the degree yet and it’s antiquated. wth. That’s a lotta bucks for something that is supposedly old and useless.

      I had heard all my life that I needed a degree to get a good job. Just my opinion, but a degree gets us started on a course that we would not have found accessible without the degree.

      Taking it off the degree for a moment. what would you say to a friend who became a heart surgeon because their parents told them they had to?
      BS! Right?
      Same deal here, take out the word parents and put in “piece of paper called a diploma”. Whose going to dictate your life? You? or A piece of paper with some words on it?

      Here’s a few things to serious look at:
      Do you have steady work- past, present and future?
      Do you like the work? (ignore the diploma part of this question and focus on JUST the work itself)
      Can you sustainably support yourself if you continue on this path?
      Are you naturally good at the work? (Yes this matters!)
      Do you go home at night and often think to yourself that your contribution matters? (this is a bfd, don’t skate by it)
      Do you like how your life looks right now?
      Do you like the direction in life (ignore the diploma) you seem to be going?

      Last thought. There is no wrong answer to your dilemma as posted here. If you are set on finding something “wrong”, you probably will only find vague illusions and no hard facts. This can work into one of those mind-teasing questions that rob us of our joy and take away our ability to enjoy life as it unfolds. Decide to set this question down and walk away. If you can see yourself doing this for the next 5-10 years you have a lot more going right for you than many other people do. Don’t take this gift for granted.

      1. tamarack and fireweed*

        Well, the *degrees* have little deep meaning, other than the piece of paper (which should not be underestimated, the world being what it is), but the work we did to get them actually does. All the studying and synthesizing and analyzing and arguing (depending on the field of study) trained our understanding of how we … know stuff. You can’t just teach this in a wishy-washy high-level way – you teach it by deeply teaching a subject.

        In the end the subject taught has very little significance in itself, other than being a stepping stone: you put students through higher calculus because otherwise they are unable to *actually* understand the equations that govern, say, how materials flow in a course of fluid mechanics; you put them through the course in fluid mechanics because otherwise they don’t know enough about how to build waterway maintenance systems; you teach them how to build waterway maintenance systems to enable them to slot into an internship in an engineering firm. If after a few years they are managing a portfolio of projects in a company that does nothing with waterways, that’s *fine*.

        I get very annoyed with people who argue we should stop teaching calculus because after all the PM in her career 10 years down the road doesn’t need to know any more how to solve the Navier-Stokes equation, or even all its terms. But reality *still* is described by it, and I want the PM to know that the engineer uses software that was written by an software engineer who was implementing solutions to that old chestnut of an equation the engineer, and maybe the PM, learned about as a college junior. (This doesn’t contradict the fact that we should review curricula, not use “hard” classes to weed out students etc..)

    27. Slipping The Leash*

      My degree is in Spanish Literature and I’ve been working in an offshoot of the financial industry for 20 years. Go for it!

    28. Janet*

      Your roadway background contributes quite a lot to facility design! You still have to know the soil you’re building on, etc. And many experienced engineers end up in project management.
      Go for it!

    29. tamarack and fireweed*

      Your degree still prepared you for this career. It is extremely common, with time and maturation, to integrate ones background into an entirely new career shape. The intellectual and practical skills you developed while wrestling with the material you learned during your engineering degree are now coalescing with your personal leanings and real-life opportunities in novel ways – and that’s a perfectly fine use to make of them. It’s not all, dunno (not being a roadway engineer), road bed material choice tradeoffs or whatever.

      (This is, by the way, much more accepted in other countries.)

    30. Student*

      This is like feeling guilty because a mapping program found a faster route between your home and the roller coaster park, after you’ve been driving a different route every summer for 10 years that you learned before car GPS were a thing.

      When you started roadway engineering, you had no idea what most of the career paths in your field were like. You probably didn’t even know many of those careers existed at all – but you knew that people designed and build roads. You grabbed onto what you first recognized and understood. If you heard of Project Management in engineering school at all, I bet it was as a business buzzword, with no meaningful engagement.

      Then you learned more, by doing work in your field and interacting with others. You tried out things you’d never heard of in school. You developed new skills! You kept learning. You moved forward. You figured out what you liked and didn’t like.

      Now you have a much better, fuller map of your career field than the first map you were handed in college. That first map was a cartoony, over-simplified brochure version – think the Candy Land board game, or tourist brochures – to get you interested and get you started. Now, you’ve drawn for yourself a much more detailed map of your field – like the Risk board game, or those really good road maps with all the side roads – with spots on it that didn’t show up at all on that first version.

      You didn’t get to the Candy Land finish square. But that’s because you found out that the Candy Land finish square was not the best or only option, the way it was presented to you originally.

    31. Ranon*

      You’ve talked a lot about the things differences between facilities and roadway, but I’d also think about the people differences between roadway and facilities, and which one you’re more drawn to. People have a very different variety of feelings and opinions about the places they inhabit versus the roads they drive on and it’s definitely going to change the types and flavors of working relationships you’ll have in one role versus the other.

  2. Foreign Octopus*

    I hope this is the right place to post this but I’ve been going through the archives again (as I’m wont to do every now and then) and I wanted to say thank you again to Elizabeth West. Having the updates linked at the end of letters with them makes it so much easier to read and it’s such a smooth experience now. It’s been really great and I’ve properly fallen down the rabbit hole of AAM this week!

    1. SarahKay*

      I was just thinking that earlier this week, when one of the “You may also like” links caught my eye. I read the link, moved onto the comments, and then suddenly remembered Elizabeth West’s sterling work adding update links and scrolled back to the top of the comments where I was overjoyed to discover that there was, indeed, an update.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      Aww, thanks! I had fun doing it; I forgot about some older WTF letters that were a joy to re-read.

      And btw, Alison is fantastic to work for. I hope my next boss is as good. If I ever have one, that is. I’m starting to wonder if maybe I should rewrite my LinkedIn summary to read like Prancer’s adoption page!

  3. Paralegal Part Deux*

    Any words to convince TPTB to hire a second paralegal? We’re in need of a second one since I can’t keep up the workload on my own, and I need some words of wisdom to get them to see the need. I’ve tried before but with little success.

    1. Colette*

      All you can do is be clear about what you can and can’t do, and then let the stuff you can’t do drop. It’s up to them how they handle that.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Yeah, you’re often more likely to get them to go along if you explain the problem and let them come up with the (obvious) solution. Sometimes when you propose a solution, unless you’re a trusted expert in that area, people will try to find their own solution even if it’s not as efficient as yours.

      2. Mephyle*

        That’s the flip side of “Don’t come to me with a problem unless you also bring the solution,” especially annoying when you’re not the one with the skills and/or authority to propose a solution. (Which isn’t the case here.)

        Sometimes you don’t know which side of the record (vinyl record reference here) is playing until you put on the wrong one.

      3. Paralegal Part Deux*

        I have been letting things drop, but it seems to fall on deaf ears when I tell them why. I like the guys I works for, mostly, except for this. I’d be happy with a file clerk or someone to answer the phones. Other than the office manager, I’m it for three attorneys, and they don’t seem to get I can’t do everything in the office. Their solution has been for me to come in on the weekends. I’m tired of that. So, I put my foot down, and the filing is stacking up to unseen proportions. I just don’t have time to deal with it.

    2. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      Is the firm leaving money on the table because of this? Unable to land a retainer, having to call in expensive 3rd party litigation support all the time, etc?

      Partners respond to dollars.

    3. Eco-Logical*

      I had great success with an old company by saying the following every time I was asked to do something which made my workload unmanageable: ‘yes of course, but you’ll need to negotiate X deadline with Y person.’

      Three months of that and we hired a second person.

      Everyone else at my level was horrified – they couldn’t believe I was saying no to management. Except I wasn’t! I was saying yes every time and then making the deadlines their problem. It’s amazing how fast that gets stuff sorted.

      1. Jane of all Trades*

        Totally agree with this strategy – delivery is key! I would phrase it along the lines of “I’m happy to take this on! Based on the projects I have lined up I expect to be able to get to this by Friday. I currently have task 1 from partner A, task 2 from partner B, and task 3 from partner C on my to-do list before I can get to your task. Please let me know if your item takes priority and if I should reach out to partners A,B and C to let them know.”

        1. Paralegal Part Deux*

          I’ve tried that, but it’s like talking to a brick wall. They’re all too understanding, if that’s possible. The business attorney’s stuff is falling by the wayside, but he’s so laidback that he just lets it slide. It’s making me more anxious than him.

          1. Eco-Logical*

            The thing with words is you have to follow through with (no) action. So if they don’t sort out the other deadlines, you don’t do their thing. Let stuff slide. Make it their problem. If they come back to you, simply say ‘I didn’t hear from anyone that my priorities had shifted, so i didn’t realise X was more important. I asked you on Y date to discuss these deadlines with this person’. All delivered in a very matter of fact tone of voice, no drama etc.

          2. Your local password resetter*

            Honestly, it sounds like you care more about their company than they do. Or at least the part you are responsible for.
            If they’re fine with the backlog stacking up and causing problems, can you just be fine with that yourself?
            You can’t fix their problems if they don’t care, but maybe you can stop making yourself anxious and miserable over it.

    4. Lawyer Manager Superhero*

      Are their portions of your workload that can be done by a less skilled employee? A part time person? Basically, is there anything the firm can do that costs less than another paralegal? is there an assistant who has some extra time to help you out? Can you see if any other alternative will work?

    5. Senioritis Spreadsheet*

      Words did not work for me, I had to start dropping balls. It does not feel good at all, but it inconvenienced enough other people that they hired more help.

      1. Paralegal Part Deux*

        Oh, I’m dropping balls and am getting extremely anxious over it despite the fact I have complete job security. I *know* they won’t fire me. But it makes my palms sweat just thinking about it.

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          You said the filing is really pulling up – could you relocate each attorney’s filing to their office so that they understand visually just how bad it is?

    6. Maxie's Mommy*

      Remind them how much you bill each month, “with another paralegal we can double that”. Plus you’ll be more responsive to the clients.

    7. Janet*

      If you’re working unpaid overtime (or even paid but excessive overtime), they won’t listen. As others have commented, you have to start letting things drop.

      1. Paralegal Part Deux*

        Yeah, I’ve been working a lot of weekends, and I finally put my foot down on that and said no more on that. The filing is reaching untold heights. It’s making one attorney annoyed. This may be the way to go, but I’m tired of dealing with it for 6-7 hours every weekend. They won’t go paperless which would reduce the filing part by a lot.

        1. Working with Professionals*

          You may need to become comfortable with the messiness of their decision not to act. It requires a change in mindset but can be done. This is urgent to you because you have a different standard of acceptable function than they do. If you can let go of your standard and accept theirs, your stress and anxiety will lower. I went through this when I changed jobs and my standard of success was that everything got done on time no matter what but the environment was set to pivot quickly as needed to meet rapid change with the expectation on their part that some things wouldn’t get done by the original due date and for my own sanity I had to recalibrate my standard to match.

        2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          Okay – in addition to moving the filing to their offices, I would also stop with any and all weekends/overtime. They probably aren’t really seeing the impact because you are still doing lots of covering the problem.

    8. Feliz*

      Ugh, this type of situation is awful.  You do need to make this your managers’ problem – not yours that’s getting solved by working weekends.
      I’m in the middle of this with a technical team that I now manage.  Very senior management believes that the team is adequately staffed – it is not.  This is a function of the business that we cannot afford to get wrong.
      The team is now recording everything that they are working on and most importantly – every task that they are NOT getting to.  The Team Head and I are going through this and doing a risk assessment for each – – Situation – what is not happening (a very short sentence) – “regular testing of Function X is not being completed due to lack of team resource”- Risk – what is the risk to the company if this is not completed? “potential to fail annual audit due to not having Function X test results”- Impact – what will the impact be on the company if it occurs? “customers A, B & C will no longer purchase our products”- Likelihood – what is the likelihood of this happening? “high”- Do we need to address this urgently? “yes”- Any other notes “Function X testing takes approx 12hrs per week”
      My manager presented the urgent ones to the other Execs a few weeks ago and suddenly it is being taken seriously.  The interesting part for me has been helping my report figure out how to word things in a way that is clear for non-technical people.  I keep saying things like “explain like I’m 5” – she’s an expert and it’s so obvious to her what the risk/impact is going to be that she’s actually not good at explaining things in a concise, Exec friendly way.
      Hopefully it will get resolved in a good way, time will tell.  Good luck with your situation.

  4. cabbagepants*

    Anyone else have experiences with goofy “ideas guys” who don’t seem to actually *do* anything?

    Just a little laughing/venting here. At my engineering job there is a guy “Steve” who is one of the most senior people on my small (<10 people) team. Steve spends most of his time reading academic papers and textbooks and once a day or so will pop out of his cubicle with a lengthly theory. His theories are always very convoluted, don't come with any action other than "you should look at this," and 9 times out of 10 fall apart when poked at, often in pretty fundamental ways. It's also not clear to me what (else) Steve actually produces. But he is one of the most senior people and does have some useful tribal knowledge. Luckily I think his oddness is basically an open secret and it doesn't impact me other than causing me to internally roll my eyes when he tries to take over a meeting with some boondoggle.

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      Yeah, that sucks. Unfortunately, I think many of us have encountered these types of co-workers. Thing is—ideas are a dime a dozen. No idea is truly that revolutionary. What’s most impressive is implementation. That’s why Theranos was such a scam. Theranos had a good idea. It had a great idea. It just couldn’t deliver with an actual implementation.

      1. hamsterpants*

        “ideas are a dime a dozen. No idea is truly that revolutionary. What’s most impressive is implementation”

        YES

      2. Brett*

        Depends a lot on what you call an “idea”. There are ideas of “hey this should work” and there are ideas of “if you put together this research with these white papers, with these established technologies, then you can put together these mature concepts to get this new application.” If Steve is mostly the former, it might never go anywhere. If he is mostly the latter, then it is possible it will go somewhere. It really is highly dependent on his ability to move a theory into application and how much rigor he puts into making that connection.
        From the sounds of it, Steve is not at all rigorous about this. Not all idea people are like this. Some of them can also learn to move theory to application and rigorously establish that connection.

      3. allathian*

        Yeah. That’s why genius is 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration. Edison had the right idea.

          1. Dancing Otter*

            Oh, yes, it’s pretty clear that Edison patented in his own name any number of things invented by people who worked for him.
            It’s fairly normal for a corporation to patent stuff employees develop, but my father’s patents all had his name on them, just owned by the company. Edison didn’t do that.

            1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

              Seconding the patent belonging to the company but the creator(s) name being on it as normal. My dad is actually named on a few patents, and while the engineering firm he worked for kept the rights and licensing fees, they got the forms turned into nice plaques that could be hung on an office wall and gave all the creators bonuses as well.

            2. allathian*

              That’s true. Nikola Tesla would no doubt have a story or two to tell about that, but at least he won the AC/DC battle in the end, even if Edison was a far better businessman.

      4. Qwerty*

        I agree with this sooo much!

        I get entrepreneur types all the time touting some great idea they have for a company and how they just need an engineer to make it happen. And of course, want to pay the engineer peanuts for it. They always get really cranky when we start asking questions about implementation or point out that if it was possible with the existing tools that someone would have already done it.

      5. Ya Ya*

        In the book publishing business, many authors have encountered someone who says “I have a great idea for a book! I’ll tell you my idea, then you write the book, and we’ll split the profits 50-50!”

        Many amateurs with ideas are ignorant of the fact that any author (like many people in business) has vastly more, and vastly superior, ideas of their own than they have time to follow up on.

    2. Callisto*

      GOD YES. My guy has over 40 years in the company, turns every meeting into a fond thinkpiece about how the industry has changed over the years, and prevents anything from being accomplished when he’s around.

    3. Brett*

      We have a guy like this. I’ve learned to give him singular specific tasks to move ahead on and get work done, but give him the leash to explore his theories.
      Why? Because at least three times we ended up using his theories to revolutionize what we do. It might have taken 40 or 50 of these to get there, but all three ended up being amazing breakthroughs. Between breakthroughs, he can do productive work at a high level when given the right direction,

      The catch here is that I think he was incapable of turning these ideas into breakthroughs on his own. We had to have the right people listen to him and mature his concept. He _does_ do the implementation, but that requires pointing him in the right direction to do it. I manage him now, and I _really_ have to reign him in and focus him in meetings and on projects. He was a huge handful for his last manager (not entirely the manager’s fault, they were just both put in the wrong situation to succeed).

      1. cabbagepants*

        Yes exactly, I should maybe clarify that I am laughing at the situation, not Steve himself and definitely not at “ideas guys” as a concept. One of my former bosses was the good kind of ideas guy, rigorously kept himself appraised of the industry and was a true genius at finding the right project that *just might work.*

        I guess the thing about Steve that I personally find a bit frustrating is how much work it takes (would take) to manage him. I see implementation as a core part of our job. I think the folks who are given a pass to not do implementation, and who outsource the boring implementation bits to their managers and colleagues — let’s say they need to be really, REALLY good for me to want to work on their team. (I did also work with someone like this in the past, he needed tons of hand-holding to turn his ideas into action, but damn he was right like 90% of the time and it was absolutely worth it.)

      2. OtterB*

        This was what I was thinking. I’ve heard it talked about in terms of the guy who reads things and then sits around with his feet up on his desk but once in a while has such a spectacular idea that it’s worth the company’s money to pay him the rest of the time. But it does take the right kind of management for those guys.

    4. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      There are several reasons why guys like Steve stick around. If you can figure out the reason, it might help you deal with him.

      1) Steve built amazing stuff 20 years ago, and the bosses are so emotionally indebted to him that they have given him a sinecure.
      2) Steve built amazing stuff 20 years ago, and now his reputation has been enshrined in the industry, and having Steve on the staff brings luster to your organization.
      3) Steve is an expert at dishing out BS, and his bosses are completely taken in by it.
      4) Steve is a broken stair; once upon a time he was useful, but at some point he just transitioned to the guy who reads stuff and pontificates, and whoever was responsible for bringing him back into sync 10 years ago failed to do that job. So now everybody just accepts the weirdness and nobody has the gumption to point out that the emperor has no clothes.

      1 & 2 are reasonable decisions by your bosses; you can personally disagree about whether that’s a wise use of company money, but it’s the bosses’ call.
      3 & 4 are object failures of management.

      1. J.B.*

        We recently had a #1 who once management changed clearly became #4 and his departure was an incredible relief!

        1. tamarack and fireweed*

          Yeah, I was gonna say that. Insofar as 1) and 2) are “reasonable decisions” I feel they can only be that in the short term. 1) and 2) guys do accumulate baggage, and discontent will mount. They tend to transition into 3) and 4).

      2. Girasol*

        Great list, but add one: The rumor was out that our Steve had dirt on the boss and was blackmailing him. (Okay, probably not, but it was a fun story.)

    5. it's me*

      Haha, yes. We have a guy in Client Services who enjoys pontificating and coming up with things to do (often for other people), but I quickly learned that for him it’s about rhapsodizing and making it seem like he’s doing something by talking about it a lot rather than actually taking concrete steps to get something done, so I started tuning him out.

    6. Malika*

      Yes! The founder of our company is this. He had a fabulous idea and implemented it into a succesful company. He is great with schmoozing investors and was the originator of our company. Yet he was gently directed into an advisory rather than executive role on the board and he now spends his days wandering about and doing this. I personally think his role should be structured that he can be busy with his strengths, but unfortunately he doesn’ t get a lot of pushback from the board.

    7. Beth*

      Oh, good lord, yes. At least Steve is a senior BS guy.

      The ones I can’t stand are the ones whose BS is rooted in their having grown up so swathed in entitlement that they have never actually been obliged to accomplish anything; they’ve just been handed participation trophies for their amazing skill at showing up and filling the space around them with BS. Usually, their only other skill is arranging for other people to carry every load that’s handed to them, while getting all the credit and a bigger paycheck than the people carrying them.

    8. Nesprin*

      Sure- when George Lucas has empowered editors you get the Empire strikes back, and when he doesn’t you get the Phantom Menace.

    9. Observer*

      His theories are always very convoluted, don’t come with any action other than “you should look at this,” and 9 times out of 10 fall apart when poked at,

      How valuable is that 10th time? If someone comes up with one iPhone level idea once a year, it pays for the company to keep him. On the other hand if every 10th idea is one that’s akin to “lets introduce a new computer model that has a nicer case color” there is no point.

      1. cabbagepants*

        The 10th time is usually a decent idea, nothing ground-shaking but not a bad idea. Like “hey this Weird Thing you saw, I found a paper that mentions it to, here is what it is called and here are some equations that govern it.” This sort of feedback after I had already changed the design to avoid Weird Thing and already had a working understanding of it.

        Incidentally, the iPhone as an idea well pre-dates Apple’s iPhone. It was the implementation that made the iPhone the iPhone and not just another BlackBerry.

        1. LabTechNoMore*

          That’s still not too bad, though. It means next time you come across Weird Thing that you’ll have more options available in case your workaround isn’t applicable or is less feasible. Or at least more context to guide the decision-making process. (Full disclosure: I may be a closeted Steve.)

      2. cabbagepants*

        Probably worth mentioning explicitly is that I also come up with plenty of good ideas — and mine are actually fully-baked. It’s not like Steve is the only person with a brain in the organization.

    10. The New Wanderer*

      Yep, I’ve had to fend off our Steve’s attempts to take intellectual control over my project several times. See, Steve has a lot of useful knowledge and has contributed effectively to many projects. But Steve also decides what he wants to work on, even when it’s specifically the thing I asked him not to do (when work was being handed out for my project, this was a very low priority thing and I know because I’m the company SME on it). He spent months “researching*” this topic anyway and calling meetings to present on it. Leadership doesn’t know the difference between one SME putting up solidly researched findings and another stating his opinions, so then I get stuck with “Why aren’t you using Steve’s work?” And there are only so many ways to say “because it’s unsubstantiated garbage” in a diplomatic way. Fortunately, the manager who had been championing Steve has left, so I believe he’ll fade into the background for now.

      * Example: I asked him once for the research to support a claim he made, and he sent me a marketing blog post. Another example: After he sent out a first draft for comments, I sent him several of my papers on the subject correcting several poor assumptions he was making. Later I asked about it b/c I didn’t see any changes to those assumptions in the revisions and he said he didn’t read my papers because he “didn’t want to be influenced by previous work in this area.” SMDH.

      1. cabbagepants*

        I’m laughing at “didn’t want to be influenced by previous work in this area.” My Steve loves to try to derive everything from basic physics, except 1) our industry is well-established and that sort of derivation was already worked out by the 70s; 2) his physics knowledge is OK but not great so he often makes bad assumptions; 3) he doesn’t test his “derivation” against our data before broadcasting the “answer.”

    11. ..Kat..*

      Idea guys are a pain in the ass. “You should do this.” “You should try that.”

      Guess what? I already have plenty to do. If it is such a great idea, how about the “idea “ guy doing the actual work?

    12. Chaordic One*

      In my experience they do actually “do” things, but what they do ends up creating a lot of distraction and extra work for other people. Things that end up taking time away from our core mission. And at the end of the day, if they do in some way contribute to improving the mission (as opposed to being discarded), the cost of doing “the thing” ends up being more than the amount of improvement.

  5. Dolly was Right*

    The pandemic has brought to light that I have a lot of career disappointments that I wasn’t previously able to put my finger on what it was.

    I’ve been out of college for 8 years and I just realized I’m living Dolly Parton’s song 9-5. I always was a go-getter and assumed that I would work hard and be great and OBVIOUSLY be fairly rewarded by climbing the ladder. I somehow fell into jobs that are not a good fit for me and I just have not been able to flourish. I work long hours and do receive amazing feedback yet, they haven’t materialized into anything in my last 3 roles so I’d move on to somewhere I thought would be better and it’s the same. I read a great article in HBR (will link in comments) about how women don’t actually get less ambitious as they get older, they just get more disillusioned with the system and don’t feel the effort will amount to anything. This was in a recent bowl on Fishbowl and a lot of women commented they feel the same way.

    I know my situation isn’t unique and a lot of ppl feel this way but how do you cope? I am looking to make a career change into a space that requires more tangible metrics which I’m hoping will help (and I’ve got a back up plan if that doesn’t) but UGH it’s brutal grinding every day.

      1. Might Be Spam*

        “Others reported feedback like “you’re not cut out for” top management, or “you don’t really want it.”
        I got both of these from the same boss. She refused any kind of management training for me because I was better at technical. Then she refused to let me move into a more technical area. She eventually slipped up and admitted that she really just wanted to keep me where I was because I would be too hard to replace.

        1. Fact & Fiction*

          And these are the bosses who are just ABSOLUTELY SHOCKED when the workers they try to pigeon hole turn in their notice and move on to bigger and better jobs elsewhere.

    1. Colette*

      Have you asked for feedback on what you’d need to do to get promoted?

      Even if you’re great at your job, getting a different, higher-level job is not a guarantee. What do you want to do, and what skills are you missing that will get you there? (Specifically, I’m wondering about soft skills, but I’m also wondering why you want to get promoted in jobs you describe as “not a good fit”.)

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        I’ve had times where the company and the industry were a good fit for me, but the particular role I was given was not. My classic “don’t be me” example: I took a job as a marketing assistant at a high tech startup and after a few months they really needed a receptionist instead.

    2. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      Don’t discount the fact that just plain luck and circumstance has a lot to do with it.

      You could land a promising job, do everything right, and be recognized by your bosses, but other people in the business make stupid mistakes and the place goes under. That’s not a reflection on you.

    3. Hellllloo*

      You’ve articulated exactly how I’ve been feeling for a long time, and we even seem to have had the same number of jobs! In the before times I was focusing on building up a life outside of work… but for now I’m a bit lost again. Will watch this post with interest

    4. Juniper*

      I think it’s telling when you say that you “fell into” roles. That makes me think that a lot of the career decisions you’ve made haven’t been deliberate so much as reactive. And that’s not a criticism at all — it could just as easily describe me. I’m curious about what your major/formal training was, because i think those of us that have “vague” degrees struggle to carve out a specialty or expertise beyond general competence and able to get things done. I guess I think you need to ask yourself what it is you’re really going after — ambition for the sake of ambition leaves a person untethered to an animating force and that can guide and center them. Do you want a higher salary? A specific role that you have to climb the corporate ladder to achieve? Get your foot in the door in a different industry? Or just stability and work life balance at a job you don’t hate? What does flourishing look like to you? I get the sense that you’re not quite sure what you think you should be achieving, though it’s hard to tell in a short letter.

      1. Merle Grey*

        Thank you for this insight. I have a slightly vague degree (and a specific one that I don’t want to use but highlights some skills), and have struggled to figure things out/tend to fall into roles. My last role was a good fit, but not an option due to the pandemic and some other factors. I do want stability, a good work-life balance, and a job I don’t hate and pays me enough to be able to save/catch up on the retirement $ I’m behind on, but that’s not clear enough to direct me.

      2. All Het Up About It*

        In reaction to this there is a career coach I follow on LinkedIn, who also just released a book called Career Stories. Kerri Twigg is her name and her approach is one that really resonates with me about looking at your past jobs, your successes there, the stories you tell yourself and others about them and what that means about what you really want in your next role! Even if she doesn’t resonate with you, perhaps another career coach could help you decide what you really want from your roles.

        And it’s not super clear, but if you keep making lateral moves in the hope of finding a place where you can move up, maybe it’s time to stop that approach and starting “reaching” in your job applications for the next step up. Good luck!

        1. anon for this*

          Yeah, I entered a new industry & realized that I needed to get some knowledge about how to make things happen rather than “falling into things” the way I did for the last 3 jobs, the last 9 years… so I hired a career coach as well and it’s been really useful for me. The one I hired doesn’t help people figure out what to do for a career so much as figure out how to be effective where you are (and then move if needed). She also helped me deal specifically with issues of sexism and classism and ingrained assumptions in myself coming from past bad experiences; this is important because I am a woman working in a tech field in which women are a minority and a person who grew up not-rich now working with very well-off people. Her name is Jamie Lee & she is not cheap, but for me, the return on investment has been really solid. She does free webinars now & then as well.

    5. HigherEdAdminista*

      I was feeling kind of similarly before the pandemic. I expected that I would move up or that now when I applied for new positions I would be a highly desirable candidate, but those opportunities don’t materialize. I am highly rated on evaluations, and respected by people up the chain, but it didn’t seem to make me more in demand.

      Ironically, the pandemic has made me care a little less about this. I have realized this field is highly competitive and often when a position opens, there is someone known to the hiring manager that is immediately in line for it. My goals have shifted more now towards being comfortable with my work, and having the ability to make my life outside of work a real priority. I wouldn’t say I have been fully successful in changing this mentality, but I am approaching things now considering what allows me to spend time with my loved ones/relax/live the way I want to live the most.

      The system is busted, in my honest opinion, and collective change is required. The most I can do as an individual is prioritize living to my standards and making my life as pleasing as I can. It might seem like I am less ambitious, but more I have changed the things I am striving for.

      1. alwaysonefootoutthedoor*

        I’m in higher ed and have seen chosen people practically hand-carried into admin roles, no searches, no listings, just an announcement of the change. Then the same role (when the person is hand-carried up the next rung) goes through the normal hiring process.
        Everyone sees this and is demoralized because it hammers home how favoritism works quite dramatically, esp when the chosen one’s spouse is then also hand-carried into management roles.
        People who are willing to be hatchet-men for upper leadership get a lot of leeway. The rest of us see this and don’t bother to pursue advancement because it’s either dead in the water or involves brutalizing others.
        So we end up with an entire department managed by overseers, and the managees either leaving in droves or hunkering down and collecting a steady paycheck/benefits with varying levels of engagement.

    6. Malika*

      This sounds very familiar. I had the same and with hindsight I see that fragile mental health and finances got a huge wallop due to the great recession and i unconsciously stayed at jobs past their sell- by date as I felt I should be grateful to have any income at all. It is also very easy to be disheartened when past mid-level management you only see white men or the token white woman with the posh accent and almost overcompensating set of high achievements that most people can’t put on the table. Sometimes we need a holiday and perspective from the workplace. Distance can create a clearer view on how to move ahead.

      Are the promotions or lateral moves in any way an improvement on the job you have? Do you have any idea which way you would want to develop and if so, do you know if your bosses are aware of this wish?

      At the end you say that the career change will involve clearer metrics of success. After more than a decade of jobs where achievement goals were vague at best i found cold hard numbers a liberation to work with. It made it far easier to be put in line of promotion when it was clear what my contributions led to.

    7. 867-5309*

      I have felt that way many times in my career and finally had to realize – I am the common denominator in all of my jobs. While the places might legitimately be bad places to work (for reasons ranging from the wrong fit for me to the wrong job to truly horrible culture), I need to rethink my process for selecting next moves and acknowledge my role in that. It helped me reframe my thinking and feel less powerless.

      1. Fran Fine*

        I came to this exact realization about four years ago, and my career has turned all the way around because I started being more strategic and more deliberate in my job searches. I’m a much more attractive candidate than I ever was now and I’m making more money than I ever imagined I would (I’m finally within spitting distance of six figures).

    8. AnonCanadian*

      I have had two entirely different careers – I felt like this 100% in the first. I was all but told a few times that I was too valuable to promote – when I left I was often replaced with 2 people.

      Now, it’s better. I changed careers, industries and I lucked out to working for some women who actually looked out for my career development and best interest and I do not take that for granted. It is a gift. But I also think I’ve reached a stage in my life where I look around and yes, I can go higher in theory – but I only have 1 or 2 moves up the ladder possible given my field and because of the decisions I’ve made about where to spend my time in this new career. I’m never going to be the CFO, I’ve spent too long in operations. BUT, I’m also at a stage where I just don’t care as much. I mean, I still care, but the effort to reward – not sure its worth it. I want a life not just a career. It really, really helps that I’ve developed some hobbies outside of work. I think if you can do that it will help a lot. It doesn’t make it all better, but it helps.

    9. Alternative Person*

      I try to focus on what I can achieve, and give myself goals/timelines for spending time at companies. That helps me to not spend too long places where I can’t climb higher but also helps me to get what I can out of them. The last place I worked for, I planned three years at the outset and spent four (getting a qualification, broken promises, time job hunting). I’ll probably be spending the next 3/4 years where I am because I’m in the management training programme and doing a distance learning programme, but once I’ve gotten what I can out of it, I’ll be looking to move on or up.

    10. MissDisplaced*

      “I somehow fell into jobs that are not a good fit for me and I just have not been able to flourish.”

      Not sure what advice to give as I’m one of those older disillusioned women. But I feel this! I generally like the work I do, but sometimes I get so fed up with the dysfunctional workplaces. Even if the company was good to start, things seem to change about the 3-5 year mark. I haven’t worked at a company longer than 5 years since 1995.

  6. Anonymous Educator*

    Does anyone work for an organization that refuses to publicly (within the org, not necessarily publicly to the whole world) publish salaries but tries to reassure its employees that it does regular studies to make sure that pay is equitable?

    Wouldn’t full transparency be more likely to ensure pay equity than some hidden regular studies?

    1. SheLooksFamiliar*

      Most of my employers/clients didn’t and still don’t publish salaries or external study details, which is a shame. I don’t think it’s necessarily because they’re against pay equity – although I’m sure that’s part of it for some employers.

      I think they don’t publish internal salary info or share external studies because they’re not prepared to do much/anything about disparities and deal with the fallout. Or be part of team and individual discussions about inequities from both the under- and -highly-paid employees. Or make market adjustments to salaries.

      1. Anonymous Educator*

        I used to work for a place that knew it had wild pay disparities and was trying to address those, but it didn’t want to reduce the salary of anyone, so the people wildly overpaid would just never get raises, and the org was hoping eventually—through people getting promoted, people leaving, new people arriving—it’d get to something resembling pay equity.

      2. Walk on the left side*

        This. Even if the disparities are not systematically disadvantaging a protected class of employees, the company is benefiting from them. The company is also benefiting from not having to have tough conversations with mediocre and under-performers about why they are getting paid less. And not having to really examine and justify pay differences vs kind of waving their hands about a “review” where they can eyeball it and say “yeah looks close enough”.

        It’s hard work to build a system that rewards strong performance in an equitable and fair way, and evaluates everyone quantitatively. And it’s uncomfortable to tell Bob he’s not adding as much value as Alice when Bob thinks he’s better than Alice. And they don’t want to risk Bob having “hard feelings” about that and then quitting over it.

        But mostly, they just want to keep paying Alice less than Bob even though she is a more valuable employee, because she didn’t ask. Or because she did. You know, either way.

    2. Coenobita*

      Oh yeah, right here. They billed the latest study as a comprehensive equity assessment taking into account race, gender, etc. across titles and departments but the only result they shared was “We are in compliance with all applicable non-discrimination laws.” Gosh, thanks for achieving the bare minimum!

      1. Anonymous Educator*

        Yeah, to me that reads as “We don’t actually care about pay equity, but we paid an outside consulting firm to assess our risk of being sued for discrimination, and we’re at low risk.”

    3. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      Yes, which bugs me. We’re currently increasing our internal minimum wage from $x to $x+2/hour, which is going to lead to salary increases for something like 6,000 employees (between the people who are currently in the x-x+2/hour band and also the compression adjustments they’re doing for the people who make x+2-x+4/hour currently) and is awesome. However, I also know that two people on my team who have similar seniority both with the org and in-role and do the exact same job have a five-digit difference between their annual salaries, and I don’t understand how the algorithm HR uses to determine salaries makes that okay. (They are both the same gender, race, age category, and otherwise similar in social determinants, so I don’t have any obvious reason to suspect discrimination at least.)

    4. mreasy*

      YES. Our company just hired a consulting firm to audit salary equity but is not sharing pay band information along with the results. It’s a huge disapppintment.

    5. A Feast of Fools*

      Yes. My current company.

      And the hilarious part is that my department, as part of our regular job duties, looks at pay across the org. So we get to see that the one manager in our department who is MIA all. the. time. gets paid $25K more than the managers who are the most helpful / best coaches. And also that I am paid $16.5K more than my exact counterpart who is at the same level and has way more institutional knowledge than I do. (They’ve been at the company for half a decade and I am a relatively recent outside hire).

      The part that makes it “hilarious” is that the two good managers both quit within weeks of each other, and my underpaid counterpart just got an offer from one of the managers who left. My coworker doesn’t really want to leave our company so I think they’re waiting on a counter offer (which would be OK to take in this specific department; there would literally be no future retaliation or putting them first in line for layoffs).

      So I imagine that’s the reason other companies aren’t transparent about pay. Because then they’d have to justify the $16.5K difference in pay between two people performing the exact same job.

    6. Irish girl*

      My company doesnt publish as they want to try and negotiate individually. There are ranges for grades and e ach job should be a grade but unless your in HR you have no idea your salary range. I know people who were given a promotion to a new role and tried to negotiate and was told no. Then a year later they told her she wants even on the pay scale. so clearly the pay was not equitable.

    7. Janet*

      A typical thing that happens is that they compare rates when hiring new people. The new hires may come in with substantially higher salaries than more experienced people, but they don’t want you to know that.

      It happened to my sister years ago, she had the data due to the nature of her job, and noticed that the new hires with BA’s and no experience were being paid 20-30% higher than her. She had BA and MBA and several years of experience. Her company kept with the 2% maximum raise per year for existing employees.

      She works elsewhere now!

    8. TechWorker*

      Yes. Though to be fair they also do some pay adjustments as a result of those comparisons although not (IMO) in a way that necessarily leads to pay equity. They compare average pay by gender within grade/role and if it’s different, everyone who is ‘under’ gets a small bump to bring the average into line. That a) doesn’t help the person who misses out on a promotion and b) possibly has the effect of slightly compressing the salary distribution for women, which I guess could be seen as a positive or as a negative!

    9. Fran Fine*

      Yes, I do and yes, it would. I worked for an insurance company that posted salary ranges internally, and that really helped people to see where they were v. where they should be.

  7. Leaving or staying*

    How do you weigh pros and cons when deciding whether or not to leave a stable but low-paying job?

    I’m an early-40s woman in tech, so while I know I’m underpaid, I also need to keep in mind that job security will soon become an issue. (After twenty years of experience, I’m realistic about the ageism and sexism in my field.)

    I’m good at crunching hard numbers, but this is so ephemeral, it feels like flipping a coin. In the past I’ve been blindsided by mergers and layoffs, despite doing due diligence during the hiring process. There’s only so much data available to the public layman.

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      So you want to stay not because you love your company or find special fulfillment in the work you do. You want to stay because you’re worried about ageism and sexism meaning that you won’t be able to find another job? Or, are you saying that in your current job, it’s “stable” in the sense that you don’t believe you will be laid off there, so you don’t want to risk going elsewhere, where you’re more likely to be laid off?

      1. Leaving or staying*

        “in your current job, it’s “stable” in the sense that you don’t believe you will be laid off there, so you don’t want to risk going elsewhere, where you’re more likely to be laid off?”

        Yes, this. I could retire from my current job, no question. It’s a private company entrenched in multiple stable industries (with lots of union employees), and my tech job is supportive rather than the focus of the company.

    2. Colette*

      How stable? “Big tech company” is a different level of stable than “small tech company” or “government department”.

      My thought is that if you’re in private industry, there is no harm in looking to see whether you can get something better. Private tech is quite unstable, IME – even if the company itself is stable, tech companies I’ve worked at regularly lay people off.

      1. Leaving or staying*

        It’s not a tech company. I do a tech job at a privately-owned company that’s over a century old and works in multiple union-centric industries. Very stable.

        1. Colette*

          Then the question is how comfortable are you with instability? Do you have robust savings that would carry you through if you moved to a new job and then got laid off? Or would that be a disaster?

          If you’re not comfortable with instability, you can still look, but be very selective about where you apply.

    3. Mstr*

      How big is your current company? My thought is that you should leave the stable but low paying job — if you leave on good terms, you’ll probably always be able to return or return to a similar job that underp

        1. Mstr*

          If the employer stays around perhaps you could think of them as a back-up plan in the future (rather than staying). It might seem riskier than staying, but if you stay you’re also taking a risk that things will stay the same there for the next 25 years (or however long you plan to be in the workforce). Your boss, duties, clients, etc, will surely change over all that time & you might end up leaving anyway (so if you have better opportunities maybe take them while they’re available).

    4. Walk on the left side*

      Also an (very) early 40s woman in tech. At the moment, blissfully not underpaid though. Craaazy.

      For me, a lot of it was whether I was happy with the work in the low-paying job, and whether I needed the money. When I was still learning things, working with tech I enjoyed, looked forward to working with my coworkers…I stayed in the underpaid job.

      When I became unhappy with the acknowledgement (or lack thereof) of my work, and wasn’t learning things anymore, that tipped the balance for me in terms of making the “new job” risk worth it. My new job came with a much, much better boss, a great company mission, a solid mix of tech I know super well and tech that was new and interesting, equally good coworkers, a 25% raise and a 15% bonus.

      I would say there is no harm in exploring your options. Interview some other companies and bosses. See what you find out there. Really interview them, and be picky about it. Ask tough questions about how they examine equity in compensation and promotion opportunities, what the company does to minimize its risk, what market factors create a difficult climate for them, whether there have been layoffs in the past few years and what prompted them, what they sacrifice to achieve real diversity in hiring. Ask the hiring manager for examples of constructive feedback (both corrective and praise) they have given individuals in the past and how it helped that individual grow and improve. If you interview a few different places, you’ll start getting an idea of what’s out there, and have much more information available to compare it to what you have now.

      Good luck, whatever you choose!

    5. LadyB*

      As a 56 yr old woman in tech, I can sympathise. That was me 15 years ago, including being blind-sided by two consecutive redundancies which really messed with my sense of self worth.
      For me, as I get/got older, I was increasingly aware of how the low wages would be impacting on my pension and overall financial stability, which gave me the incentive I needed to take action.
      I won’t say it was easy, but 15 years down the line I’ve just started a fantastic C suite job and I’ve doubled my salary over the last 6 years. More importantly, I feel financially secure, I have a F*&^ you fund and my pension pot looks like it will support the retirement I want.
      As you’ve said, no job is cast iron secure and so you need to plan for instability in your future. My advice would be to think of your future needs and factor them into your decision making. I’m not saying it’s as easy for you as it would be for a white man in tech but I’ve done it and I’m not any more special than lots of women out there

      1. anon for this*

        I would love if Alison interviewed you, or if you gave some more details on your experience — I’m around 40 now and just entered the corporate tech industry (after low-paying academia) and yours is basically the story I want to be telling in 15 years!

      2. you can do it.*

        I am C Suite tech with no college. Worked my way up and in a completely male dominated industry (aviation). It can be done.

    6. Filosofickle*

      Consider the risk of less money as well as the risk of job loss. Risk and stability come in many forms. What is the risk of remaining underpaid for the rest of your career? Maybe this is the time to bank higher earnings, before going into those later years. What is the risk in staying put now while you still feel more employable? Maybe this is the time to make moves before your face more ageism. Maybe this is the time to lock in the *next* job at a higher pay.

    7. Not So NewReader*

      It is flipping a coin.

      So my thought here is KNOW what you are going toward. What you have written here is all about what you are leaving behind. And it’s super hard to make these decisions without having specific and hard facts. Decide to pick a job where you can get a lot of inputs/background info before you decide on accepting an offer. This could be because you know someone who works there or maybe you can find a temporary PT position to see for yourself. (Am thinking, as a second job right now.)

      Mergers and layoffs are a thing in so many places- it’s really hard to avoid. My husband worked for Big International Company. Who’d thunk they would spin out his whole department- effectively setting it adrift at sea as a newbie company to be swallowed up by whatever Big Shark Company came along? They did. And the Sharks came.
      We use to joke, “What is the name of the company this week?”

      My two cents- okay, one cent- have identifiable and strong reasons for making a move. Be choosey. Carry an expectation that the new job will add to your quality of life in some manner. Sorry this sounds vague. But I believe we hit these walls for a reason, it means slow down and be deliberate about your choices.

  8. Lisa Jong*

    This is a weird and niche question, but here goes:

    Do you know the type of position at universities where a person checks dissertations for correct formatting? How do people doing that job end up in that job? Is a job you can intentionally search for, and if so, what does that look like–e.g., what is the job title? Is it often folded together with other job titles, duties one could search for?

    Thank you for indulging my burning curiosity!!

    1. Opinions, I've Had a Few*

      Some schools call them Graduate School Reviewers, others call them Thesis and Dissertation Editors, and all follow each specific university’s handbook for formatting. I have no idea how one gets that job or if it’s even designated or if it’s part of a different job. When I was in grad school, our editor was about as old as Methuselah, we met in person, and I’m pretty sure that’s all she did–review theses and dissertations. But when I looked at the process today it seemed much more decentralized and not something done in person.

    2. Gracely*

      I don’t think that’s actually a position. Usually it’s on the person writing the dissertation to format it correctly. If it’s not, that would generally be caught by someone evaluating said person/dissertation for moving forward with their degree.

      Assuming a dissertation gets published in a journal/etc., that would fall under the purview of the journal’s editors or reviewers.

      1. Gen Ex*

        Yes, this. I know a lot of freelance editors who specialize in dissertation editing because they love to work with PhD students. They get business specifically because universities usually don’t provide that service.

      2. Reba*

        Right, I think Lisa Jong’s question is about who is that “someone evaluating said person/dissertation for moving forward.” It is a job, though usually not the entire scope of the job.

        When I submitted, I had to do formatting changes caught by that person, and it was a real person! I mean, I assume she has software that helps her do the actual checking, but I corresponded with her in detail about the formatting as well as the paperwork stuff.

      3. curly sue*

        It is at some schools. When I submitted my PhD dissertation (summer 2019) I had to send it to a central email address at least ten business days before my deadline. A reviewer emailed me back a few days later with a list of the changes I had to make to be in compliance with regulations. I think I had put a subtitle in capitals when it needed to be in sentence case, centre my name on the title page, that kind of little tweak.

        I have no idea how one got to be in that position, but it fell within the Faculty of Graduate Studies.

      4. Blackcat*

        “Usually it’s on the person writing the dissertation to format it correctly.”

        But there tends to be some human who approves formatting. My husband spent weeks trying to get his dissertation accepted because his “1 in margins” did not show up on the library person’s screen as 1in. At one point, he made the first page of his dissertation an image of the dissertation printed on physical paper, with a ruler over it, showing that the margins were, in fact 1in.

        His dissertation was eventually accepted when the human who approves dissertations quit, and 200 (!!) dissertations in the same limbo as his were all suddenly approved by whoever took over in the interim.

        1. Cece*

          This is far from universal – at all the universities I’ve worked for, it’s been on the student/candidate and their supervisors (or in the case of PhD corrections, one of the examiners) to give the nod that the work is done. This may be a non-US culture difference, or the fact I’ve never been lucky enough to work somewhere wealthy enough to have someone on the payroll whose duties include that kind of detail.

          1. Asker of question*

            Yeah, I think per what some folks are describing below, if a university has this type of role, it’s really not at all a service to the candidate, and more just an extra hoop to jump through.

    3. KJo*

      I think those are responsibilities that come with others in a position at a graduate school’s main office. I was a graduate assistant in my graduate school’s office (not my specific program, but the grad school operations as a whole), and the woman who checked dissertations was also reviewing students’ plans of study and probably a lot of other things, too. I just pulled up her LinkedIn profile – she’s now the director of Enrolled Student Services, which wasn’t her title when I was there 10 years ago.

      I think this is a position that one could definitely work their way up to by finding a position in a graduate school office, be it on the recruitment/admissions or enrolled student services side of things.

    4. Reba*

      In the system I went to, this role was the “recorder,” and there are separate Master’s recorder and PhD recorder roles (big university). This person is also supposed to verify that you have met all the requirements for the degree, submitted the appropriate paperwork, and so on. Other universities do organize the process differently, though!

      At my university, the people in the recorder jobs had held other university admin or student services jobs. I found an inactive listing for this job (graduate school recorder) at IUPUI on Lensa, if you’d like to do a search for it.
      Graduate Records manager would be another title to look for.

      1. Asker of weird question*

        Ah, you know what? The AAM column that prompted me to ask this question included a commenter who said that they worked in “in university academic records. I’m responsible for reviewing for degree clearance, a lot of staff training, and project management-type things.” (https://www.askamanager.org/2020/11/how-do-i-change-careers.html)

        I think in my head I converted “reviewing for degree clearance” to “approving dissertation formatting” but I can see that it’s likely much broader and probably doesn’t even include the formatting piece!

    5. Unladen European Swallow*

      Usually, a university’s Registrar’s Office is responsible for formally accepting dissertations to fulfill graduation requirements. I suspect that dissertation formatting scrutiny is just one part of someone’s responsibilities, as opposed to being the only thing someone is doing. Most likely it would be someone with a title of Assistant/Associate Registrar or Document Manager or Enrollment Service Specialist or something like that.

    6. Anonymath*

      At my university this is a task done by the librarians. It is a mandatory library check on all theses and dissertations before they can move forward and graduate.

    7. merope*

      The person who does that job at my school works within the School of Graduate Studies. This is only one part of her job, which also involves clearing students for graduation (ensuring they have met their degree requirements), processing appeals and petitions, etc. At my doctoral institution, I believe that person also worked under the Graduate Studies umbrella.

      One thing to note will be that the amount of work that person does is highly dependent on the size of the institution. A big R-1 (research-focused) university is more likely to have a position solely devoted to this work, while a smaller regional university would be more likely to have this as one hat worn by someone with many hats.

    8. silver linings*

      I will warn you that this is a thankless job – everyone you interact with you will despise you. Where I did my doctoral work, the grad students referred to this person as “the ruler lady,” and she was the last barrier to completion of a long, exhausting task, the last thing between the students and their long-awaited doctorate. The faculty don’t give a tuppenny damn about the formatting and hold the whole process in a vague disdain.

      And the job should, frankly, be automated out of existence. All matriculating graduate students should be immediately given upon arrival both LaTeX and Word templates created by the Graduate Studies department that meet all of the requirements.

      No matter how much you love details, I wouldn’t build a career on this.

      1. Asker of weird question*

        Ah, I’m not thinking of searching for this type of job – I’m genuinely curious! As someone working in another non-research/non-teaching-centric area of higher ed, while chipping away at a dissertation, I definitely view everybody’s role as valuable, no matter how thankless (and how exhausted I may be when I finally get to facing the ruler!).

      2. unpleased*

        Template-ish things were available by the time I did my dissertation (before that there were not, just incredibly poorly written instructions). In my field, theses and dissertations would get kicked back over typeface issues, which sucks if you work with multiple languages. A friend spent an incredibly stressful period trying to hers approved because one of the languages required an orthography that doesn’t work in the allowed fonts. How certain data were to be included also caused problems because data that you needed to be able to see alongside the analysis often had to be moved either to the back of a chapter or an appendix. That was a nightmare. I get that there have to be standards, but some of them were pretty disconnected from the kinds of research that were actually happening. I think a lot of that has changed now at my grad institution.

    9. maybesocks*

      Back in the day, at my grad school, the poor woman in this position was miserable and grumpy. She was the last hurdle standing between grad students and their degrees. A student up against the deadline would need to satisfy her or pay for another semester of school. For good reasons (microfilm copies of theses would turn small type into dots), our sub-subscripts and super-subscripts, etc, had to be the same size as our subscripts. The margins had to be at most a certain width, of course. We joked that she had a ruler she had stretched so that our theses wouldn’t be acceptable. We called her the dragon lady. I have no idea what her title was or how she got her job, but it wasn’t a job I would have recommended to anyone.

      1. After 33 years ...*

        Ah yes … the unflatterlingly named Graduate thesis reviewer from the Registrar’s Office. You handed your thesis to them with trembling hands, watched in dread as they put on a pink rubber finger, and sat spellbound as they began to flick through the pages. Flick, flick, flick – stop – page aligned sideways — flick, flick – stop – another page sideways. At the end, you had all the sideways pages to correct for margins, fonts, figure placement, not having paper of sufficient bond weight or slightly incorrect colour, not dry-mounting the figure correctly (this was a long time ago), and there were two very unhappy people looking at each other.
        Fortunately today, there’s a standard e-template, no dry-mounting or bond, no binding requirements (hence the margins, and grad students and Registrar staff are all much happier!

        1. Student*

          Wrong!

          They still insist on microfiche for all these things at the college I went to. Even though we have digital templates to work with, and they could back these documents up in a variety of different ways digitally, we still need to go through this ancient ritual. We still got sent back with a large list of corrections to make to the formatting of the document. Now, it’s usually fussing more about the figures and graphs, and the size of fonts in things like subscripts and captions and footnotes, than about the margins.

          What kills us is that we know no one in their right mind is ever going to get this document out of microfiche to read it again. I’ll never read it again. I seriously doubt any of my committee read the whole thing in full. It’s a hazing exercise. “Please spread research results that could be better written up in 5 pages across 100.”

          1. tamarack and fireweed*

            My thesis never got printed out by me – something I’m pretty proud of. Dunno what the library did, though, other than the Proquest archiving.

            Margin / font / weird idiosyncratic numbering requirements still applied though. I made the excellent decision to use “figuring out and fulfilling *all* formatting requirements” a procrastination activity during thesis writing, so when crunch time came I got very minimal change requests. They still required a few days of studying arcane LaTeX commands to get some dot or other exactly where the Graduate School thesis formatting watchdogs wanted it to be.

            1. After 33 years ...*

              Dear Student:
              I’m sorry to hear that! We haven’t used microfiche in many, many years. We are entirely hard-copy-less for thesis submission and archiving – no microfiche, faxing, or scanning.

              Our process is: submit the thesis as a pdf using the template provided by Graduate Studies to your department; the Head of Department (until Dec 2020, me) reviews it; “looks good”; Head completes the one-page form recommending your graduation; form and thesis are sent to Graduate Studies (total elapsed time since submission, a few hours at most); you’re approved for graduation as the Head has specified that you’ve met all requirements; your thesis goes electronically to the University Library and the National Repository. Reduced delay, as your work can be seen by the world sooner, and greatly reduced stress for all parties.

    10. tamarack and fireweed*

      At my employer it seems these people tend to have a pretty generic business or communication degree, or maybe a degree in educational administration, then various roles as coordinator / program officer in the registrar’s office, faculty services, public information, and similar, before getting a job at the graduate school that deals with the graduation paperwork.

      Don’t expect to be very popular in such a role though!

    11. Deanna Troi*

      I went to an extremely large state research university for my PhD. There were numerous people in the role you describe. This is the description of the office from their website:

      “The format review is a chance for Office of Theses and Dissertations staff to take a preliminary look at your thesis or dissertation to check for formatting errors. The goal is to ensure that you are following the requirements set forth in the Thesis and Dissertation Guide.”

  9. Escaped a Work Cult*

    I have a member of my team who, for a lack of a better descriptor, refused to do work as per our boss’s instructions. It has left me in a bind and incredibly angry. I spent hours fixing things after she left for vacation and I also feel bamboozled because it feels like she took advantage of my overworked state. (I didn’t check before she left but after 6 conversations, I honestly thought it was put to rest AND I had things to complete.)

    She returns from vacation on Monday and our boss is out of office until Thursday. I want to have a conversation with her about how unprofessional she was to 1) continue to fight me on a process I was enforcing and 2) doing a crap job at it because she didn’t want to do it. How do I do it?

    1. Colette*

      I’d leave “unprofessional” out of it. You could say something like “After you left, I noticed that the work wasn’t done according to the process. It took me a lot of work to fix it. What happened?” – but honestly, I’d probably punt this to your boss to handle. (I also wonder whether you should have fixed her work, or escalated it at that point.)

      1. Escaped a Work Cult*

        That’s a great script! I appreciate it. I had to fix her work (and left evidence of her bad work) because we have a large chunk of deliverables that rely on her work. We’re a micro business and waiting until boss came back from vacation wasn’t feasible due to the amount of work that would pile up if I didn’t fix it. It feels like there’s no good answers when that happens.

    2. SlimeKnight*

      You need to be careful how you approach this, as you only have your side of the situation. I would approach your coworker with, “Hey, on Friday before you left we had agreed you would complete X. When I checked Monday it was only 80% complete. I had to do a ton of extra work to finish it. What happened?” The point is to try to be non-judgmental and frame it as an open question while still being honest about the impact on you. What you don’t want to do is go in angry and flame your coworker (even if you want to), because that will reflect poorly on you.

      If you don’t feel like you can do that I think the only option is wait until your boss gets back and let them deal with it.

      1. Escaped a Work Cult*

        That’s an excellent script and reminder about keeping my anger in check. Thank you!

    3. have we met?*

      What’s the fallout for you if the work isn’t done to boss’s specifications? Are you actually “in charge” of making sure it’s done right, or will it come back on her? And how much power do you have to enforce the instructions?

      Because if it only falls on her, let it fall.

      1. Escaped a Work Cult*

        I’m “in charge” and would get the reprimand first, then he would reprimand her. I enforce instructions as much as I can but without any discipline power such as creating a PIP, I’m toothless with consequences beyond serious discussions. It honestly feels like a no win situation.

        1. Camellia*

          I understand yo have no discipline power, but your boss does/should. Can you document everything and give it to your boss so that he can handle it beyond a simple ‘reprimand’, which sounds like it is not doing any good?

    4. londonedit*

      I agree about trying to keep your (understandable!) anger away from the conversation, and avoiding any accusations like ‘unprofessional’. I’d try to keep it to a sort of ‘I don’t understand why this happened; can you help me’ tone – ‘My understanding was that you would do A, B and C before you left, as per the boss’s instructions, but when I checked on Tuesday I discovered it hadn’t been completed as discussed. I ended up doing that work myself, because we were going to miss the deadline [or whatever]. What happened?’

      1. Escaped a Work Cult*

        A little bit of kill with kindness rather than have fire spit out. Thank you for the script – I really like it!

        1. tamarack and fireweed*

          Not just that. Fire spitting out is – however justified your anger – unprofessional. Imagine your boss coming back and it’s “Cersei behaved unprofessionally by leaving Pat in a lurch, and then Pat was unprofessional by ripping Cersei a new one”. You want to stick to the moral high ground.

          If you don’t manage your co-worker – and it sounds like you don’t even if you’re more senior – then ultimately you don’t have a co-worker problem, but a manager problem if your manager doesn’t take action to ensure things are squared up.

    5. Bagpuss*

      What level of authority do you have over her? Are you in a position to go down any kind of formal disciplinary process / write up, if you feel that’s justified? I wouldn’t go directly to that but it may be that the conversation includes making it clear to her that if she is not able to do her job as instructed, thats a major issue which has consequences.

      Is this a one-off or part of a bigger pattern?

      I think if it is a one off then the conversation needs to focus on the fact that if you give her a direct instruction to complete a certain task or carry it out in a certain way, that she needs to do that. You an explain that if she has questions or suggestions you will listen, but if she has been told to do it in a particular way she needs to do so.

      I think the second part of the conversation is that even if she doesn’t like a specific task it still needs to be done to the appropriate standard. Be specific about what wasn’t done properly. Do double check whether it’s a case of not understanding or needing more training.

      Normally I would say give it back to her to complete but if you had to do it in her absence due to time constraints that’s not an option here, but if it is a task which will recur then next time, give it to her but require her to check in with you at key points / times so you can review what she has done so far and check it’s correct, and get her to go back and fix it if not.

      I don’t think I would frame it as being unprofessional _ i would be specific about what she did right and wrong, and the effect (e.g. how much time it wasted, if / how it delayed the project / the potential costs if it hadn’t been caught etc)

      1. Escaped a Work Cult*

        It’s a part of a much bigger pattern. There’s stubbornness related to how the process is not very conducive (which I agreed, went to bat about getting it changed, and was given an empathetic no), and a small part is stubborn from coming straight out of school. Our boss is a micromanager and it’s frustrating at times. At the same time, this is a job and while it’s frustrating, this isn’t the hill to die on.

        I only have our boss’s ear – while the unofficial second in command, I still am not the authority position to make discipline moves. It’s very frustrating when I’m expected to do this and not have the tools to do it. I do think that this might be the end of her time here, and that’s fireworks I’m not sure I’m ready to witness.

        1. cmcinnyc*

          I deal with a lot of people who are fresh out of school, encounter some of our admittedly stupid processes, and either argue about them endlessly or just refuse to do it. I tell these folks over and over that yes, they are right, but no, we can’t unilaterally change this from our department. We need the CFO to ultimately sign off, and that…hasn’t happened, may never happen, who knows. Each person thinks s/he is the one who will get this done and I say, “By all means, if you can convince the CFO to do this, I will make you a cake. There will be singing and dancing. But you’ve worked here two months and I doubt you can get this changed before deadline.” The smart ones do it the stupid way we have to in order to meet deadline and then launch an attack on Accounting (so far they’re 0 for infinity, Accounting always wins). The dumbest ones do it their way, blowing what little capital and credibility they have. I have learned to let the dumbest ones dumb.

    6. Mockingjay*

      I wouldn’t address it with her at all, unless you truly believe she’ll improve. Rather, I’d have the conversation with your boss.

      “Boss, while you and Slacker were out of office, I had to correct most of Slacker’s inputs for our deliverables. Her work didn’t comply with our SOP. I’ve had to correct much of her work or remind her recently. How should I proceed when I find these errors?”

      Make it about process; it implicates Slacker but keeps the emotion out of it. Boss should be the enforcer of the process. Is there an SOP or checklist that you have to follow for conformance standard? A QC process to check one another’s work? This might be an ideal time to create one or update the existing workflow. That way you have something tangible to show the errors she causes to your boss.

      1. Slipping The Leash*

        And make sure you give Boss the specifics on the steps you went through to try to get her to follow his directions and the impact her failures had on you.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        Yep, if I had this much work and this much upset I would not spend two seconds talking to Slacker. I’d be sure to tell the boss that I went over this 6 times with her and I felt that she understood what was needed.

        Depending on other things I MIGHT say, “Part of the problem she is having is she believes that our systems could be improved. I actually agree that we can do things differently BUT until that day comes we have to follow the SOPs that are in place. Individuals cannot just randomly create new SOPs or skip steps. Everyone is working under the same rules.”

  10. Anonymous job help*

    My job situation has recently become untenable, and I’m looking for something new. I just can’t figure out what I want to do. I’ve been working in QA, and I am starting to find the repetition soulsucking, which may also be a byproduct of my company.

    I’d like something that allows me to think more creatively and actually solve problems. Right now I just find them. I have zero management experience, which may or may not be a barrier to a career switch.

    Is there some sort of career path that makes sense here? Or are career quizzes when you’re ~10+ years into working even a thing? I’d appreciate any and all help.

    1. Escaped a Work Cult*

      I think you should explore any free career lessons to see what you’d like. I always recommend the PMI free project management lessons simply because creative thinking to solve problems is the backbone of what the job entails. You might find that it doesn’t interest you in the same way! I think you’ll be able to eliminate from there.

    2. Camellia*

      I work in IT as a Systems Analyst and my definition of a QA is one who tests system enhancements and changes before they go into production. If that is what you do, then Business Analyst or Systems Analyst would be a good path for you to follow, because these are the people who design those changes and enhancements. We definitely get to think creatively and solve problems!

      1. Karlee*

        Or product owner. If you’ve got the skills and it’s relevant to your product expertise, you might be able to stretch into product training too.

    3. Walk on the left side*

      If you mean software QA, and have any interest in writing code (or learning to), test automation is very highly sought after, and very much gets you out of the repetitive/soulsucking nature of QA. You get the tools to creatively build systems to automate away the crap. It’s fantastic.

      (I moved from QA, to writing automated tests, to development some years ago.)

      1. NopityNope*

        Also potentially UX design, if the QA experience includes end-user type testing. I’ve always found that those QAing a final product from the end-user perspective often have a great understanding of the good, bad, and ugly of what works/doesn’t work for the folks actually using the product.

    4. Anhaga*

      What sort of QA are you in? If you’re tech, I can highly recommend shifting into accessibility-specific QA. It’s a pretty awesome field and is growing fast right now. We may not always be growing really fast, but the work will never die off . . . it will just evolve to match the new tech that comes out. Private accessibility consulting companies also tend to pay pretty decently.

  11. Hoping You Can Help*

    Hey folks, hoping you can help. I manage Fred who has been a breath of fresh air on my team. We have a good relationship and I’m very open and transparent with him. This morning, I arrived at one of our sites and walked in and found Fred on a video call with my boss’s boss, Jim (new to the org late 2020). We’ve been going through a lot of changes because of Jim and a lot of my team is burned out because of all the work and changes that need to be implemented. It was odd to see Fred on the call with Jim because there would not be need for them to meet just the two of them and so I’m concerned that Fred was complaining about the implementation or my management skills or a transfer to another department. I’d love to let it go, but it’s going to drive me crazy. Should I just let it go? How can I inquire about why they were meeting that wouldn’t come off as defensive?

    1. SlimeKnight*

      As a naturally nosy person, I just tend to frame these kind of things as, “Hey, I couldn’t help notice you were on a call with Great-Great Grandboss. Is there anything going on I need to know about?” But if he doesn’t give you a straight answer you will have to drop it.

      1. Hoping...*

        “Great Great Grandboss” has me rolling. This is exactly the way I was thinking of approaching so thanks, that’s helpful and validating that I wasn’t on a wrong path.

    2. another Hero*

      it sounds like Jim is making choices that are difficult for your team, so I’d think you could approach it that way – I saw you talking with Jim, anything you need support with? something like that doesn’t guarantee you’ll get info, but it’s possible, and it would be appropriate to ask

      1. Helping...*

        Thanks! Yes this is how I was thinking of approaching too. Very helpful to feel like I’m on the right track.

    3. Brett*

      Do you find Fred to be the type of person who provides valuable feedback?
      It is possible that this has been recognized by your boss who in turn passed this on to Jim. And at Jim’s level, it might be worthwhile to have someone at Fred’s level who can provide clear valuable feedback. It might be no more than that. I would expect Fred to tell you about the conversation though and perhaps get your help in developing strategy for it.
      Also, have you had reviews lately? If Fred did really well in those reviews, maybe he is being considered to advance to a new role and Jim wanted to have a conversation with him (which would explain why you were left out of the chain).
      Both of these are extremely positive things (well other than possibly losing Fred, but gaining him as a peer and advancing his career, which is positive). Come from the frame that it was something really positive like this, and you have no need to be defensive.

      1. Helping...*

        The odd thing was after I caught him on the call he got all flustered and rushed out that he needed to go do some work at another site. That’s the part that’s really bothering me. Because he’s usually really open with me and so it feels like something shady is going on (but that could be me projecting).

        Yes. Fred is my star on my team. That was definitely one of the things I considered. Jim manages another big team and could easily want to poach him.

        1. Brett*

          Fred’s reaction is pretty consistent with talking to Jim about moving to a new role. I see three big reasons to take a positive approach to this:
          You want to be happy for Fred. You want him to do better, because that will encourage the rest of your team that there is a real promotion path for them inside the company.
          Fred is going to be a resource for you in a new role. That grows your network and gives you a new peer.
          You want a smooth transition if Fred is going to leave. You want to make it easy for him to have as much time as possible to smoothly move your team to functioning without him; at the same time, you want that transition to be smooth and non-awkward so that it can also happen as fast as possible.

  12. Juniper*

    A little more info needed: what is facility design? Does it have anything to do with civil engineering?

    1. NopityNope*

      I suspect it could mean many different things, depending on context. So this is just a single data point. At my previous job at a large organization, we had a team actually called “Facilities Design” and it had zip to do with engineering. They were the ones who did the (re)designs and layouts of all of the spaces. I.e., office/cubicle arrangement to ensure that everyone got the size appropriate to their title; when we opened a new office, they designed the space; when we went from cubes to an “open” workspace (yuck!), they were the ones who created the floor plan. So very much a design/layout/flow function.

    2. Lora*

      In my field yes, this is a serious engineering role. First you figure out what all you’re going to put inside the building (people? manufacturing equipment? inventory/warehouse?) and then a civil engineer works with an architect and the process engineers to figure out what the layout should be and where to put the building’s column grid – the structural steel holding the floors up – and how thick the floors have to be, what the limits of building height are and how to deal with that.

      For example, I do process engineering, so I give the architect and a civil engineer my manufacturing equipment list with a rough diagram of which pieces of equipment have to be adjacent to each other, within a certain distance, and they calculate the weight of that equipment when it is full vs its footprint to figure out the column grid and floor thickness. I have had projects which were building shell retrofits and it turned out we couldn’t use the shell as designed because it was not designed for heavy equipment full of water, the column grid was spaced too widely. It’s the civil engineer’s job to figure that out and tell clients (internal or external) that he’s not going to stamp the drawings unless they put in additional steel or whatever. It is a part of Facility Design to have stupid conversations like,
      “You can’t do that, the building will collapse.”
      “Steel is really expensive!”
      “How expensive is it when the building collapses with people inside?”
      “But…figure something out… I don’t know, this is really expensive, they’re not going to go for it.”
      “I would rather the building never gets built, than have it collapse with my name on it.”
      “We’ll just find another engineering firm!”
      “Okay, good luck with that.”

      1. tamarack and fireweed*

        This sounds like a likely situation when a) building facilities is part of your company’s product (maybe you build power plants or Antarctic research stations for example) or b) you need to build facilities to engineer specifications in order to produce the company’s product. However, if most of the work takes place in pretty generic offices or maybe labs then there may still be a facilities design team (under the COO somewhere) but not be part of engineering. Even in case b) you’d have to be a pretty engineering-heavy (and highly specialized) shop I’d say, in the sense that the facility needs to be designed as part of the engineering process.

  13. No Tribble At All*

    TLDR My coworker has been underpaid for a year, and now they’re trying to say she won’t get back pay.

    My coworker and I work for Small Subcontractor which works for Prime Contractor. Right before Covid hit, she reached a milestone and was promoted to the next seniority level on the team (eg, Associate Llama Groomer to Llama Groomer). According to Prime Contractor, she’s a full Llama Groomer. However, because we’re paid by Small Subcontractor, the promotion & raise have to be official with Small for her to get any more money. Small Subcontractor apparently didn’t expect ??? this to occur, and didn’t have an internal method for promoting people that fits these timelines. Small promotes people from Associate Llama Groomer to Llama Groomer I, which requires 5 more years of experience. So her promotion has been pending since spring 2020 while they putzed around and figured out the paperwork.

    Apparently HR got back to her recently and said they’d make her promotion effective as of August 2021, which is absurd. We just got a new contract supervisor at Small, so I told Coworker to ask him for back pay. She’s gotten an email from our boss from Prime Contractor confirming the date of her promotion–and increase in responsibility– in spring 2020. She’s meeting with our new supervisor on Monday. Is there anything else she should bring with her? If they don’t give her back pay, is this a Better Business Bureau thing? State Department of Labor thing? I feel like it’s the wage gap in action, if not outright wage theft. Any advice would be much appreciated.

    1. Colette*

      I don’t think there’s any action she can take if they don’t agree to back pay, unless you have a contract that specifies the pay people at each level receive.

    2. RagingADHD*

      She needs to find out from Prime Contractor what billing rate they were being charged for her time. If Small Subcontractor was getting paid the higher rate and pocketing the difference, she should make sure Prime Contractor knows that and hopefully they can lean on Small Subcontractor to make it right.

      If Prime Contractor was paying the lower rate, then she was being paid in accordance with what Small Subcontractor got paid, but doing extra work. She might be able to pursue this with the contract negotiator that Prime Contractor (the customer) was pulling a fast one on SmallSub by getting the higher level work for free for a year. They may or may not pursue getting their own extra money from PC. Depending on the relationship, they may not think it’s worth pursuing. But they might.

      It’s impossible to say whether there is a legal avenue because it varies so widely by jurisdiction and the exact wording of the contract. But if she aligns herself with one of the main parties in this, there might be leverage.

      1. GeorgiaB*

        My experience is with gov’t contracts, but as a Prime, if someone working for a Sub came to me and asked what their bill rate was, I wouldn’t be able to tell them, and I definitely would not be able to push on Sub to pay them more. Her employment is with Sub, and Prime cannot interfere. This is 100% between employee and Subcontractor.

        1. RagingADHD*

          I’ve been in situations where it would be possible to do this through informal networking, because there was a strong relationship between the on-site contractor and the client. Especially if they were being overcharged by the subcontractor.

          It all depends on the industry and the people involved. And there’s always a risk of being seen as a pot-stirrer, but that’s true whenever you advocate for yourself.

          Given the choice between a discreet word in someone’s ear and threatening legal action, discretion (if possible) has a lower risk for the individual contractor’s long term career.

    3. Here4IT*

      Ive worked in Federal contracting for many years. If you and your friend are employed by the small sub, then only the small sub determines your compensation. Just because the Prime gave her a new title (think of it as ‘role’), that doesn’t obligate the sub to increase pay or promote internally. Also even if they were charging a higher bill rate for her IF she qualified at that next LCAT, that doesn’t obligate the sub to pay her more. And, it would be very rare that a prime would give the sub pricing information (to include what they bill her at).

      Unfortunately, based on what you wrote, it seems that you and your friend have a significant misunderstanding of how government contracting works from a prime/sub perspective.

    4. Deanna Troi*

      I have worked for a Prime, a Sub, and now I work for the federal government and I agree with RagingADHD* that this all depends on what rate they billed for her.

      She works for the Sub – the Prime doesn’t control her rate (although they have to approve it and could decide not to use her if they think it is too high for her classification). If they want to plug her into the Llama Groomer I role, they may be able to do that (as long as the client agrees that she is qualified), but they don’t have the authority to promote her – she doesn’t work for them! Unless her actual employer promotes her, she is still actually an Assistant Llama Groomer doing Llama Groomer I work.

      The billing rate consists of the rate that she makes plus the multiplier, which includes all of her benefits, pays for work space, equipment, overhead, and profit. To keep it simple, let’s assume her original rate was $20/hour and the multiplier is 2.5. The billing rate would be $50/hour. If she got a raise to $22/hour, the billing rate would now be $55/hour.

      So, I think there are 3 possible scenarios:

      1. Prime is billing $50/hour for her, but having her do the work at the higher level (I think this is most likely). In this case, there is no recourse – it is a gamble to start doing the higher level work until you start receiving the pay for it.

      2. Prime is billing $55/hour for her, but paying Sub $50/hour for her. This would be fraud.

      3. Prime is billing $55/hour for her and paying Sub $55/hour for her (meaning she should be paid $22/hour), but Sub is only paying her $20/hour. Also fraud.

      If she has a close relationship with the Prime, she may be able to find out from them what they billed for her and what they paid the Sub. But if the client was only billed $50/hour, there IS no back money because they never got it.

      P.S. ADORE your user name!

  14. RainbowTribble*

    Ahh, an internal job I’ve been waiting for has finally opened for applications. Super nervous about interviewing with my bosses/peers for the position, but hopeful I will get the job. Please send good vibes!

  15. Meg*

    I’m really frustrated with how my office is handling our re-opening. On the whole they’ve been fine to pretty good about the whole thing. But they’re refusing to allow any additional flexibility for people starting in 2022, and despite saying that coming back in September was optional, what they actually mean is that you need to be coming in at least some. As of this week, no changes to that in light of the delta variant.

    My actual question is around an additional sick leave policy they’ve announced. They want us to take sick time and not work if we’re sick. Fine. But if we’re under the weather but up to working, we can only work from home sick for a maximum of 2 weeks a year. That’s bonkers, right? I’m not crazy? I understand not wanting to encourage people to work when they’re really sick, but it’s not tenable to take an entire week off when you have a cold. So we’re back to a situation where people are going to be coming to work when they’re sick and contagious. I’m especially concerned about people coming into work with early covid symptoms.

    I’m planning to talk to HR next week (we have a new HR director who I haven’t met yet, other than all staff meetings). Other than what I said above about people coming to work sick, is there another angle I’m missing that I should be presenting to HR?

    1. MissBliss*

      Are the guidelines saying how long you have to work from home when you have symptoms? A couple of weeks ago I had some symptoms of something and stayed home the entire week, but I didn’t necessarily have to. I got a COVID test and when that came back negative, I went to the doctor for a strep test and overall check up. I could have gotten them all done on the same day and had the go ahead to go back to work earlier. So 2 weeks doesn’t seem crazy to me… But I also don’t feel “don’t come to work” sick that often. And when I do I’m more likely to actually take a sick day and sleep.

      What do you think would be more reasonable? 4 weeks? Or unlimited WFH when you have symptoms of a cold? (Which, FWIW, is what my org is doing.)

      1. Meg*

        They don’t have any guidelines around covid symptoms. The policy was announced a couple weeks ago before the delta stuff got really bad, so I think they were thinking the worst of covid was over (ugh). Oh, and you’re supposed to get the sick WFM day approved by your boss that morning.

        I don’t think they should be restricting work from home when you’re sick. I often will take a sick day early in a cold, but usually I’m sniffling or coughing for whatever for longer. I feel fine to work, but if I go to work, I’m spreading germs all around. I don’t get sick that often, but one cold could easily knock out a week of that. And for people who have kids….they’re going to get more than 1 cold a year.

        It just seems like this should have been ONE decent thing to come out of the last year. We’ve proven we can work well from home over the past year, trust us to be adults. If you think someone is abusing it (which is why I’m assuming they think they need a policy)…then manage/deal with that perosn.

        1. HigherEdAdminista*

          I am so sorry you are dealing with this. I agree with you completely, but there are enough “back to normal” people in charge that progress isn’t going to be a straight-line on these changes. Because really, it wasn’t that they didn’t know before that coming to the office and spreading the flu around wasn’t a good thing… but they didn’t care. They figured whatever the impact was of that, it was acceptable. Their bottom line wasn’t harmed by it and the policies all seem to be drafted with the bottom line as the only concern, or at the very best, the primary concern.

          And I don’t want to sound too cynical, but I think that is exactly what they are doing with COVID. The media messaging has shifted to the idea that we will all get it, even if we are vaccinated, and that being vaccinated is what counts. Many school districts have no plan for how to handle outbreaks in their schools; it isn’t because they think it won’t happen… in my opinion, it’s because they are experimenting with what level of outbreak people will find acceptable.

          It seems the same with these kind of WFH policies. If the organization doesn’t like WFH or a boss just loves to come in and see all his employees toiling away, their main goal is going to be keeping people in the office. They realize that this means people will be exposed to stuff, but they care less about that than they care about restricting these freedoms. If a couple people catch COVID at work, it seems they are okay with that. If it got to be too overwhelming, then they might make exceptions or take another action.

          Again, I don’t mean to sound like the most cynical person ever, but I say this only to say… put yourself first. Do whatever you need to do to ensure your safety, including starting to look for another position.

          1. alwaysonefootoutthedoor*

            I’m in higher ed and we’re being told 100% butts-in-seats by winter quarter, with fall being transition back to campus time.
            Now that we have a vax/mask mandate HR is making everyone do remote work feasibility forms that are ridiculous, esp given that they are just for one quarter, not any kind of long-term WFH arrangements (we often close during winter storms and most of us would love to be able to WFH then), but just a grace period to find childcare or move back from out of the area etc.
            I’m thinking the idea is to let us get sick (my county is experiencing a rise in breakthrough cases) and treat it like any round of flu instead of a pandemic. The thought of thousands of people converging on one location, even vaxxed & masked, and expecting us to all stay functional in the trenches is just foul.

    2. Nesprin*

      I’d suggest pointing out how much allergies and other common conditions look like early COVID and how you’re sure they’d want folk feeling a bit crummy to stay home and not expose the general population.

  16. EnfysNest*

    My office is right next to my boss’s and I can often hear conversations he’s having when the door is open. Any time the conversation sounds at all serious, I’ll quickly put on headphones and music to ensure I can’t hear anything (and usually he’ll close the door at that point, too, which mostly blocks the sound anyway), but it’s inevitable that I overhear some things said in casual conversation. I’m never intentionally eavesdropping, but it’s standard for everyone’s doors to be open unless we’re on a call and we all know that our voices carry in the hallway.

    Multiple times now, I’ve heard a specific coworker (we’ll call him Pete) chatting with my boss and he’ll start saying something with a tinge of sexism to it to my boss – nothing blatant, but more of the “men and women are inherently different” / “women are more emotional than men” variety, usually while mentioning something his wife did. I still just throw on my headphones as soon as I hear him start to say anything of the sort (mainly to prevent myself from getting annoyed at him), but it definitely has me wondering where the line would be if Pete’s comments ever escalate or if they become more pervasive. As it is now, I’ll just continue to ignore it when he says things like that, but at what point would someone who wasn’t part of the conversation be able to interject or bring up an issue with something they overheard?

    Pete’s not in any sort of management role and he and I are in the same role, although I’m the only woman in our section. Pete’s very much of the “people nowadays are too sensitive about everything” sort, so just pointing out concerns about his words directly would not go over well, even if they had been said to me instead of something I overheard, which adds an extra layer of awkward.

    1. RagingADHD*

      I don’t know what the exact line is, but you aren’t anywhere near it yet. Pete generally having regressive attitudes about his wife’s emotionsis not a hostile-workplace issue. He sounds like a jerk, but people being low-level jerks with a willing conversation partner in your general vicinity is just part of life.

      Certainly, if Pete tried to draw you into the conversation or was saying anything obviously work-inappropriate like sexual jokes, or was behaving in a sexist way to you when you work together, then you should raise that.

      You can ask your boss to please always shut the door when people are chatting in his office, because it’s distracting.

    2. J.B.*

      Frustrating, especially that your boss hasn’t shut it down. I think I’d try to let it go, but treat your boss with caution and look to move if he seems to be factoring that into his decisions.

    3. Walk on the left side*

      IF you wanted to open the can of worms — and that’s a pretty big if here, and depends a lot on your comfort/political capital and your boss — you could bring up with your boss that you hear “Pete” say these things and it makes you uncomfortable. It’s your boss’s job to shut down any sexism in the workplace, and this is a fabulous example of how person A talking to person B can still be creating a hostile work environment for person C. I’m not sure if this raises to the level of hostile work environment, but it’s clearly moving that direction. I would worry that your sexist coworker is ‘feeling out’ how tolerant the boss is so he knows how to walk the line in the future and what he can get away with.

      This is the kind of thing I would talk to my boss about shutting down immediately.

      Also, a valuable phrasing should you need to address it directly with Pete can be an approach of “you are welcome to your opinion, but we do not talk that way in a professional setting.” Focus on the acceptability of it AT WORK rather than in general.

    4. Student*

      The next time I accidentally overheard Pete say something like “Women are more emotional…” I’d be That Gal and butt in. “We also have pretty good hearing, Pete! If you insult my whole gender in my earshot again, you’re going to see several more emotions from me that you’d rather not!”

      I also have the luxury of not having to work with this particular dinosaur, and have made the personal assessment that if I get fired for telling people not to insult women in front of me, that’s a worthwhile hill for me to die on. I know that’s a luxury not everyone has.

    5. MissDisplaced*

      My boss (well I don’t directly report to him anymore, but I support his team) has made some pretty sexist remarks from time to time. But the thing is, they were generally about his personal life (think mother in law) and he was obviously struggling with some family dynamics. Guess I was a sympathetic ear.
      Uncomfortable for me! But honestly nothing I would report to HR. I think maybe this is the case with your “Pete” currently. Best to ignore as it seems to have been a personal convo, unless you see it creeping in elsewhere.

      1. RagingADHD*

        Yes, if he were saying “I can’t deal with [Female Colleague/Client/Vendor,] she’s so emotional! Well, you know how women are.” then sure, jump in.

        But “You won’t believe how upset my wife got about [totally personal relationship thing], she’s so emotional! Eh, women, amirite?”

        Then just be glad you’re not married to someone like that and leave it alone.

  17. onyxzinnia*

    Has anyone read about the overemployed movement that’s been getting a lot of press recently? Essentially, people are secretly working two full-time remote jobs at the same time without either employer realizing it. Reasons seem to center around earning more money and having access to more opportunities.

    I think it’s interesting since barring non-compete agreements, there’s nothing illegal about it (although your employer could argue that it’s time theft). The logistics seem mindboggling though.

    1. Respectfully, Pumat Sol*

      A lot of jobs prohibit moonlighting, so I expect that if either employer found out about the situation the person would be fired immediately.

    2. Mental Lentil*

      Honestly, my hat is off to these people. If I could work two jobs from home and do good work for both and basically double my income, all while wearing a sparkly dragon pajama complete with tail, I would.

      1. Person from the Resume*

        I think, though, that the idea is they aren’t working 80 hours a week (two full time jobs) and doing good work.

        Maybe you could say it’s the company’s fault for not managing remote employees output better, but what about manager’s giving employees the benefit of the doubt during this unprecedented time and allowing leeway because of stress of COVID and kids being at home while working from home, etc?

        IDK It seems really shady. It would have to be two unique jobs for them not to overlap and conflict in some way.

        1. Mental Lentil*

          Yes, they are working two jobs at the same time. 40 hours/week total.

          I think I read a study somewhere that said the average office worker actually accomplishes only about 3 hours of actual work in a 8 hour day. I think I could honestly get six hours of work done at home in an eight hour day, because of the complete lack of distractions and ability to focus.

    3. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      I don’t have any hard data, but then again the people who write these articles don’t really either. A couple of anecdotes about this do not a trend make.

    4. another Hero*

      I’m also a bit curious about how you get some of the lasting benefits of it – are you going to put both of the two concurrent jobs on a resume? surely you aren’t pretending skills and accomplishments from one job actually came from the other? maybe you put them both and let people conclude they were part-time, idk.

      1. Spero*

        I’ve had concurrent jobs that were each part time but about 60 hr/wk total, and generally interviewers have just asked to confirm the dates were accurate and briefly about how I managed both (ex clear hours/worksite, no overlap). It wasn’t a barrier.

        1. Decidedly Me*

          I think that’s fine (though risk of burnout), but I don’t think that’s what is happening in many of these cases,

      2. onyxzinnia*

        I suppose you could put the one that’s most relevant to the job you’re applying for, but that would be hard to explain if you put both.

      1. onyxzinnia*

        Same. Every time I get emails from recruiters about these really awesome-sounding contract roles from brand name companies, I silently curse to myself that I need things like healthcare and 401K plans that require me to stay at my unsatisfying but dependable job.

      1. BetsCounts*

        The Journal is pretty reactionary, imo, and is happy to write a thinkpiece for a ‘secret trend’ that, in actuality, is extremely rare and describe it as an epidemic. I read the same article and can only imagine how many ‘butts in chairs’ bosses will use it as an excuse to radically curtail WFH or other types of job flexibility.

        1. Lynn*

          I agree. I think it’s getting attention because it’s interesting & promotes a lot of discourse. I don’t think it is actually happening it statistically significant numbers.

        2. MissDisplaced*

          Yes, beware the WSJ! They are a very right-leaning paper. They have been pushing many stores supporting how much more “productive” workers are in offices.
          Read between the lines: They support the capitalist, big business agenda. Think of all that empty office space in cities.

    5. Littorally*

      I am envious of people whose job oversight/metrics are so lax that they can pull this off. I’ve never worked a job that didn’t have some fairly hard productivity numbers attached.

    6. D3*

      As someone who has been job hunting for months now, it makes me mad that people would do this. And honestly, this could very well be what makes remote work less possible in the future as employers catch on.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I saw it and it made me gnash my teeth for this very reason. Either they’d yank WFH or make you install keyloggers or some other kind of intrusive surveillance software.

        Also, I don’t think most people could actually pull this off, so I’m inclined to think it’s a small group of outliers. Plus, it would probably only be doable with jobs where the person works alone most of the time even if they were onsite.

        1. Decidedly Me*

          This! I have a remote team and trust that they are where they should be. There is some tracking that is just built into the tools they use (chats taken, calls made, etc), but folks are not tracked by keystrokes, surveillance, reporting what they do for every second of the day, etc. and I don’t want to ever have a need to implement things like that.

          I did once have someone ask if they could drop to part time work (for full time pay) for a time to do a side job….he seemed genuinely surprised that we were not ok with this. At least he asked, though, and didn’t just start disappearing for half the day.

      2. mediamaven*

        This. I truly believe that remote work will die off slowly because of this very type of shady stuff. Good people will suffer but that’s what happens when trust gets eroded.

        1. Fran Fine*

          Remote work will not die off because of something like this, which is a rare occurrence. Most people who work remotely are not doing multiple jobs at once.

    7. Teapot Repair Technician*

      I’d be concerned if there was something illegal about it.

      In addition to my job, I spend 40+ hours per week doing my hobby, for which I happen to earn a little money, so technically one could consider it a second fulltime job. It would be dismaying if I had to worry about getting fired or sued for doing that.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Yep, me too. I always frame it as a side gig I do around full-time work and make sure to emphasize the separateness of the two.

      2. someone*

        It may not be illegal but many jobs have a moonlighting clause. My job, for example, allows moonlighting but it must be reported. They mainly want to disallow other jobs that is a competitor as my main job but any unreported moonlighting is grounds for dismissal.

    8. AndersonDarling*

      I’ve heard of techs doing this for a while. Basically, they outsource the job’s work and they manage their personal team. It works well with jobs that have exact deliverables, then you hand off the deliverables to your team and check the work when it comes back.

    9. fluffy*

      Years and years ago, one big scandal arose because a full time college professor was full time at 2 separate schools far apart from each other. I was close enough to academia then to think how easy that would be for someone to pull off. Most of my professor contacts had about 3 classes a week, which might be a total of 9 hours a week. They had an obligation to have office hours but would be able to limit that to 3-5 hours a week. With TA assistance this would be easy to pull off. The guy who emerged in the news had been doing this for years

    10. A Change of Name*

      I honestly think one of my managers and one of my [now ex-] coworkers is doing this.

      We are project-driven and each project has a The-Buck-Stops-Here Manager but the project and the staff on it are managed by a Lead.

      The Leads who have worked projects for this one manager (of which I am one) are baffled at the amount of time the manager books to each project because there’s literally no way she has spent, say, 35 hours this week on the XYZ Project. I’d know, because I’m the Lead for XYZ and the manager hasn’t been on any of the calls, in the team meetings, or reviewed any work. A quick Google search of her name turns up a consulting company that she started early last year.

      As for the ex-coworker, he was super unproductive to begin with and all the managers cut him a ton of slack and just… worked around him, assigning his work to other staff members. The day he gave his *one week* notice, I checked LinkedIn. He had another company as his current employer with a start date of a month or two ago (I forget). I’m assuming their “Return to the Office” date is earlier than ours and he needed to make a choice.

      1. The New Wanderer*

        At my company, we have regular audits of time charging to projects and people in authority can and will ask specifics of what someone contributed if they charged time to a project. This process is in place at least some of the projects are related to gov’t contracts but it applies to all of the work. I don’t suppose you have anyone who can do that?

    11. Chauncy Gardener*

      There was an article in the WSJ this week about just this. The folks they highlighted were “working” two jobs, but it sounded like they were coasting in both of them. The article ACTUALLY TALKED ABOUT ways to stay under the radar so as to not get fired while doing the absolute bare minimum. IN THE WSJ!! I really hope this is not a trend.

    12. Alternative Person*

      I’ve heard a little bit.

      I do freelance work on top of my regular job, but having two fully concurrent jobs just wouldn’t work with my schedule.

      I think the reasons also matter, if they’re playing both sides because they can, then well eff them and if they’re coasting in both jobs, well they’re burning bridges which could be a problem for them down the line, but given the way salaries/wages have been, are and will likely continue to circle the drain in a lot of careers, I do kind of get it if the people really need the money, heaven only knows how inefficient some jobs are and without a commute, it is a lot easier to do.

      A second computer (if not provided by the workplace) wouldn’t be that expensive and wi-fi/multiple ethernet ports make it possible to get around any spyware companies might impose easily enough.

  18. Please Remove Your Monkeys from My Circus*

    So…big boss has breakthrough covid and exposed about a quarter of the staff (10-12 people, including me) in various in person meetings earlier this week. Everyone on our payroll is fully vaxed, and everyone in my meeting was masked, but…big boss came in and had long, multi-person meetings, including some unmasked, without telling anyone she had symptoms. Then got mad when I pushed back that we needed to cancel an on-site meeting with an outside person involving 3 staff members the big boss exposed. I don’t really have a question, I guess I’m just looking for reassurance that I’m not crazy for thinking it’s BS that I had to use capital to get her to make the smart/safe/responsible choice in a situation that is entirely the big boss’s fault. (For the record, I’m planning to get tested as soon as I’m in the optimal window, just in case.)

    1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      You’re not crazy.
      You shouldn’t have had to wrangle your boss. She didn’t make just one mistake, she had made several mistakes and was on the verge of making more.

      1. Please Remove Your Monkeys from My Circus*

        Thank you. This crazy twilight zone world we’re in calls for reality checks sometimes. I appreciate the quick reassurance!

    2. another Hero*

      your boss made a *terrible* call and it was good of you to use the capital but you should not have had to

    3. Person from the Resume*

      Not crazy.

      I had a guy cancel something yesterday afternoon because his wife’s coworker has COVID and she was exposed. Wife is waiting on COVID test results, but until then husband and wife are isolating. That’s how it needs to be done. All folks with interactions with the boss in the last few days should be tested and stay home until it’s clear they are not infected i.e. negative test result (test should be 5ish days after exposure).

    4. Jay*

      You are not crazy. I forced one of my team to stay home today while she’s awaiting test results because one of her kids has symptoms – no confirmed infection (yet) but kid is too young to be vaccinated, so I have a high suspicion. Anyone with symptoms should stay home and barring that (which shouldn’t happen) they really must inform everyone of the risk. They don’t have any way of knowing who is at increased risk or who lives with someone at increased risk.

      One of my friends had a kidney transplant. She’s been vaxxed and does not have antibodies. If her son or husband was one of the people exposed by your boss, it could kill her. No exaggeration.

    5. HigherEdAdminista*

      You’re not crazy. We are learning every day that there are a significant percentage of the population who actively do not care who they harm or put in danger, as long as their needs are met; your boss has shown you she is in that group. She had symptoms and she exposed herself to people. She knew what she was doing; she likely just didn’t care.

    6. Beth*

      You’re not crazy, it’s BS, and I have complete sympathy with you.

      My most recent test — the test I would not have had to get if one of my bosses hadn’t needlessly screwed up our Covid policies — came back negative. I hope yours does too!

    7. Massive Dynamic*

      I am sorry – you are not crazy. FWIW I too have a workplace where the Big Boss goes unmasked. We’re at 85% vax rate (including him) but we just found out today that someone caught the Delta and we all had a big company meeting together in the office on Monday. I’m WFH for now.

  19. Domino*

    I feel like I can’t motivate myself at my desk job, and never will again. Part of me wonders if you can just develop an intolerance to desk work, like some people develop an intolerance to gluten. It used to be fine, but now, for seemingly no reason, it’s not.

    I don’t really have a question, just wondering if anyone else can relate.

    1. Respectfully, Pumat Sol*

      When was the last time you took any time off? When I would start to feel this way I’d book myself a long (3-4 day) weekend and just veg out on my couch. It really helps to take some mental space away.

      1. Domino*

        It hasn’t actually been that long: 2.5 week vacation in June, plus our work gave us a free vacation day in July and another in August. I don’t think it’s burnout, since, well, let’s just say I’ve never been accused of working too hard. But for a while now, I’ve been super resistant to doing even the simplest things at work. Sometimes I’m overcome with physical exhaustion just thinking about opening a document. I know that might sound like burnout, but again, I’m very lazy and unproductive, so I don’t see how I could have burned myself out. I guess I just don’t really like my job and have lost the ability to trick myself into caring.

        1. Been There*

          It could be bore-out, which has similar symptoms but is due to understimulation instead of overstimulation.

    2. Colette*

      Have you taken any vacations lately? You could be burned out.

      I find my motivation dips in the summer, and in December. Once September hits, I get back into the right mindset.

    3. HatBeing*

      Relating! I think I need regular human interaction, even just through video calls or regular slacks, but since I’m a DOO I’m often left to my own devices. And I get everything done but…I don’t go above or beyond anymore. Good luck in figuring stuff out.

      1. Domino*

        Human interaction would probably help, come to think of it. I feel more energized after having a conversation with the right person. Though, that energy dissipates quickly, often without me bothering to harness it. I guess there are ways of being more intentional about that.

    4. should i apply?*

      I can relate a lot. I took a vacation last month and I will say there wasn’t a difference in my motivation after. There is theoretically nothing wrong with my job except for the usual office annoyances but I have zero motivation and haven’t for months.

    5. Meg*

      I can relate! I thought it was burnout (and highly recommend the book Burnout by Emily and Amelia Nagowski, or their podcast). It’s really hard and frustrating and demoralizing. It may be time for a new job. For me, I was still excited about the work in theory, but can’t motivate to execute anything. It sucks.

      1. Meg*

        I debated adding this, because I am very much not a doctor or an expert, and lack of motivation can be many many many different things. But for me personally, talking to my therapist about how I was struggling (not just the motivation alone, but actually doing the things regardless of motivation) ultimately lead to an ADHD diagnosis.

        I also second everyone who said breaks/vacations help. I also started using a more robust digital to do list to at least keep track of everything I wasn’t motivated to do lol. It helped, as does breaking down the big things into very small pieces.

    6. Lyudie*

      I’m here as well. I suspect I never really recovered from burnout a few years ago, I changed jobs but haven’t been able to take an extended break…I had a couple of weeks at christmas but I suspect that’s not enough. I just can’t really bring myself to care much about anything.

    7. Not So NewReader*

      Relate. I refused desk work until I got near 50. The thought of not being able to move around at work slayed me. But as I went into my 50s and life stuff happened, I realized I probably will work for the rest of my life. With this in mind, I thought it might be good to sit down.

      Sitting is almost as bad as I thought it would be in terms how the lack of movement impacts my body. I do stuff to help myself and it’s all working out okay.

      But yes, for the longest time the thought of being tied to a desk was a nightmare to me. I do appreciate all those years of moving around at work, I think I burned some of that restlessness out of me.

    8. CatMintCat*

      I worked a desk job for years, then made a career change to something a little more active (teaching). Now, with Covid lockdown, I am back at my desk for hours and hours (minimum 10) perday and I am really struggling with it.

    9. MissDisplaced*

      Some people are not cut out for desk jobs that require 8 hours of being on a computer. WFH has probably made it more so, as the meetings no longer break things up.
      For introverts like me, well, I’m happy as a clam. But it’s difficult to many.

  20. Oatmeal Baby Bump*

    Tldr – Any folks who have been on long (6-12+ months) maternity leave experienced vast changes to your job? And promotions you missed, possibly solely because you were on leave?

    I just got in touch with a colleague of mine I am reeling; she let me know that my boss had quit in June and the person who was hired as my substitute was in fact promoted to manage my other team mate. This is extra weird, because my boss used to manage two departments, Oatmeal Assistance (my dept) and Emergency Groats. Now two different people manage those departments.

    But then my colleague said they are looking to merge Oatmeal Assistance with Emergency Groats down the road. The latter do shift work while my dept had regular working hours, part of why this job was perfect for me to go back to with a small kid in daycare.

    I have to look into whether this is legal in my country, but I think it probably is. But then I thought about it and also realized that if a total newbie got promoted in my absence, does that mean I missed out on a promotion while on mat leave? Do I have any leverage to ask why I wasn’t considered for the position when I return next year?

    1. Colette*

      I don’t think it’s helpful to think about it as missing out on a promotion, and I’m not sure you weren’t considered. (You weren’t interviewed, but they know your work.)

      I find a lot of promotions tend to be someone specific moving in to a new job without taking any other applications, and I’d guess that’s what happened here. Would it have been different if you’d been in the office? Maybe. But you’re coming back to the same job you left, so I don’t think there are any legal remedies.

      I think that you can, when you back, say “Oh, I see that Replacement is now the manager of the Oatmeal Assistance department, what’s behind that change?”

      1. Fran Fine*

        I find a lot of promotions tend to be someone specific moving in to a new job without taking any other applications, and I’d guess that’s what happened here.

        Yeah, this is how every one of my promotions have gone, including my most recent one. Someone being out of the office for the short time where the job postings were up internally would not have mattered because the hiring managers had already decided I was The One either before the post went up or shortly thereafter.

    2. Alexis Rosay*

      If someone was needed for a supervisory position, I don’t think it’s strange at all that they would promote the person who was available to fill it. Since you’re not there, you probably don’t have a good idea of all the reasons behind the need for this position. Are you thinking they should have waited for you to get back and then promoted you? With that long of a leave I don’t think that’s a reasonable ask, unless you were only a few weeks away from returning at the time.

      1. Oatmeal Baby Bump*

        I admit I am probably being too emotional about this because managing my own small department would have literally been a dream come true. I probably couldn’t have managed the two depts my boss did but my own? Yeah I could definitely do that. I knew that job and team inside and out. I was the person people went to when they needed help/guidance.

        I understand they couldn’t have kept a seat warm for me until next year but putting a total newbie into that seat chafes, especially if the end goal is to merge the two departments anyway.

    3. changing my username for this one*

      Yes, hi, welcome to the club. Mine happened when I was out for less than 4 months, and I was essentially replaced by my leave temp and demoted in a giant reorg. It sucks and I don’t have any great advice. It was perfectly legal where I’m located, but I’m not sure if that’s true everywhere in the world.

      I will say, I did go back and restart the job and have been here for about a year and it wasn’t as bad day-to-day as I thought – the other people that were re-orged were all in my same boat although they’d had to watch it in slow motion which might have been worse. A few of us felt like we missed out on promotion opps and I assume that will eventually be rectified by our leaving the company earlier than we might have otherwise. It left a terrible taste in my mouth about a company I previously liked, and leaves me totally second-guessing my work up to this point to be honest.

      It really, really made me think about what I wanted out of my leave, what I wanted out of my career vs motherhood, whether I’d take a long leave in the future, etc etc. I don’t have any good answers, I thought I’d have a second kid and this whole experience honestly makes me question whether I want to or not, or if my husband could afford to be the leave-taker next time around.

      1. Oatmeal Baby Bump*

        Hey, my sympathies and thanks for sharing your story. Shocking it can happen in such a short time. At least in my case I knew I would be gone for a while, so I mentally checked out of work until I decided to catch up with my colleague (whom I get along with, although we are not close friends). I knew changes would happen but this was a lot of changes that frankly don’t make a ton of sense to me right now. My colleague said she is keeping an eye on internal positions in other departments and our sister offices, if nothing comes up she is ramping up her job search. She also promised to send me what specific changes would happen if she still works there when they happen.

        I am also undecided on a second kid! I love this baby and I love spending time at home with him but unsure what the future holds right now.

    4. Amaranth*

      I don’t think you need leverage to ask the question, but I don’t understand why they would have considered you if you were out for a year – it could be they just promoted the manager temporarily while they determine if the merger is going to go through. Is there any chance this person is still filling in temporarily and that they will finish up the maternity leave contract when you return? That doesn’t mean you’d step into a promotion, but there also might be an opportunity to apply for one.

      1. Oatmeal Baby Bump*

        That’s the thing, usually when they hire a mat leave replacement in my country (where all workers have an employment contract), they do a temporary contract with the possibility of making it permanent. Legally they have to “hold” my job for me to return to. But I assume this person is now on a permanent contract as people don’t usually have temp contracts as managers? My colleague indicated that as well, though obviously she doesn’t know for sure.

        And I don’t know what the job I would be walking back into would be. My contract states what time I work in the office (“8 hours between 7am and 5pm”) so if I do come back and that has changed, then the contract has to be changed as well.

        1. Amaranth*

          This is a great time to ask questions, but it might also be a good opportunity to put out other applications as well. During a time of transition its pretty understandable to look at other options in your field. The fact that your current company is restructuring and you need a specific schedule are solid reasons if asked.

          1. Amaranth*

            I meant transition in YOUR life – coming back from maternity leave and needing more structure.

          2. Oatmeal Baby Bump*

            Thankfully one of the friends I vented to said that if push comes to shove she has a lot of leads on work-from-home positions I could apply to that are regularly looking for new folks to join, so I am feeling more hopeful than previously. Thanks for your advice!

    5. Former Retail Manager*

      I don’t think you have leverage to ask why you weren’t considered. Here in the US, my own anecdotal observations, have been that about 50% of ladies either never return from maternity leave and choose to quit, or return, work a short time, and then quit or ask to drop down to part-time. Often there is no prior indication that someone plans to make this move and it’s the result of them reprioritizing while they’re on leave, so I think it’s reasonable that your employer wouldn’t have reached out to you or considered you, because frankly, they don’t even know if you’ll really return.

      On a personal note, I totally get your feelings though and I’d feel the same way. I’d roll with the situation when you return, feel it out, and it’s possible that the newbie won’t like the position or won’t succeed so it may ultimately open up for you anyway.

      1. Oatmeal Baby Bump*

        Over here, plenty of moms and dads come back only to resign and stay their two weeks. But not necessarily, because I think there are obligations both ways – the employer has to hold your job for you but you also have to come back to your job unless you have other employment (ie you can’t go on unemployment and not go back to your old job).

        You’re right, it’s gonna be a worry for later down the road. I’m going to do my best to chill while keeping ears open for any new job leads.

    6. Ahdez*

      I have only taken a maternity of three months (typical for where I live). I was promoted while five months pregnant when my boss quit. However, had I been on leave at the time and were going to be out for up to a year, I’m not sure they would have “held it”. I would have been disappointed, but I’m not sure it’s fair to expect a business to do that. They need someone to manage the work for the next 6 months to a year. At your company, if they are considering a restructure later on, could it be that this new person took this on basically because they are there at the time, and it’s not permanent? The merger of the departments might mean another restructure is pending. I think the best way forward would be to ask for more information to understand the restructure in general when you return – but it might even look different at that point.

      1. Oatmeal Baby Bump*

        It could be that it’s not permanent. I’m guessing it gets my goat because really it would have been the kind of promotion I would have thrived in. Not too big, not too small, just right in terms of responsibility and slots right into everything I knew about the job. It just stings, even if it’s just pure bad luck. But since I won’t return until spring 2022 at the earliest, there could still be plenty of changes along the way that shake out in my favor. This is the company of rapid change, when I started they had a different name and logo, last year they got new owners etc. A lot of change happening across the board.

  21. Mental Lentil*

    Can anybody recommend a solid web site where one can pick up some freelance editing/proofreading/technical writing gigs?

    1. Katia*

      I think Upwork and Fiverr do have the type of gigs you mention, but I haven’t tried them myself. Hope it helps!

    2. Redaktorin*

      Upwork and Fiverr are going to expose you to a high rate of scammers, require a huge up-front investment of time before they start paying out, and always get you lower-paying gigs. Reedsy may or may not accept your profile—they’ve gotten MUCH stricter about who can work with them over the years and what sort of experience you must have.

      I have gotten all my best gigs from the regular sites—LinkedIn and Indeed. Hiring companies and staffing agencies post temporary and part-time work to these more general job boards all the time.

  22. Just curious...*

    I’ve been working remotely at a position I started around March 2020, and circumstances have conspired such that I haven’t needed/been able to visit my workplace in person. I also recently realized that because of that, I’ve never actually seen my supervisor – we talk on a daily basis – as he never turns on his video. Our employer doesn’t enforce video usage and I’ve always just assumed it’s none of my business, but I mentioned it to one of my parents (also a remote worker) the other day and they thought it was fairly weird that I had never seen him at all, not even when we were first introduced. I don’t plan on saying anything about it, but I was curious if this is an outstandingly unusual occurrence given the past year or just nunya.

    1. Mental Lentil*

      I wouldn’t think this is weird, but I’m not a fan of people in general.

      It’s possible that your supervisor is a cat, and that’s why he’s not using video.

    2. TiffIf*

      I think it is a bit weird that you’ve never seen him, but I don’t think it is unusual that your team doesn’t use video in general.

      I have worked in my current position for 8 years, and since March 2020 remotely. Since then, I can count on one hand the number of times I have turned on my camera. Most of the times I have turned it on has been when I was assisting in interviews so that the candidate (and prospective employee) can see me at least once.

      However, that being said, on Monday I am moving to a new internal position in my company and I have yet to see what my new manager looks like. When I did the interview with her she was having issues with her computer so called in from her phone rather than joining on Teams and so couldn’t do video. Because I haven’t had a lot of direct interaction with her yet (mostly just emails about getting access to things set up) I just haven’t seen her. But I assume I will at some point.

    3. Filosofickle*

      Personally I think it’s weird and it would really bother me if it were my boss. Most of my meetings have been on video for many years, and 95%+ of the people I meet with turn on their camera some of the time so in my world someone who never does is a real outlier.

    4. Elizabeth West*

      That is strange. Most people at least have a picture that’s visible when their video is off.

      1. ThatGirl*

        Eh, on both Zoom and Teams if I turn my video off, there’s no photo – even though I do have a picture uploaded to Teams. Might be a setting somewhere, because I know some of my coworkers do have photos up when their cameras are off, but it’s not universal.

        1. Eden*

          It’s definitely an option in zoom, and one that most of my org uses. I think it’s good to add a photo, it can be pretty uncomfortable for other people to present to a sea of blank squares.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          What Eden said, though your comment makes me wonder if he did have a pic and didn’t know how to make it visible.
          He might be nervous about appearing on camera–I know I hate watching myself.

        3. Fran Fine*

          It’s definitely either your settings or Teams is glitching again (a few weeks ago, it stopped showing my colleague’s photos during calls, but it seems to be working again).

    5. Ahdez*

      I think it’s weird to never have seen the person even once. We don’t use video much at my workplace for internal calls, but when someone new joins the team we at least all say hi with video once.

    6. fhqwhgads*

      Not odd. My company is 100% remote, not for covid reasons. Always. Some people are always cameras off people. Some are sometimes camera people. Some are always camera people. It’s fine. It’s actually written into our DEAI policy not to force cameras since there are any number of reasons why that might be difficult/extremely uncomfortable/whatever and we’d rather staff not have to worry about it.

    7. Office Pantomime*

      Same here and I am disconcerted by it. Worked for a year never having seen my team mates and boss once, though we interacted on zoom daily. I looked them up on LinkedIn and Facebook to see photos but that’s it. Great team otherwise. Ended up leaving that role not just because of the impersonal nature of it, but was a a factor for sure. I blame Covid, not people, because being on camera a lot is icky.

  23. Princess Trachea-Aurelia Belaroth*

    Does anyone have advice about training your boss? I am the librarian’s assistant in a public high school, and my previous librarian (the only one I’ve worked with) retired at the end of last school year.

    His replacement is very nice, has good experience (but not in schools or school libraries), and has a great attitude about working with kids as they are, as well as discipline and mission, so it’s not a matter of her being difficult. It’s just hard to train the person who is above you, especially when they are classified as something (a teacher) that neither of you have any experience in. Any tips welcome!

    1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      You just have to remove the work hierarchy from your thinking on this.

      If this was a peer that you had to train, what would you do? What would you talk about on day 1, what would you teach by example, what reading would you give this person? Just do those same things.

      The only difference about this being your boss is that sometimes she’s going to have to set the schedule, instead of you setting the schedule. If she needs to know how to do that quarterly task right away, because the management wants her to re-do what the previous boss did, then you need to train her on it now, instead of at the end of the quarter like you normally would.

    2. Ms. Hagrid Frizzle*

      When I was in this sort of a position, we just both leaned in and embraced the awkward. I came into the org as an intern, but the manager position between me and the department Big Boss that usually supervised the intern role was vacant. About 2/3 through my internship, they hired a manager. I was exceptionally close to Big Boss and had a lot of specialized knowledge and had even created new processes in my time there, so I was put in charge of training New Manager.

      Honestly, have some humor, have some grace, and go ahead and just name the feelings. A good “this feels strange to be training you on these tasks, but I am glad you’ve joined our team” can go a long way. I also tended to ask New Manager “I usually do X at this time each week/day, would that work for you to learn this process? Or would a different time be better with your schedule”. That way, NM had the ultimate authority on timing, without dismissing my expertise on the task.

      1. Amaranth*

        Also, if you know you tend towards any kind of mild gossip (watch out for June, she will talk your ear off all day!) or self-deprecation when putting a new hire at ease, maybe set your formality dial up a tick. Be friendly of course, but keep the Boss role in mind.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      In retail I trained plenty of bosses. (high turnover)

      This is an opportunity to show the boss how you shine as an employee. Be the trainer you would want. Be courteous, offer clear examples, give opportunity for her to try things, show her where the resources are so she can figure some stuff out on her own. Don’t forget to take little breaks. Training all day long is exhausting for the both of you.

      Currently, I am training my own boss. She is as sharp as a tack so we cut to the point on things pretty fast.
      I speak candidly. “I prefer that you decide on all Xs because I have to follow through with doing Y. It looks better if I have no say in X.” [Trust me, this made huge sense in our setting.] She seemed kind of pleased because this was very clear and it kind of established a boundary on this matter- she does X and I do Y.

      I had to explain what I can and cannot sign. “Sue will accept my signature on ABC. She said she does not need my boss’ signature.” Then to be crystal clear, I said, “I never sign your name on anything. Just my own name.” She smiled because this makes things super clear.

      Don’t be bashful about saying what you need from the boss.
      I have said things like, “I need you to sign purchase orders but I can write them up for you.”
      If you start right in talking this way, it will feel natural as you go along.

      Don’t be afraid to say if some THING is an on-going problem. (Not people, just things.) For example, let’s say the toilet breaks again. You can say something like, “This is normal here. I hope someone can fix it so that it stays fixed.” Letting her know what is normal but a problem area, is the fair thing to do so that she can put it on her to-do list.

      If she asks a question that is beyond the scope of your domain, then just say so and point out who would be a good person to ask. Don’t forget she has to learn your job, too. She has to learn your limits of authority, what areas you cover and so on. Some of the training might just involve saying, “That’s my job, Boss.”

  24. HatBeing*

    I just want to let everyone know that the person in the office that disappears into the bathroom for 20 minutes…sometimes really just takes that long. I have learned a lot by working from home with my wife for the past year plus.

  25. ahhh*

    Is it appropriate to contact someone on linked in for a social reason?

    An acquaintance from years ago had one did a major act of kindness for me and my friends. We lost touch over the years despite trying various avenues to reach out and properly thank him. I finally found him but solely on linked in. I’m not looking at this for “pen pal” or let’s meet up thing, I just wanted a one time note to say he did a great thing that day that positively affected a group of young adults. He didn’t have to go out of his way.

      1. NopityNope*

        Absolutely agree, and if you want assure them that you aren’t trying to use this as a springboard for something else self-serving, you can make it clear by saying you don’t expect a reply. “I’m so glad to see you on LinkedIn, as we’ve not been in touch for a while. Please don’t feel obligated to respond; I’d simply like to let you know how much it meant to me that [XYZ].”

    1. RagingADHD*

      Trolling strangers for dates, no. What you’re describing, absolutely yes — it’s lovely.

  26. Re'lar Fela*

    Hey ya’ll! Here’s some Friday Good News:

    I’m currently in grad school for social work and a decade in to my career. I just moved to a new state last month and am starting my field placement during the fall semester. I was afraid that my last-minute move would mean a sub-par field placement. However, my placement coordinator found an incredible opportunity with an organization doing SO MANY fantastic things that will give me a variety of experiences and help me towards my ultimate career goals.

    I was thrilled at the prospect of the internship, but evidently following Alison’s advice from the past decade really paid off–following my field placement interview, I was offered a paid position with the organization as well!! It pays more, has better benefits (including more PTO), and is more in line with my career goals.

    I couldn’t be happier and I owe so much of it to Alison and the excellent commentariat. Happy Friday! :)

    1. Spero*

      That is awesome! I also was lucky enough to get a similar situation for my second field placement and it has been an ongoing connection almost 10 years later.

  27. Katia*

    Hi, fellow software developers! (and of course, lovely AAM commenters)
    I’m currently revamping my resume and I’m lost on how to describe my jobs.
    I mean, I was a web developer before, and besides of “migrated a huge and horrible monolithic app to micro frontends with react” and “developed new features for the client”, or “solved bugs to reduce the number of client complaints”
    I’m a bit lost. Does anyone have a more wordy o better description?
    TIA!

    1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      Words like “re-engineer” and “re-design” are your friend. Also talk about concrete reasons why the new thing is better than the old thing.

      Unless you were a really low-level worker bee who just watched one database suck up the contents of another database, “migrate” is not the right way to say this.

      “Re-engineered legacy code into a modern, modular architecture with a leading-edge design framework, which improved system available from 92% to 99.5%, decreased average user response time from 12 seconds to 2 seconds, and provided business metrics such as customer frambulation that were impossible to generate previously.”

    2. cheapeats*

      Metrics are your friend here:
      Migrated monolithic application with 2M SLOC to X # of micro front ends. Saw the following benefits post migration (increased responsiveness, reduced compile time, reduced time to deployment, etc etc)
      Developed X new features for the client, including XYZ, which provided the following benefits to the client (faster implementation, better ease of use, better customer experience, increased sales, etc)
      As an engineer who hires developers, these are the kinds of bullets that make resumes stand out for me.

    3. Caboose*

      Seconding the recommendation for specific numbers! How much did client complaints decrease? How many new features did you create, and what technologies were involved in doing so?
      You can come up with a ballpark number, here. I’ve done some incredibly wonky math for resumes before, and nobody’s asked about it. You just want it to be mostly right.
      Focusing on specific accomplishments is always a good thing! And if your team used Agile (or one of the many many MANY MANY MANY bastardizations thereof), make sure to throw that in there. It’s maybe not remarkable or unique, but I’ve found that people like to know that new team members will be accustomed to the framework of having standup and a taskboard.

    4. Mister Meeble*

      Excellent advice already here, and especially concrete numbers. I would also avoid “more wordy”, preferring concise language.

      Since most developer jobs have the same types of duties, etc. in order to avoid a lot or repetition, my resume has a “Major Career Accomplishments” section broken down into development, management. etc. (depending on how many roles you’ve had an which areas). This has all my bullet points, since what was done is typically more important than where. And example bullet point:

      * Supervised the build-out and movement of all data and phone infrastructure to a new 25,000 sq. ft. facility from 7,000 sq. ft. facility. More than 15 miles of CAT6 were installed in-house, saving more
      than $75,000 in outside fees.

      (That’s from my “System Administration” section.)

      This turns the “Experience” into a simply list of companies, title(s) and dates. Kind of like splitting it into “what I have done” and “where I did it” rather than combining those two.

    5. Katia*

      Oh, thank you so much! English is not my native language, so sometimes I struggle with the wording
      All your answers have been incredibly helpful :D

  28. Spero*

    I need ideas for welcoming a new team member during COVID! We are a team of 5, working in person but masking/separate offices etc. In the past I always took the team out to a long lunch on the 2nd day after someone started, so we could get to know them and vice versa. But there’s no way we can do that now with our case rates etc. I’d like to still do something because the positions all work with me but not closely with each other, so there’s not a lot of natural team interaction through the work.

    Option 1 – approximate what we’ve done in the past by ordering in and eating in our training area – there’s space to be 8 ft ish apart in a loose circle but obviously that’s not as conducive to chatting.

    Option 2 – some sort of thing where we keep our masks on? We do teambuilding activities like making gingerbread houses or paint party once a year or so, could do something like that where we are masked??

    1. RosyGlasses*

      Hi there! I used to do something similar in the Before Times, and we aren’t doing any in person work really. I tend to send them their swag and also an e-gift card to their favorite coffee or lunch place in replacement of the in-person lunch experience. I think part of it would be what your team is comfortable doing (everyone has a different comfort level of being near folks, masked or not) and what the new hire feels comfortable with. Maybe a new hire package with a gift card in lieu of the meal together, but a masked get-together to play a game or just chat together would straddle the two options you gave above?

    2. Nesprin*

      You need to be thinking of Zoom friendly networking events- ask your new hire to setup 30 min orientation meetings with all staff. My group did a virtual escape room, and other virtual group events exist out in the aether.

      1. Spero*

        I would love to do this, but because our staff were always required to come in/never did remote, I am the only person with a laptop/webcam/microphone. As a result we haven’t done any zoom based training or networking

    3. fueled by coffee*

      Not sure what the weather is like in your area, but could you do some sort of outdoor gathering, like lunch/snacks/coffee in a nearby park? That might provide social atmosphere + room to distance + outdoors, which may be more comfortable for people than a similar Option 1-like indoor gathering. Snacks or coffee as opposed to a full lunch might also make it easier for people to mask up again when they’re finished eating so they can chat while masked.

  29. WornOutInFourWeeks*

    Question for the Commentariat – How do you disconnect from stupidity at work? For context, I am an expert freelancer in my field – the design, sale, marketing, manufacturing and servicing of widgets. Right now I am filling in at a company where the person in my role quit; I’m just bridging the gap until they hire someone else –usually a few months since it is a senior role. I would like to continue to get freelance work from this company after the permanent person is hired. The problem is that this is the worst run company I have ever seen. There is no coherent decision making – every notion that enters anyone’s head suddenly becomes the highest priority – sales guy sees a specialized widget and suddenly the company HAS to manufacture and sell that kind of widget. No one gives the remotest thought to the costs of development (including staffing) or whether specialized widgets could be profitable – they need the specialized widget NOW. Meanwhile, they are doing a terrible job making the widgets that are their bread and butter — pretty much everything in production is broken. Efforts to point it out or fix it are met with disdain by senior leadership. The only priorities are adding new widget products and making more sales – quality and profitability are irrelevant – sales is all. My boss is a smart guy, but he’s only vaguely aware of all of the issues. He complains that everyone they hire for this role leaves after a year — I’m amazed they last that long. Another problem is that my boss freaks out easily, and any time I raise a concern he immediately starts interfering and micromanaging which makes things much (much) worse.

    Safe to say I am NOT happy. I try to keep telling myself “not my circus, not my monkeys,” and I try to not take the dysfunction personally – especially since I know that it is only temporary. But it is hard to let the stupid happen, especially since fixing things is my job. I’m tired of being accused of not knowing how widgets work when I point out problems (I’ve been working with widgets since most of these folks were in grade school) and tired of the rudeness in general. I’m tired of having twenty things that different people think should be my top priority and then being harassed when I can’t do all of them. I don’t want to quit because that would burn a huge bridge (and really, this is temporary), but I need to find a way to keep my head down and not care. Suggestions?

    1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      “I would like to continue to get freelance work from this company after the permanent person is hired.”

      Would you? Knowing what you know now, would you really want to continue working with them?

      Also, given what you’ve learned, how financially stable is this company anyway?

    2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      I’m 10 years into a very similar situation. A running joke is that we don’t need competitors–and it’s not like they could do a better job of causing our headaches than we do to ourselves, anyway.

      My life preserver has been my role–focusing on what I can fix that’s in my authority, automating what I can within my responsibility, etc. Naturally, I extend those improvements to my peers who want them and do my best to fix issues upstream, but at the end of the day I know how many issues derive from “Sales leads the organization” and “Revenue is more important than Profit” and that I’m not going to fix those things unless I become CEO (which has a 0% chance of happening).

    3. Picard*

      “I would like to continue to get freelance work from this company after the permanent person is hired. ”

      Why?

    4. WornOutInFourWeeks*

      Freelance work would be fine because I could just sit quietly over to the side designing widgets, hand over the designs to the internal engineer (whoever they hire), and it would be that person’s problem to implement the designs (or not). I wouldn’t have to be fielding a hundred different priorities or worrying about the big picture or taking the abuse. As for the financial health of the company, I don’t have high expectations and think it will probably get bought out by a bigger fish eventually (just to get the sales force), but I’m happy to have the company pay me consultant rates to design widgets until then. And I should say that there are some really great people who work there — nice folks trying to do the right thing — but the dysfunction is strong.

    5. Amaranth*

      Is fixing things also your job as a freelancer or just in your current role? If the former, did senior leadership accept your suggestions more readily when you were consulting? If you really don’t want to burn any bridges, I’d have a conversation with your boss and have him clarify the goals for your time there. Are you supposed to solve x and y, or just fill a seat until they have a permanent hire? Point out that you’ve brought solutions that are dismissed and maybe approach it as how to use your time there to set things up so his job and integration of a new person is easier. The other option is to frankly state that you think you’re of more value to the company as a consultant and think you should set a firm deadline to return to that role.

      1. WornOutInFourWeeks*

        Previously, I would be asked specific questions and work on specific projects, but at a distance, in other words, my only contact was the internal engineer. He assigned me work and I sent it back to him. All of the internal drama was his to deal with. Since I’m filling in for him, now that drama and dysfunction is mine to deal with until his replacement is hired. The good news is that I know that they are having interviews, so I am hopeful they will be bringing someone on sooner rather than later. The good news is that I’m charging them an hourly consulting rate so it is a lot of money for me and incentive for them to get someone permanent on board.

    6. WFH with Cat*

      If your role is temporary, do you have an end date? If not, it would probably help to set one.

      You could raise the issue and try to negotiate a date or — since they are so messed up and unlikely to have their hiring ducks in a row — simply advise them that you’d love to continue helping them but, darn it, other obligations will prevent you from continuing past Nov 1 or whatever you want the deadline to be.

      This will depend a lot on how/whether you have discussed freelancing with them and if the freelance work is contingent on you sticking with them until they hire someone.

      Good luck.

    7. Office Pantomime*

      I get it. Several asked why you’d want to freelance when the company is dysfunctional and you described why well. As a freelancer, the work fit is more important than the company itself unless the company runs afoul of your values. Which many ill-run companies don’t. They might produce valid products or services, just poorly run. Accept my offerings and pay my bills; we’re good! No can do for a job with you, thanks for asking! What I would do is advise of an end date to your availability if you don’t have one in your contract, say 2-3 months, or advise that you won’t be able to extend if you do have a contract. My mantra on a regrettable engagement is a) inform about end dates early with a helpful smile and b) I can make just about anything work for 2 months then I’m freeee!

  30. Ms. Hagrid Frizzle*

    Anyone have ideas or suggestions for managing after-work hours to help transition into a new career? I am struggling with mental/emotional fatigue due to a variety of factors, including a new and scary medical diagnosis/progression of past issues and a new house that is already becoming a terrifying money pit. I want to transition to a fully remote-work career, ideally with data processing/management (low stakeholder interactions, cut-and-dried expectations/deadlines). Currently I work in education and do freelance editing work on the side for a bit of extra cash. I am also very open to expanding that, but I can’t afford to be 100% self-employed as of yet.

    I have family members that work with a very popular product with free training available, but I feel so fried at the end of my usual workday/week that it is hard to get up the energy to engage consistently with these trainings. So I guess I am looking for tips on how to mentally approach it and set realistic expectations for myself/are these goals even realistic to begin with? I was at my healthiest during pandemic WFH and I am trying to stay focused on that light at the eventual end of this tunnel.

    1. Ins mom*

      For me, the medical thing and the money pit house would be more than enough stress. Trying to fit in studies and career change would be even more crazy making. Do you really think you need to pile more on??

      1. Ms. Hagrid Frizzle*

        I keep getting hung up on “if you switch careers a lot of this stress would be more manageable”. Because there’s 1) LOTS more money in it for me if I switch fields and 2) I would be able to work from, relieving a lot of my medical burden (I cannot WFH in my current role/with my current manager.

        But it’s honestly really validating to hear you say that what I am facing is more than enough stress without tackling the rest of it right now. I’ll spend some time seeing what I can table/let go of in the moment.

    2. Girasol*

      With a medical issue and a house eating money, it sounds like you want a regular paycheck and benefits. If you start your own business you hope for success but you need to be prepared to fail and walk away with a smile. It doesn’t sound like this is a good time. As for popular products with free training, is that MLM? MLM people will tell you that business is wonderful because they’ve sold all the stuff that they can to their friends and now they have to turn their friends into subordinate sales people until they run out of friends. That doesn’t sound like a good thing to add to your life just now either. Maybe you could consider taking big risks when you’re more flush with cash and energy and ready for whatever happens.

  31. Wendy*

    I need advice on how to handle situations where I work at.

    I currently work at a fuel center that is managed by a *grocery store chain*.

    I work at a location that has a fuel center and a grocery store.

    The fuel center is not located near the grocery store.

    I do not have a car, and so I take public transportation, or I get a ride to work or a ride home from work.

    I do not go directly to the fuel center when I arrive because I clock in inside the main grocery store.

    Since I have open availability, my work schedule varies. I work the opening shift, mid shift, and closing shift.

    It takes several minutes to and from the fuel center and the grocery store if you must go to the bathroom, get change for the register, heat up your lunch since there is not room at the fuel center for a microwave and so on.

    There are several job responsibilities for the fuel center clerks

    For example

    • Replenishing/restocking/refilling the items that are sold at the fuel center. This job responsibility takes you away from the fuel center for an hour or more, and this must be done 7 days a week because the District office gets a report every time this is done, and this office wants the report done 7 days a week. You use a handheld scanner to scan the items, and when you press finish collecting, a report is sent to that office
    • When you are done restocking the items, you must return the dolly or cart that was used as well as the totes that were used to collect the items and the handheld to the grocery store
    • A list of cleaning duties done daily, and each shift has certain duties to complete
    • Completing paperwork every morning
    • Putting price tags on the shelves when the prices of the products change

    Regarding replenishing/restocking/refilling the items that are sold at the fuel center…

    The department head and the fuel center lead both want the opener to do that even when there are overlapping opening and mid shifts on the fuel center schedule.

    The department head over the fuel center as well as 2 other departments does not want the fuel center clerks leaving the fuel center unattended, and if she sees me inside the store, the first thing she says is “who is at the fuel center?”

    The are five fuel center clerks, but only 3 of us, including me, have open availability. The other 2 clerks have limited availability.

    The department head makes the weekly schedule, and there are several days in a week when there is either only an opener and a closer or three shifts back-to-back, but no overlap between the opening shift and the mid shift. There is some overlap, but it is not consistent. This is the same for every week and month. This has been going on since I started working there last year.

    As of this month, one of the Assistant store Managers does not want any personal items inside the fuel center. The fuel center lead does not want that as well because that information is indicated on some paperwork the opener completes every morning. Her solution to this problem is to put your personal items inside a locker, but the lockers are located inside the grocery store on the second floor. I do have a personal locker on the second floor. So, that would mean you bring what you need to the fuel center, such as your breakfast if you work 6 a.m. to 2 p.m., which I do at times, as well as your lunch and other items. Then when you are done with your breakfast, you go back to the store and put your personal belongings, such as the thermos I use for my coffee and the thermos I use for my hot decaf green tea, inside your locker. The same for your lunch. This is in addition to returning the dolly, totes and handheld used when restocking the items sold at the fuel center.

    What is the best way for me to approach, address and handle these situations?

    1. Reba*

      If I understand you right, they never want the fuel center unattended (makes sense) but they don’t schedule enough people to actually make that happen, given that some tasks take you out of the fuel center. Ugh, schedules for these type of jobs is often such a mess!

      I would just keep trying to point out (in a collaborative way) to the managers that what they are asking is for incompatible things. Put it back on them to solve! You can’t be in two places at once!

      You could say something like, “I know it’s my responsibility to do the restocking and that happens daily. You’re also saying that I shouldn’t leave the fuel center, which I understand. How do you want me to handle it when I’m the only one on duty?”

      1. Twisted Lion*

        +1 for this. And keep a copy of the schedule so if something happens and they are like “on monday you didnt restock the items” you can say “as you see I was scheduled by myself so leaving the center unattended did not seem appropriate. What would you like me to do in the future?”

      2. Amaranth*

        Also, I’d eat breakfast before showing up so that the only time personal items need to go to the locker is after lunch. But it sounds odd to me they have ‘no personal items…except for lunch, but then take your thermos inside when its empty even though we don’t want you to leave the center.’ I can understand not wanting workers to play on a smartphone all day, but it sounds like someone is misinterpreting ‘no personal items’ in a strange way. Also….nobody is going to know what personal items are there if they aren’t reported by the opener? Then I’d suggest to the manager if they don’t want people leaving the fuel stop to put things away, they allow workers to keep their lunch there so long as they remove their things at the end of their shift.

    2. RagingADHD*

      As others said, they are giving contradictory instructions and the only way to clear it up is to ask. Sometimes the easiest way to get management to agree with you is to offer a solution at the same time you point out the problem. That way they don’t have to think too hard.

      It sounds to me like you might be able to come up with a suggested schedule to show your lead and/or manager, where you could minimize trips back and forth to the store by accomplishing several things at once, and also planning them so that they overlap shifts.

      I understand that they want the restocking done by the opener, but the only way to do that without leaving the center unattended would be to clock in early and do it before opening the center to the public. You could suggest that, too.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Ask if someone from the grocery store can bring stuff over and bring stuff back so the post does not go unattended.

      Honestly, shivers went up my spine here. I worked for the cousins of these people I think. “Don’t ever leave your post! Make sure the store is stocked!”

      I got in trouble for leaving my post to stock the store. Then, when I got in trouble for not stocking the store because I couldn’t leave my post I got canned. No. I did not argue the point. I just decided I did not want to work for such a stupid company.
      I was 19. It gave me the wrong idea about how jobs worked.

      As sincerely as possible ask how you are supposed to stock the fuel center if you cannot leave the center unattended.

      For yourself, keep looking for a different place to work. This does not get better.

    4. Senioritis Spreadsheet*

      It doesn’t sound like they have enough fuel center staff for what they want done. The easiest solution would be to tap into the larger pool of employees that work inside the grocery store. A grocery store employee could collect and deliver restock items to the fuel center, and return the equipment to the store.

      Likewise, you need to be able to take bathroom and meal breaks. Are those covered by any law where you are? If so, I’d watch the clock and take them when you need to be taking them. Because of course no-one wants your employer to run afoul of labor laws.

  32. Anon and in limbo*

    So, everybody quits, and work is business relationship, etc. Still, I am struggling with how to quit without feeling like a terrible person.

    I have worked for several years for a family (not a housekeeper, nanny, or that kind of thing–I manage assets, of a sort); I’m the sole employee. I have been planning on leaving, for many reasons, for several months. I’m burnt out, need a break, and have the means to take a few months to reassess what I want from my next job. In my mind it would be easier to say I’m starting a new job, so farewell, but I want a break, so that’s not where I’m at now.

    One of the family members died quite recently (elderly, but still a shock).

    Am I horrible if I still give notice? That puts another burden on the grieving spouse (yes, they are my employer so still need to maintain business relationships, etc., but…) At the same time, I’ve been having physical symptom from the job stress, my sleep is severely disturbed, and I cry on a regular basis. Continuing to work there is not sustainable for me, but again, I don’t want to be “the horrible person who quit right after X died leaving poor X in the lurch.”

    1. Gracely*

      Is there anyone you could recommend to them to take over for you? I think you definitely get to leave without feeling guilty, but maybe that would make you and them feel better about it, if you know they’ve got someone else to handle urgent things until they can hire someone for a longer term.

    2. ahhh*

      You sound stressed! Is there a possibility this might be extreme burn out and your job would give you a leave of absense?

    3. PollyQ*

      Either your employers are good, nice people, so they wouldn’t want you to suffer the way your are, or they’re crappy people, in which case to *&#^ with them. You would not be remotely terrible for quitting now. Give the standard 2 weeks’ notice, and you will be able to hold your head high because you’ve done all that’s necessary.

      I like @Gracely’s suggestion about recommending a replacement, but only if you actually know someone right off hand. You certainly shouldn’t take finding a replacement upon yourself, or feel like you need to wait until they have someone new. And correct me if I’m wrong, but “asset management” sounds like the kind of thing where if there was a gap, it wouldn’t be a huge problem for the family, at least not in the way something like childcare might be.

    4. Empress Ki*

      Is there a possibility to do the job part time while X is looking?
      I mean you should be able to leave without feeling guilty, but if this is not the case, part time may be a compromise.
      Why are you burned out by the job ? Do you work too many hours ? Have you taken a vacation? Maybe time for one ?

    5. Esmae*

      You’re not horrible at all! And I think it’d be completely reasonable to tell them you’re leaving for health reasons.

    6. Anon and in limbo*

      Thanks to everyone who has replied! It’s reassuring that at least no one replied that quitting now would make me Worst Person Ever.

      Oh, yes, I am stressed. It’s that obvious? Hilariously, I am already part-time (in a job that needs full-time coverage now), and I rigorously enforce boundaries and my working hours. My last vacation was in February 2020, and the last time I took any time off was to get my Covid vaccines. So, yeah, it’s likely extreme burnout combined with a dislike for what I actually do (it is related to but not really why I got a graduate degree).

      Recommending someone could work, and there is someone who briefly worked for me at this job, although I hesitate to throw that person into this fire.

      If anything it is getting more stressful and everything is URGENT! WE MUST ACT NOW! precisely because of the remaining person’s growing sense of mortality. So, while my job does not have the immediate ramifications of something like childcare, the Llama Materials (Llama Sweaters? Llama Shoes? I know nothing of llamas, clearly) still have time sensitive tending needs. I had thought about saying–in the spirit of Jean, from earlier this week– that I’m taking a month off unpaid (since I don’t get PTO anyway, all my time off is unpaid!)– but I anticipate that also freaking out Stressed & Grieving Boss.

      I have some more ideas to consider– thank you all!

      1. AcademiaNut*

        How about “I need to quit for health reasons?” Invoke your doctor if needed.

        Has your employer spent any time concerned about burning you out, or having a part time employee working what should be a full time job? Have they even considered plans for what they’d do if their sole employee suddenly fell ill, or quit? Because it sounds like they’re willing to work you to the bone, and then freak out when you can’t take it any more, but haven’t thought about contingency plans.

        If you need to quit to stay healthy, give two weeks notice and generate good documentation for the next person during the notice period. If it’s feasible, you could *choose* to give a month’s notice period, or offer (very limited) part time services for a transition. I’m thinking “I’ll be available for questions from 1-5 pm on Thursday” rather than something opened ended.

        Also to consider – if you really burn yourself out, you can end up quitting with no notice when you fall ill, and you’ll be damaging your health and ability to work in the future.

        I worry that if you take leave with out pay, you’ll come back to a dumpster file, frantic employers, and the expectation that you’ll fix everything for them, and you’ll be back where you started.

    7. Not So NewReader*

      Don’t set yourself on fire to keep others warm.
      Put your own oxygen mask on first.

      What other wonderful sayings do we see here on AAM?

      Look, you can plan your down time or your down time can just suddenly happen leaving you with NO say.
      “Hi, Boss?, I am in the hospital and the doc says I cannot work for at least 8 weeks.” Boom, now your hand is forced.

      I would tell the boss that you have a health issue emerging that you must drop everything and deal with. Tell them that you will need at least three months and if they cannot hold the position open for you that you totally understand.
      When the boss says, but-but-but, then you say, “I would rather take the time than suddenly call in for a few months. I would rather be deliberate and take action.”

      I had one job where I cried all the way to work and I cried all the way home, every single fn day. I did this for a year and a half. Get out. This is a quality of life issue. You can get better than this and you deserve better than this.

      How to quit without feeling like a terrible person? Feel terrible and quit any way. Time will be kind. Stepping back will allow you to see how absurd it is that you cry regularly over this job. It’s a job. Unfairly, we have to rescue our own selves and we don’t always see how much we needed to do that rescue. By actually going throug the steps this picture will change for you and you will realize you had no choice but there were things along the way that they could have done to prevent this. And they chose not to.

  33. gmg22*

    Wondering if anyone else has experienced this particular curious corollary to/downside of virtual work in the pandemic times: having a virtually working houseguest who FAR outstays their welcome. Because a longtime friend from my old home city now does all his work (he’s a therapist) via Zoom sessions, last summer he came to visit me and was able to stay for two weeks. (He visits annually but it’s about a 10-hour drive, so pre-pandemic he would fly here for a shorter visit of 4-5 days.) That was fine and we had a fun time; 2020 was a real weird year and any human contact felt like a happy novelty for those of us who live alone, right? This year we repeated the two-week stay. Well, he leaves tomorrow afternoon and I am not exaggerating when I say I am straight-up going to pop the cork on a bottle of prosecco when I see the car pull out of the driveway. So I am now making mental notes, at some point next spring, to have to have a “difficult conversation” about how it’s not him, I just can’t host anybody for two weeks. (Which is mostly true, but not completely true. It’s partly him.)

    1. Malika*

      We have a saying in my country that goes along the lines of ‘Visits from friends and fish go off after three days’ (it sounds sassier in Dutch) . I hold this to be very true. During pandemic things were out of whack and it was fine to have a longer stay. But unless someone needs a roof over their head i try to keep visits short and sweet. Could you suggest a shorter stay next time? Also, it’s perfectly possible that next visit will be better. We all have points in our lives when we make better or worse house guests due to all kinds of reasons.

      1. Chauncy Gardener*

        Same here in the US! “Both fish and houseguests stink after three days.” Or something like that….

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        The sassy version in English “Visitors and fish stink after three days.” It’s not entirely universal, but I’ve used it as a starting point for planning my own visits. I don’t have much to offer on the original question, because two weeks would have been a week longer than even my mother used to visit.

    2. PollyQ*

      While you’re making mental notes, hold on to the possibility that you don’t need to host him for any length of time. The fact that you’ve done it before doesn’t mean you’re committed to doing it forever. “I’m sorry, we’re not up for hosting anybody right now” is a perfectly cromulent thing to say.

    3. Unkempt Flatware*

      I’d wait until it comes up again. He might have felt the same. When/if it does, repeat ad nauseum the following phrase: I can’t host you for two weeks but I’d love to host you for the long weekend! What would you like to do?!

    4. Girasol*

      Isn’t the usual advice to say, “I’m so sorry, that just isn’t possible,” with no excuse regarding why that would suggest that there might be a way to get around “nope?”

  34. JustaTech*

    How to figure out if a mentor is a good fit?

    My work’s women’s employee resource group started a pilot mentorship program a few months ago and I volunteered as a mentee (though at first they wanted me to be a mentor, which I wasn’t comfortable with because I hadn’t ever had a mentor and I’m not a manager). My mentor (who’s across the country) and I have gotten along OK, but we haven’t super clicked. Our meetings end up being more of a “she assigns me stuff” kind of interaction – but I don’t know if that’s normal or not.

    Then in our last meeting I asked for a book suggestion (kind of expecting some kind of business or management or self-improvement book) and my mentor was delighted and enthusiastic to suggest several books by the same author. Friends, she suggested the Medical Medium. The guy who says that the “Universal Spirit” tells him how to cure people of anything and that we should all drink celery juice and do cleanses.

    Now, I’m not a spiritual person, but I understand that a lot of people are and that’s totally cool. But we work in medicine and we are both scientists, and my mentor is suggesting a guy who claims to talk to the dead (which I think is just cruel beyond words, claiming you’re talking to someone’s dead loved one for money is just the worst) and that his anti-scientific ideas about food and how the human body works are great.

    So I’ve lost a lot of respect for my mentor’s good sense (which I tried to hide, and we talked about other things after), and we weren’t really clicking anyway. Should I ask to be let out of the mentor program now, or just stick it out through the end of the year? Since it’s a pilot program I don’t think I can ask for a new mentor, and honestly when the mentor/mentees have met as a group a *lot* of folks seem to take a religious/spiritual approach which just isn’t my jam.

    1. Reba*

      OOF.

      I would ask to end the meetings. Even aside from this issue of involving spirituality in the workplace (which is a big issue! just not sure you are well positioned to really tackle it) it sounds like you were not really getting much out of them.

      But, what kind of reaction would you expect the ERG person to have when you call it off? Was this something that your manager was enthusiastic about too? Thinking about what to say… “I found it wasn’t a good fit for me,” ought to be enough, but since it’s a pilot program I would guess that they will be asking for more detailed feedback at some point.

      Giving frank feedback about this would be good for the workplace — I would imagine there are others there who feel like you do, but are also keeping quiet due to the prevailing spiritual talk! But in that context I’m not at all sure it would benefit you to do so.

    2. Dark Macadamia*

      Whether you cut short your own participation or not, I would definitely give feedback about the overall religious vibe of the program… this is extremely weird if you’re not a religious organization and it wasn’t explicitly presented that way! I’m really curious how that happened… are all the people who wanted to mentor just coincidentally interested in spiritual stuff? Is one of them pushing everyone to include a spiritual component and the others think they’re supposed to?

      1. JustaTech*

        I’m not sure that everyone has ended up with spiritual stuff, or if it’s a regional thing, or even if most people would necessarily call it “spiritual”. Like, I’m sure a lot of people wouldn’t call the “Medical Medium” spiritual. And the other things have been things like folks saying “hey, here’s this devotional book I’ve been doing with my mom, it’s been great” and other people responding that they want to try it too. And the little inspirational quotes in the group Teams channel run to the religious/spiritual (but that seems to always be the case?).

        I’m kind of wondering if it’s one of those things where, because there hasn’t been a lot of guidance, folks think mentoring -> self improvement -> semi-spiritual self improvement, and then sometimes you end up way out to lunch.

        We’ve been asked to fill out a confidential/anonymous survey, so I think I’ll go ahead and be really honest.

        1. Dark Macadamia*

          Yeah, it sounds like there needed to be clearer goals – either be upfront that it’s about personal growth so mentees know what they’re getting into, or make it clear that it’s meant to be professional so mentors can prepare better.

    3. Student*

      A work mentor is supposed to help you figure out how to do well and get promoted at work. The point is supposed to be to teach you the unwritten rules and expectations, connect you with people you wouldn’t ordinarily meet who may be able to help with your work in some way. The expected trade-off is that you’ll also figure out a way to help boost your mentor’s work in some way, often after some initial lag time.

      A work mentor is not intended to be a best friend, a spiritual guru, a book club guide, or an extra boss. You should probably be friendly, but that doesn’t necessarily mean being friends.

      It doesn’t sound like either of you are getting anything mentor-mentee at all out of this. Give up on it. It’s a poorly-executed, ham-handed attempt to get women to do something that men in power are doing. Your mentor is doing it because it makes her feel important or looks good on a resume, not to actually mentor you. She figured out you have nothing to offer her – you’re across the country! She has nothing to offer you.

      1. JustaTech*

        Um, that’s a bit harsh.
        This is an optional program, that is being organized by an optional groups. It was a decision from within the women’s ERG, so I don’t really know how that makes it ham-handed. I honestly *do* think that my mentor was interested in being a mentor, it’s just that we are not a good match, rather than her being some kind of soulless ladder climber.

        Most of the mentor-mentee partnerships are across the various sites, in order to expand the available pool and foster cross-site communication.

        I will say that the fact that there isn’t much of a rank gap or tenure gap might be making this harder for both of us.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      I think that if it had not been the book recs it would have been something else. It sounds like you both feel awkward but in different ways. This can often come from the way the program was set up- not enough instruction/training for the mentors and not enough specific goals set for the mentees.

      It sounds like you guys have been a poor match from the start. To me that telegraphs that the program could work on ironing out some wrinkles.

      You can thank her for all her time. Tell her that you have enjoyed talking with her. Then explain that you think you have gone as far as you can here and you would like to turn and look at other things on your own.

      1. JustaTech*

        I think this is probably the best approach. Weirdly, I’m tangentially on the team that’s building a new whole-company mentor program and one of their big things is having a big questionnaire to make sure they match people well, and also having everyone take some online courses in how to do the mentor/mentee thing. So maybe I’ll sign up for that.

  35. Yecats*

    Small low-stakes question: is it polite/acceptable to say “I need to use the restroom, I will be right there” in Slack (or equivalent workplace chat) before a virtual meeting starts?

    1. Ms. Hagrid Frizzle*

      I think it depends on the workplace culture. With my current employer, it would be acceptable for some meetings (team meetings, one-on-ones) but not all meetings (full-staff meetings, updates from Great Grandboss, etc.).

    2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      “It turns out that coffee is not bought; it’s leased, and my lease is up.”

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        Oops. I misread the post and thought you asked how to say that acceptably. Culpa mea.

        Yes, it’s always acceptable to admit we’re human, have normal human needs, and some of those needs are not time-flexible. As long as you don’t volunteer more detail than is customary in your business culture, you should be fine.

    3. SarahKay*

      I’ve certainly seen variations of that over the last year and not really thought anything of it. Some people in my company have a very meeting-heavy schedule and can end up on a succession of calls for 4-5 hours solid, so so0ner or later they just have to take a break regardless.

      1. Fran Fine*

        Same at my company. Most of us just say we’re going to join a little late or type “brb” after joining briefly.

    4. Mockingjay*

      “Be right there, taking a quick break before we start.”

      Everyone knows what you mean. We’re all running to the restroom, grabbing coffee, changing to an acceptable shirt (oh crap, we’re using webcams today!), finding the phone charger because the cell phone’s almost dead…

      1. Coenobita*

        That’s what I say, or I say that I’m getting a glass of water. I often have back-to-back meetings for most of the day, and it’s just not possible for me to be on camera for 5 or 6 straight hours! I will often log on a bit early if I can, then put my “be right back” message in the chat while leaving myself off video until I’m back at my desk.

    5. Camellia*

      Maybe you can establish another custom. At my work we just say ‘brb’ and everyone is okay with that. The specific reason causing you to step away for a few minutes is not necessary to reveal.

      1. WellRed*

        I agree the specific reason is not necessary. On another level, 18 months into WFH and Ian so tired if all the brb and afk my coworkers are overusing. As in, “need to reboot, brb.” I. Don’t. Care.

        1. A Feast of Fools*

          I’m grateful that my team members don’t overshare their every working minute in chat. That would be exhausting.

          BUT. . . I *cannot stand* that our team culture seems to have followed the style of one of my co-workers when using chat: Type out each piece of a thought into multiple bubbles.

          Something that could be one smooth, easy-to-read sentence ends up being five bubbles, complete with notification sounds. I can mute most of the chatter but some people need to be able to get a quick response from me. I’ll be deep in a work problem and then “Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding-ding! Ding!”

          Also cannot stand the people who type, “Good morning, Feast” and leave it at that until I respond back, “Good morning, Coworker.” Then they spend the next 2-3 minutes typing two sentences (are they typing with just one finger???).

          I have trouble getting back to the work I was doing before they said good morning because I know I’m about to be interrupted again anyway. I’ve told the offenders to please, please just type everything all at once or, if they really feel like they can’t press Send on their question until I’ve acknowledged their presence, type up their question in Word and copy-paste it in the microsecond after I say, “Good morning, Coworker.”

          Alas, they never change their approach. I’ve started ignoring their “Good morning, Feast” messages. You want something from me, you need to tell me what it is.

          1. Fran Fine*

            Are you me? I hate this with a passion too and rarely respond right away until the other person takes the hint and types out their question.

    6. Anonymous Educator*

      I’ve had co-workers say they need a quick bathroom break. I don’t think that’s inappropriate at all (but, yeah, it may vary from workplace culture to workplace culture).

    7. anonymouse*

      why say where you’re going to be/what you’re doing? Just say “I’ll be on in a minute.” Or, just join when you’re done – if it’s a group meeting, the culture at my workplace is that everyone logs on within 2-4 minutes after the start time, if most people are online the meeting starts at 3-4 minutes after. Any stragglers just join the meeting and now announcement is needed.

      If it’s a one on one meeting or you’re going to be more than 3-5 minutes late, you should say something, though

    8. RosyGlasses*

      Depends on company culture – I usually say – “be right there, refilling my coffee” or I may say, “Quick bio break before we resume?”

      Everyone in our company drinks coffee so “refilling my coffee, or reheating my coffee” covers me for water, bathroom, grabbing a quick snack, etc.

      1. You don’t need to announce your bathroom break*

        I HATE the terms bio break or comfort break. You don’t need to announce your bathroom habit, no matter how cutesy. If you MUST say anything (must you?) all you need is you’ll be back shortly.

        1. R*

          Oh God yes high five, I don’t really consider myself squeamish but “bio break” is SO euphemistic it swings right back to crude and offensive. You’re pooping. It’s okay. We all do it, I just really don’t understand why you’re making it a point for me to know that about you right now.

          But like in general — we’re all adults, right? I don’t really care what the reason is — if you’re going to the bathroom, checking your kids, having a cigarette or a coffee or a sandwich, just taking five minutes outside — if you need to take a break, you don’t need to justify it to me. I’m sure I can find something to do over the next five minutes myself.

    9. Policy Wonk*

      If the meeting hasn’t started yet, there is no need to say anything. When a meeting tends to run longer than anticipated and shows no evidence of ending, then it depends on the audience. The polite phrase where I work is that one needs a “comfort break” – sometimes that gets the host of the meeting to either wrap it up or offer a break to everyone. For less formal meetings, noting a quick trip to the restroom is fine.

    10. Amaranth*

      In most cases or you can say ‘I need to make a brief stop’ and others will fill in the blanks. However, unless you’re running late do you really need to say anything?

  36. Finding references when you've only been at one job*

    Hello. I’ve been working at the same large company in the research division for almost 15 years. I also did my industrial postdoc in this company, so my scientific credentials are tied to it deeply. I’ve moved up the ranks but have started to wonder if I should broaden my horizons. I want to move more into the management side of things (I already manage a few people but as a team lead, not a department head which is what I want). I find that other people from the outside are getting promoted ahead of me on the management track, and was told by someone I trust that being an insider is counting both for and against me – for me, that people think I’m great at my job – against me, that people remember when I was relatively green and somehow can’t see me in a greater leadership role. I love my company for various reasons (which is why I stayed so long) but I’ve been contacted by recruiters and am thinking of maybe seeing what else is out there. The problem is, how on earth do I get references for a new job? I work in a niche area in my company so if anybody finds out, the news will probably spread quickly. My only colleague ‘friends’ who I could trust to keep it confidential don’t work with me closely (not an accident – I tried to keep friends separate from work whenever possible). I’ve taken on a lot of responsibilities outside my job description, but the new job would have to talk to somebody who knows me to confirm this. Has anyone else managed this situation successfully?

    1. JustAnotherAnalyst*

      My situation is similar, but I am actually planning to stay at my job. The main reason why I am staying is that I have a new manager and he has taken interest in my career progression. You sound like an extremely loyal and hardworking person to me, and TBH, you might be taken advantage off. Also, again TBH, your efforts to keep friends separate from work may prevent you from networking. But again, that means that you are probably emotionally invested in the work, but not in your team. If the company hires people from the outside into management roles, then they understand why someone from the inside would leave for a management role. Maybe it is even expected, and that is why you are not being promoted. Your manager should be used to being a reference, just as they are used to obtaining references for candidates.

    2. Used To Be HR Red*

      Although I’m not in a field like yours, I was at my first job for 16 years and I had the exact same thoughts. I was sure I couldn’t tell anyone that I was exploring other jobs because I thought it would get back to my boss. But it turns out that it’s totally normal (at least in the business/nonprofit world) for someone to be interviewing elsewhere and most/all colleagues get that there is a need to keep this confidential. You’d just want to be clear with the colleague you ask to be a reference that this is confidential and they shouldn’t tell anyone else at work.

      Also, I have managed employees for over 12 years, and during that time several of them have gotten other jobs and I never had any hint of it ahead of time. So this is a thing that people know how to keep confidential.

      Go ahead and explore other jobs – I felt like it was a mistake (for me) staying for 16 years and I was thrilled to start over at a new company.

  37. Cookies For Breakfast*

    I work on a product that requires a wild amount of tech support. It’s not the job I want to do, and it’s not the job I signed up for when I was promoted to my current role, and yet I’ve been doing it for years. There is so much of it, some weeks I don’t have time to do anything else – while in fact it should be just a minor part of my job. I’ve had no support to pursue growth in different areas, so applying for jobs elsewhere has led to nothing so far.

    It seems the company is now keen to create a new role to take tech support over from me (it will most definitely attract internal candidates). But they have also asked me to line manage the new role, and I’m dreading it. Most of all, it’s because the support tasks stress the hell out of me. At any given time, we only have tech resource for a very small portion of the tickets we receive, so there’s a huge backlog, and my job feels like delivering bad news all the time. Colleagues take it out on me when things take time to resolve, because clients take it out on them. But I have no say over how much tech resource to hire, and can’t make developers magically code faster. So I don’t really know how to coach someone to be effective at this, in a way other than “breathe in, get through the queue as quickly as you can, give polite and factual updates, breathe out, now get some rest”. And I really want to be supportive, because this sort of work in our environment can feel very isolating.

    Any tips to help someone manage tasks that feel impossible to conquer?

    1. Amaranth*

      did they ask you to line manage or did they ‘ask’ you? This sounds like a good opportunity to talk to your boss and say thanks for considering you for the role but you were hired for x and would really like to find a way to focus on that again, and develop in that area now that they are restructuring the tech support side.

  38. cactus lady*

    This might be a silly question, but what is everyone’s take on calling in sick when you are in pain? I was injured in an accident years ago and have had a few surgeries to try to fix the problem (which won’t ever be fully fixed). Sometimes the pain gets really bad, and while I’ve left early if I need to take something more than Advil (which I did after surgery but not anymore), I feel guilty calling in just because I’m in pain. This actually happened this week and I worked through it, which sucked. It’s not like I’m flat on my back unable to do anything, but it’s uncomfortable and distracting. Thoughts?

    1. Gracely*

      Pain/injury is a kind of ailment/sick. You’re not able to work at your best, so take the leave if you need it.

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        Pain/injury is a kind of ailment/sick. You’re not able to work at your best, so take the leave if you need it.

        My thoughts all but verbatim; all I’d change is “at your best” to “well enough.”

    2. Ms. Hagrid Frizzle*

      I have done it before, and will do it again. I look at sick leave as time to use when my body or brain are impaired to the point that it has/would have a negative impact on my work. I think pain that is severely distracting falls into that category. I wouldn’t necessarily say that you are taking sick leave to manage pain, since people without chronic pain issues tend not to understand, but I would say something along the lines of:
      “I need to take some sick time to manage a health condition. I plan to return on X, but I will let you know if anything changes.” or
      “I’m not feeling well, so I need to leave early today. I hope to be back in tomorrow. Thanks for understanding!”
      Those lines can be for your boss, or just to reframe it to yourself. But if taking the time to rest means that 1) you are in less pain/in pain for less time; 2) produce better quality work when you return; and/or 3) avoid producing poor quality work by fighting through it, then I think it’s more than acceptable to use your sick leave for your pain flare-ups.

    3. Jay*

      No and I should have. I had an episode of sciatica a few years ago that ultimately required surgery. It went on for two months. I didn’t take any time off at all until the last week before surgery when I was unable to stand up without screaming in pain (not kidding – I scared my daughter something fierce). I was taking a variety of medication and shouldn’t have been driving, let alone working in a position where judgment and concentration were really important. Luckily (I guess) the only thing that was damaged was my reputation; I lost my temper on more than one occasion. And of course along with not calling in sick I also didn’t tell anyone what was going on.

      Take the time. The guilt is driving you to write a check your body can’t cash.

    4. Night Vale Seems Good By Comparison*

      I have taken pain days and will again if needed. You don’t owe anyone an explanation for why you are taking time off; the time is part of your benefits package, so use it as needed. Pain can make it difficult or impossible to concentrate, and definitely you are more prone to making mistakes.

    5. PollyQ*

      Totally acceptable and nothing to feel guilty about. The standard for calling in sick is not “Could not possibly do a single thing even if someone held a gun to my head.”

    6. Amaranth*

      I wonder if this could also qualify for an ADA accommodation. Is WFH possible during these times, as in could you be productive if you didn’t have to worry about driving on painkillers, and could sit at home with supportive cushions, and the ability to take pills and nap when the pain gets worse? That could give you some protections but also help you accept in your mind that this is a condition, not laziness on your part.

    7. drpuma*

      If you’re in enough pain that it’s interfering with your ability to get ready for work or delaying getting yourself to work, you’re in enough pain to take the day.

    8. RagingADHD*

      Sick = body and brain are not in a fit state to work. Pain = sick.

      The point at which you need to push through pain has nothing to do with guilt or ethics. It’s solely determined by how much time you can afford to take without jeapordizing your income or social capital at work. That’s crappy calculus to have to make, but here we are.

      Either way, no guilt necessary.

    9. The New Wanderer*

      I worked through a migraine once, and only once. I wasn’t in horrible pain but it was just enough to make me distracted and short-tempered. I call out now if one is coming on, even if the headache part isn’t that bad.

      1. RagingADHD*

        On Planet “Chronic Pain Messes With Your Sense of Self-Worth” and on Planet “Much of Society Still Treats Illness as a Moral Failing.”

        That’s where.

  39. Trivia Newton-John*

    Just had a Zoom interview for a position that would be the next step up in my career. 100% remote, challenging, and right up my alley, it seems. Usually I can tell if someone likes me or not during an interview and this just…I honestly have no idea how I did. I followed up with a thank you email anyway, and let the recruiter know how things went, but has this ever happened to you guys?

    1. Fleece Sheep*

      Yes! In my last interview, both my interviewers had very neutral to displeased expressions the entire time. I got the job and later found out that one of them was tired that day and the other just has a really bad case of RBF.

    2. PurplePartridge*

      This is happening to me right now! I had several rounds and felt confident after all of them, and then in the final round interview I just… couldn’t get a read on the interviewer. We ended earlier than scheduled and I even asked if he had any other questions for me or any other experiences I could share and his answer was a flat “no”. He’d clearly made up his mind one way or the other but I couldn’t say which.

  40. Abigail Chase*

    Hi y’all! Recent grad here and I’m three months into a fellowship with a company I interned with for the first 5 months of this year. When my current boss approached me about this fellowship position, he told me that the position would run thru November 1 and that after that we could have a conversation about the possibility of me being brought on to the staff(right now my position is paid hourly and is temporary). Cut to my performance check in threee weeks ago, my boss tells me that I’m the strongest person to ever step into this position and that he’d sooner quit himself than not hire me at the end of my fellowship. He said that we can start talking about specifics, salary, etc. in October. Here’s my question – right now my company is set to return to the office Nov 1 (obviously subject to change with current Covid conditions). If I were to be hired, I’d have to move 5 hours away from my current city to the city where my company is located. Is there anyway I can ask to have the conversation about being hired before October (like maybe mid September?). Logistically it would be pretty difficult for me to negotiate an offer, look for an apartment, and move in a month or less. I’m browsing apartments online right now but without knowing my salary it’s pretty moot. This would be my first “real” job post graduation so I’m not really sure what the protocol is! Also, just wanted to note that I’m applying to other positions as well just in case things don’t happen the way I hope.

    1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      It is very possible that your boss will let you continue to work remotely while you apartment-hunt. I’d start by bringing that up.

      “Boss, since I live in East Whereverville, and would need to move to Citytown if I’m brought on full time, how would we work the logistics for that? Can I keep working from home for a few weeks while I find an apartment? Does the company offer relocation assistance? I’d just like to noodle on some of these things now, so that I’m more ready to make the move, if and when I’m offered the position.”

      Just be careful not to sound like you’re assuming that the offer is a done deal.

    2. Policy Wonk*

      Not knowing where you are located, it’s hard to say, but several employers I know of have put off their “return to the office” dates due to the delta variant – most until 2022. So November 1 might not be the actual return date. That said, I’d explore the option with the boss, particularly if the five hours away city is in a different state – that could complicate remote work arrangements.

    3. Emma2*

      I think it would be completely reasonable to ask if it would be possible to have the conversation on that timeline, and I would explain the circumstances. Your boss may say that it is not possible (there could be reasons he cannot commit to a permanent role at an earlier stage), but there is no reason not to ask. If he says it is not possible, then I would move to the question of what might happen with the shift to in-person given your need to relocate if you get the job.
      Good luck!

  41. ampersand*

    I had a disturbing conversation with a coworker I work closely with this week and I don’t know whether this is the sort of thing I need to let go/compartmentalize, or do something about. Let me preface this with: Coworker does fine work, so there’s nothing wrong on that front. However, they’ve said increasingly weird things to me since we started working together—I’m the only person who they’re saying this stuff to, I think because we work closely together—and this week I realized that they’re probably a Q anon follower. It feels very weird even saying that, and I don’t mean it hyperbolically. There was talk of potentially needing to defend themselves with guns and going out to practice at a shooting range (they seemed way too excited about this idea) and a few other things that were concerning. I don’t know if I need to do something (talk to my manager?) or if refusing to engage in conversation is sufficient. This is weird to me, to say the least. I don’t share these views. I’m bothered.

    1. Colette*

      “That’s not true.” “That’s really disturbing.” “I don’t want to talk about shooting.”

      I’d just shut it down, unless it becomes threats of violence or otherwise endangering people (including things like racism or homophobia, since they’re all part of the Q package.)

    2. D3*

      If they want to believe that fires were started with Jewish space lasers, whatever. But as soon as it stepped into “employees need to be armed and practice shooting” I would have addressed it with HR.

      1. Emma2*

        Actually, if someone starts making antisemitic comments at work, please do take that to HR. That would be very concerning and risks creating an unsafe workplace for Jewish colleagues. Plus, antisemitism is a horror that sadly seems to be gaining more traction in many places at the moment and we really need to be doing what we can to try to stop it.
        Conspiracy theories about what Jewish people are doing are standard antisemitic tropes. These are not harmless nonsense.

        1. ampersand*

          I completely agree. This didn’t rise to that level; some of what was said was hinting at being racist. It was more “my values are being threatened” and not “I hate X group.” But all taken together it was disturbing, and I believe that if I had been receptive to the conversation, the person would have outright stated some of these things. That said, I’m planning on talking to someone about it. I can’t just let it go.

          1. Emma2*

            Yes, sorry, I just felt the need to respond to D3’s comment about Jewish space lasers. These theories are so outlandish that they seem ridiculous, but I don’t think we can brush them off.
            On your original question, I think if someone was talking about using guns and you felt uncomfortable during the conversation, that is worth raising with your manager – you can tell your manager you were not sure what to make of it, but were somewhat concerned and felt you should mention it. It feels like a situation where it makes sense to listen to your gut. I will say that I do not live in the US – people carrying guns or preparing to defend themselves with guns is pretty foreign to me, so I may not read this situation the same way as an American.

            1. Sarah*

              Just because there’s a lot of gun violence in our country and a vocal group who are more concerned with their own comfort than with other people’s lives, it does not mean that we all are fine with the idea. As an American who finds comments like the co-worker’s disturbing, I can tell you that there are many, many Americans who would agree that this is a concerning conversation.

              1. ampersand*

                Right, this is part of the issue! I don’t like guns and live in a state where many people own them. Undoubtedly some people would not have been bothered by the comments that were made, but as a not-gun loving American, alarm bells went off. I’m also more inclined to take such comments seriously given our political climate and current events. It’s possible that 10 or 15 years ago I would be less alarmed than I am now. I am appreciative of everyone’s feedback; it’s hard to know sometimes what rises to the level of “alert management” versus “leave it alone, it’s not work related.” Thank you all!

      2. Not A Manager*

        Why exactly are Jewish space lasers perfectly fine? This isn’t a funny joke – there are people who sincerely believe that Jews have the means, motive and opportunity to commit arson from orbit.

    3. HigherEdAdminista*

      I would definitely mention something to your manager, since he is talking about practicing self-defense with a weapon.

      1. Amaranth*

        I’d say the fact they go and practice at a shooting range isn’t reportable on its own, but partnered with a vague ‘I need to defend myself’ and odd vibe would make me concerned. I would also want to know if that extends to bringing a weapon to work. Concealed Carry permits are basically just handed out to anyone where I live and we have no red flag laws.

        1. HigherEdAdminista*

          Yes, definitely. Someone saying they went to a shooting range, while not my cup of tea, would be a regular activity but coupled with the talk of self-defense it is a bit concerning. Not everyone who runs their mouth will act on it, but especially after the bomb threat situation yesterday, it seems like a good idea not to keep it under your hat.

  42. LizB*

    Just a minor vent about coworkers who get stuck in their ways or cling to ideas that are never gonna happen… my coworker is a lovely person and good at her job, but she seems to get it into her head that This Is The Way To Do It and then refuses to change her mind. This takes two forms:

    Form 1: Coworker had several months of cross-training with her predecessor Lucinda, and after Lucinda actually left, she discovered that Lucinda hadn’t really been doing a great job. Coworker has implemented a lot of processes and made a lot of improvements to get up to speed… and yet whenever someone says “for process X, you should do it ABC way” her immediate response was “but Lucinda told me I should do it DEF way, it’s supposed to be DEF!” Like… honey, you know Lucinda wasn’t doing great! You know that half the stuff she told you was either straight-up wrong or could be vastly improved upon! It would be one thing if she was like “Oh okay, I’ll do ABC, Lucinda had trained me to do DEF but I’ll change,” but she seems so insistent that it’s Lucinda’s Way Or The Highway. It’s bizarre to me.

    Form 2: Coworker has lots of process improvement ideas, which is excellent for her role, but she seems to cling to ideas she’s come up with that, as far as I can tell, have already been rejected by management. At some point I guess there was talk of hiring each department a Teapot Assistant that her role would supervise, but in every conversation I’ve had so far with BigBoss, it’s been very clear to me that that’s not the direction we’re going in. And yet, at least twice a week, I hear, “Process Y is something that the Teapot Assistants should be doing when we start hiring them.” We’re not gonna! BigBoss has pretty explicitly said that! Or like, Process Z is a task she’s going to be taking over from another team that she doesn’t think should be on her plate (with very valid reasons) – but we certainly haven’t gotten confirmation that it’s not getting transferred. Still, yesterday, her supervisor brought up Process Z and she was like “I thought we said that was going to stay with the Z Team?” No, nobody said that. You said that’s what you wanted, but management has not agreed. Until you really hear for sure, you should probably proceed under the assumption that it’s gonna be your task soon, as planned.

    I really do like her and we work well together, these quirks are just fascinating and weird to me.

    1. Mockingjay*

      Oh, she’s GOOD at the redirect. Fascinating (with Spock’s raised eyebrow). I’m betting that with this technique, she’s 1) gotten something off her plate or 2) gotten something she wanted, so she’s gonna try, try again. Just wear people down…

    2. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      Not only am I familiar with this, but it’s not just one coworker, but the entire management team of our partner agency. Our agency sets the rules, they implement processes that do it their way, we notice that something’s not right anymore, and we get “you guys keep changing the rules” and the resultant fussing and carrying on never actually results in correction.

      So many heavy sighs.

  43. Sir Bluebird*

    Hello! This is more of a good news Friday thing, I guess, lol. I’m 21 and recently started a job as a bank teller at a credit union. I’m a couple weeks past my 90 day review and thanks to this blog, I’ve been getting absolutely glowing feedback about being so professional and driven and self-aware. I’m full-time, have PTO and really great benefits, and my manager is excellent. Y’all, I have never before in my life been informed I haven’t scheduled enough time off and need to schedule more. Incredible. I’ve also been given a pretty clear timeline for promotions if I keep performing to this level, and the chance to finish my accounting degree completely paid for by the credit union once I’ve been here for a year. Anyway, I’m just really excited about the way things are going, and I can’t thank you enough for what a huge help it’s been to have this resource.

  44. Anon for This*

    So this is an ask for my husband. His employer has implemented a COVID-19 vaccine mandate and he has picked that as his hill to die on (God I hope it is not literal) He plans to contest it as a “strongly held believe” as it is not against his religion and I doubt any doctor would advise him against receiving the vaccine. We are in the US and he works for the state, where the mandate is the governor’s executive order.

    I am vaccinated and don’t support his decision but it is beyond my control. We have savings and he has a lot of accrued leave that would have to be paid out even if he’s fired. Meanwhile I am miserable at work due to a merger and deliberate understaffing. Should I put my search on hold until his situation is resolve?

    1. Ari*

      I’m sorry that you’re in this situation. I don’t think you need to put your search on hold unless you think it’s the kind of thing where you might be let go if anyone knows you’re looking to leave. It sounds like your husband is almost certainly going to be fired especially given he works for the state. I would make all decisions going forward with that in mind. It also may be very hard for him to find a new job going forward as more companies will be issuing vaccine mandates once it has full FDA approval.

      1. Anon for This*

        Thank you. The FDA approval is his sticking point, along with the vaccine makers not being liable for complications. I’m hoping FDA approval will change his mind. This is so stressful, especially as we have a child under 12 going back to school in person (with masks).

        1. J.B.*

          I do not have kind thoughts for your husband honestly. I think you should decide what is your breaking point, and inform him what you need as his spouse and co-parent. Keep looking for yourself, you do not have to throw yourself on his ideaoligical sword.

        2. Mental Lentil*

          The vaccines ARE approved by the FDA. They are NOT experimental.

          You can google this, but in general, vaccines take a year to get full approval. The first two months are looking for side effects, because if you’re going to see them, that’s when you’ll see them. No vaccine that I’m aware of causes side effects more than two months out.

          The remainder of the year is to see how long the protection provided by the vaccine lasts, and whether boosters will be needed.

          The emergency approval by the FDA is basically saying, “Okay, we haven’t seen any terrible side effects, the vaccines are effectives, let’s get them out there because we’re in a global health crisis.” We’re not going to let millions of people die while we see how long the protection lasts.

          The reason the vaccines don’t have FULL approval yet is because we don’t know with any certainty how long the protection the vaccines provide will last, which is also why we are seeing a lot of debate about whether boosters will be necessary and how long after the second does (or only dose in the case of J&J) the booster will be needed.

          Anybody who is saying that the vaccines are experimental is woefully misinformed, and actually contributing to the crisis. If that is truly their only concern, the facts as I’ve laid them out here should convince them to get the vaccine.

          Also, with regard to complications, the complications caused by the vaccines pale in comparison to the complications caused by NOT getting the vaccine, which could include death.

          I hope this helps.

          1. Anon for This*

            Thank you. Some of the misinformation he is getting comes from the UK, and I understand there have been more issues there with the Astrazeneca vaccine that is not FDA approved.
            Honestly I think it comes down to not wanting to be told what to do. He is Gen X but acting like a teenager if not more childish. I feel like he has become radicalized since the election.
            Our child’s asthma is well controlled, BUT STILL.
            I doubt he will even have the option at this point, but I feel like having him sign something saying not to put him on a ventilator if he gets that sick. I sure as hell don’t want to have to make that decision for him.

            1. StellaBella*

              Your un vaxxed child has asthma and your husband is refusing vaxxes in covid delta times? What if he gives it to his child who dies? Find a new job and protect your child. Good luck.

          2. ThatGirl*

            Just to clarify, they have emergency use authorization, not full approval – which still means being cleared by the FDA! Also, the mRNA technology is not new, it’s been in development for ages. (You alluded to both of those things, just wanted to add more context.)

            1. Mental Lentil*

              Yep, the mRNA technology is really amazing! I’ve had a few people spout up some conspiracy rumors (i.e., the fact that this vaccine came along so quickly means they must have created it in a lab) and I’ve explained how that technology works, and that knowledge has been pretty effective in shooting down the conspiracy talk, at least along that avenue.

              That, combined with the fact that we threw a lot of money at this for R&D, and we had LOTS of people willing to go through clinical trials really helped get this vaccine out there quickly. I wish it didn’t take a global health crisis and millions of deaths to make the human race so work so hard toward a cure, but there you are.

        3. fhqwhgads*

          If the “full approval” is his sticking point, it’s being reported Pfizer is likely to get that within weeks if not days….so if he’s sincere in that being the concern, his concern will be gone VERY soon.

    2. Director of Alpaca Exams*

      I assume your search is for a new job and not a new husband. But either way, I think it’s very important for you to prioritize your own needs right now. What does safety look like for you when your husband is putting both your health and your finances at risk? If you can stick it out in your miserable job, that might be safest. But if you’re so miserable that your performance is suffering, looking for a new job sounds like it would be a very good idea.

      Having your own solid income source is extremely important when there are major marital disagreements. It lets you make decisions based on what you emotionally need, without being influenced by financial concerns. Only you can say whether that points you more toward staying in your current job or pursuing a new one.

      You’re in a very tough spot. Best of luck to you.

      1. Anon for This*

        Thank you. I joke that he needs to keep paying the life insurance, but I am seriously worried.

        My hill to die on in this is getting our child (who has asthma) vaccinated once that becomes possible. If that makes him mad enough to divorce me, so be it.

        1. Director of Alpaca Exams*

          I’m so sorry your husband is putting your child at risk this way. That’s awful. I know you came here looking for work advice, but I agree with Nesprin that the real issue here is your husband’s behavior, and I hope you can find some way to keep yourself and your child safe from him while you figure out where you want to go from here.

        2. tangerineRose*

          Good for you for being careful. A few months ago, someone I know (in Gen X) caught Covid-19 and nearly died. He was on a ventilator, in a medically-induced coma, given a 50% chance of survival. He also wasn’t vaccinated. He did pull through, thank goodness, but it was close, and he didn’t have any big health issues.

        3. Bianca*

          Please consider how long you will tolerate the danger your husband’s behaviour creates for your child. Forget whether he would be mad enough to divorce you over getting a medically vulnerable child vaccinated – what about your feelings about his behaviour?? You have agency too.

          Do not give up the job search, but stay employed, and please consider looking into the steps necessary for living separately until your child can be vaccinated.

        4. Siege*

          Preemptively protect your child. Delta is frighteningly contagious, and if you are in Washington State, Inslee is not going to back down on this, so your husband is out of a job as of October 18. If he’s union, it’s possible that the union can bargain, but the fact the state rejected WFSE’s proposals for people with medical and religious objections out of hand is not a great sign.

          We have more people in ICU beds as of yesterday than we did at the previous peak in December. If your child gets sick and requires hospitalization, their odds are good that there will be no beds by then.

        5. Berniece Sanders*

          My husband had mental health issues about 12 years ago and I had to basically re-prioritize all my decisions in order to ensure that I could increase my salary and the kids and I would be able to stay in the house if he chose to leave instead of getting help. It is stark, but that’s where you are at too. He is putting what he wants for himself over the health and welfare of his child with asthma and the stability of the family. You are now a de facto single parent.

          This means you prioritize your career so you can increase and/or maintain the stability and safety of the family if he basically decides to get fired over a choice that endangers his own child. Don’t put your search on hold! Hugs to you. FYI, my husband went to personal counseling, we went to marriage counseling, and he had a med change and we continue to be happily married.

          1. Anon for This*

            Thank you. I do need to get back into therapy to cope with this (and everything else) and yes I should get us in marriage counseling. I realized the other day with a flippant “right wing media is a hella drug” but it really is like an addiction.

      2. Amaranth*

        Also, it might help to put the focus on the fact that understaffing might indicate the company isn’t that stable and so its imperative he keeps his government job and benefits.

    3. HigherEdAdminista*

      I’m sorry that you are dealing with this person. If you are miserable at work and dealing with an unreasonable person at home who likely believes in conspiracy theories… I would say think about whether you want to be responsible for him if he becomes unemployed. Vaccine mandates are likely not going away; they are only like to get more strict. I’m not trying to predict the future here, but it is worth considering what happens if no employer is willing to accommodate him in this way.

      I understand it is easier said than done, and that love and relationships are complicated, but I would absolutely end a marriage over this belief in general, even if he did not get fired.

      1. Nesprin*

        Especially with a vulnerable asthmatic kid. I don’t think you have a employment problem, I think you have a husband problem.

    4. Troutwaxer*

      The one thing I think you might try is to ask your husband to consult with his doctor and your child’s doctor and do what they say. Don’t address the politics or the statistics, don’t try to reason, just let the doctors do their thing. If he objects, ask him who’d he trust more than his family doctor, who only continues to get paid if he lives, or his child’s pediatrician, who only continues to get paid if the child lives?

    5. Epiphyta*

      If you’re out here on the West Coast, specifically in Washington, “personal and philosophical belief” was ruled out as an option for contesting the mandate. And he might not want to count on his colleagues backing his play: a friend of mine who works for the state government told me that the field employees had a very different experience of the pandemic re: safety issues, and her department’s pretty fed up with their bosses for not putting more strict requirements in place sooner.

      Just saying, if Rolovich could see the writing on the wall and opted to get the shot rather than lose his $3M a year? They’re willing to can a Pac-12 football coach: I would assume your spouse’s job is on the ropes and plan accordingly.

      1. Anon for This*

        Thank you. We are in Virginia and will be elected a new governor this fall. I think he’s gambling that the hearing process/potential lawsuits will drag on long enough for the Republican to win and reverse the mandate.

        1. Epiphyta*

          I’ve got family in Bellingham, not far from WSU; we were singing the “Schadenfreude” song immediately after the news broke.

    6. Also Anon for This*

      I work for the government – here the rules are: if you are not vaccinated you have to be tested regularly, wear a mask, and social distance. They are still working out the details on paying for the testing, but they are looking at requiring employees to share the cost, since the vaccines are free. The attitude among the vaccinated employees? They are hoping that the anti-vaxxers get fired. Depends on your state, but if his workplace is like mine his co-workers and work buddies aren’t going to support him on this.

      So don’t quit your job while this is in flux, but definitely go ahead and job search. And do your best to keep yourself healthy!

      1. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

        Based on the timing I suspect this is either Washington or Oregon, which are not offering testing as an alternative to vaccination (or medical/religious exemption). Inslee and Brown are done messing around on this; it’s vaccinate or be fired.

      2. Epiphyta*

        Ah! In Washington “weekly testing+masking/social distancing” was ruled out as an option, on the grounds that it was tried in places like state prisons and people still got sick, with some deaths.

        The question of whether someone who’s fired or resigns over it can collect unemployment is still being argued, but the spokesperson for the state employment security office is on record saying unless someone can demonstrate that an employer didn’t give people enough time to get vaccinated or isn’t offering religious exemptions, they shouldn’t count on getting that payment. Which, if they’re local, the OP might want to factor into their calculations.

    7. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I will not share my thoughts about your husband, but I have a friend/former co-worker in a similar boat and I can’t even talk to her about it anymore because it’s so rage-inducing for her and me.

      Tell your husband he better have a solid backup plan and it’s on him. You continue to job search, but try to hang on until you find something new. If he starts to complain or criticize or whatever, tell him to shove it up his keyster because you’re trying to do what’s best for your family because he won’t.

    8. PollyQ*

      You should search all the harder for a new job, because that’s often the quickest was to get a salary jump, and you may need that extra money once your husband gets fired.

    9. Twisted Lion*

      Is…. he going to start job searching? Because obviously the state is not going to change its mind. I would keep doing yours if for nothing else, your sanity.

      My husband took some convincing and it was our doctor who made him realize that he needed to do it for me, his immune compromised spouse. I think if he hasnt actually had the convo with your family doctor then maybe he should. Someone with a medical degree might need to explain to him that he is putting his child at risk.

      But if he is too stubborn for that… ugh. I feel for you. But do what you need to do for YOU. Sounds like your work is miserable so keep looking.

    10. RagingADHD*

      No, keep looking. Just be extra discreet to avoid getting pushed out, and for the time being, rule out any situations that would be a step down in compensation.

      I am so sorry you’re in this situation and hope your husband gets the bluster out of his system and comes to his senses.

      And, not to be morbid, but perhaps you could make a point of making sure his life insurance policy is current.

      My husband is stubborn about some things (not this, but other stuff) and if anything will bring him around, it’s when I quietly proceed to get things done without him, and make arrangements that don’t depend on him. He does not want to be the kind of person I can’t rely on.

      Perhaps your husband has similar feelings you can rightfully leverage here.

    11. Girasol*

      I just read an article that said the FDA may approve Pfizer on Monday. Hope that breaks down barriers for your husband.

    12. Dancing Otter*

      Can you support yourself and your son on your own earnings?

      Your unvaccinated husband should not be in close contact with your asthmatic child.

      No, you can’t force your husband to get vaccinated. You can be Mama Bear in protecting your son, and you should be.

  45. AlexandrinaVictoria*

    What do you do when you’re good at your job but you hate it? I work with numbers, data, reporting, and do a great job. But I hate every single thing I’m doing at this point. None of it is interesting to me, and I just don’t even care. I’m a musician, I want something where I can be creative, but it’s hard to find that elusive job that lets you be yourself and enjoy what you do and still have health insurance and a livable salary. I’m drowning in resentment and stress. Not sure what to do.

    1. Colette*

      I think you have two options – find a job you like more, or adjust your mindset. (Both is also an option.)

      You are a musician, regardless of what your day job is, so it’s OK to let your day job be the thing you do that allows you to do what you love after work.

      If you want to be a musician full time, you can pursue that – but that might mean giving up the salary and health insurance.

      But there are other options – you could look for a job doing what you do in the music industry, or find a job that doesn’t involve numbers that lets you be more creative (e.g. marketing).

      1. Fran Fine*

        Marketing involves numbers. Maybe not to the degree the OP currently deals with, but analytics is a big deal to determine whether or not a campaign is successful.

    2. Stunt Apple Breeder*

      I found it helpful to reframe the job in my mind as “this lets me afford the fun stuff I like to do.” I also sometimes imagined that I was an actor performing my role–it helped to compartmentalize my job from the rest of my life when changing out of my work ‘costume’ into my home clothes.

    3. Gracely*

      It’s worth keeping in mind that sometimes when you make your passion your job, you can end up hating your passion. I had a job that was 100% steeped in what I love…but after a couple of years, I had reached the point where I didn’t want anything to do with it if it wasn’t on work time, because I could only see it as work. I finally found another job, and it took a couple years to get to the point where I could enjoy my passion again.

      So sometimes, it’s good to keep work separate. It might help to think of it as the thing you do well that allows you to have what you need to do music the rest of the time.

      1. Speaks to Dragonflies*

        Thats what happened to me. Music is something I enjoy. Its something I want to because I enjoy it. Trying to make a living out of it made a job…something I had to do, and it sucked every bit of joy from it.

    4. My Brain Is Exploding*

      Would it help if you did the same sort of job but in a more creative industry? You would rub up against creativity/creative types in your day job and could maybe make some lateral moves in a new company that would add creativity to your own job.

  46. PurplePartridge*

    I had a final-round interview on Wednesday this week for a position I think I’m a great fit for. I’ve felt confident throughout the process but couldn’t really get a read on how my final interviewer (the hiring manager) felt. I emailed a thank-you to the in-house recruiter yesterday, and he asked if I was free for a call on Monday with him and the hiring manager.

    I don’t have enough info to read that one way or the other. I’m hoping it’s good news, or maybe they want to get some clarification, but how do I prepare myself in case this is the dreaded Zoom rejection?

    1. Director of Alpaca Exams*

      Imagine them wearing purple polka-dot boxer shorts just out of camera view. A little humor can help to break that internal tension.

      Good luck!

    2. PollyQ*

      If you take Alison’s standard advice and assume that you’re not getting the job, are there any steps you can take before the meeting to push your job search forward? (Fingers crossed that it’s good news, though!)

      1. PurplePartridge*

        I’m not so much on an active job hunt than I am just leaping at an opportunity that would be fantastic if I got it. I’d be disappointed but okay if it’s a no, but I really really do not want to hear ‘no’ live on camera and have been given zero indication what the call is about.

  47. Fleece Sheep*

    Does anyone have any advice for not making silly mistakes but still getting all your work done in a timely manner when it’s very busy?

    My workplace has recently entered a busy time period and my team recently experienced a high rate of turnover in the same month (two people went on mat leave and one got a job offer). As of right now, I’m the most senior person on the team and my coworkers that we hired to fill in are very new (<3 months). My supervisor is swamped too so a lot of his tasks get trickled down to me. I'm starting to make silly mistakes because on top of the normal assignments I have to do using one system platform, I also have people emailing me and messaging me at a rate I don't normally see since I'm now the contact person for these new tasks. It's a little overwhelming having to manage so many things via different platforms and when I try to lay out my tasks in an organized manner, it ends up slowing me down to where I can't get what I need to do done in a day. So right now my options seem to be getting things done but making more mistakes, or making fewer mistakes but not getting enough things done.

    Anyone have any better tips? I've tried blocking out times in my calendar although that doesn't stop people from reaching out to me (with emergencies that I cannot delay) so I'm experiencing frequent interruptions in my daily workflow.

    1. LizB*

      Are you able to keep your email program mostly closed and only look at it a few designated times a day? Can you reroute more of this new communication into email instead of messaging? If you can do this, you can focus on one platform at a time – spend a chunk of time on your normal tasks, then close that and work on emailed tasks for another chunk of time, then switch back. For me, I end up making silly mistakes when I’m flitting back and forth between things. If I can focus on one stream of communication at a time, it’s a lot easier.

      1. Fleece Sheep*

        That’s what I’ve been trying to do with regards to emails, setting aside a chunk of time to go through my inbox. Unfortunately, with the messaging, the direction has come from the Director level that certain kinds of tasks need to be sent by direct messages rather than email so I’m usually getting somewhere upwards of 20 DMs a day from people with these kinds of tasks and it really takes me out of the moment.

        1. Director of Alpaca Exams*

          Can you set your DM notifications to silent for an hour?

          Otherwise, you might need to flex your schedule if you can—get some work done outside of normal business hours when the DM volume is much lower. That’s not a long-term solution, but it sounds like this isn’t a long-term problem.

          And please talk to your supervisor about it, presenting it exactly the way you did here: “I’ve noticed that when I’m frequently interrupted, it’s easier for me to make mistakes. Do you want me to prioritize addressing everything immediately, even if it means some of it may need to be fixed later, or turning off DMs so I can focus and complete tasks correctly the first time?”

          1. Fleece Sheep*

            This is actually a good idea. I’m facepalming because I completely forgot about the do not disturb functions on the chat.

            Thank you for that reminder!

            1. Director of Alpaca Exams*

              You’re welcome! I frequently tell my team that I’m going DND for an hour and to click “notify anyway” if something is urgent. It’s great for focus time.

        2. LizB*

          I don’t know what DM program you use, but Teams has a function where I can create a Task out of any message I receive with a couple clicks. As DMs come in, can you immediately toss them onto a To-Do list or into whatever organizing app you use (and maybe copy-paste a “message received, i’ll handle this within [timeframe]” note back to the requestor), then actually get to them in batches? Hopefully with a shorter and more rote interruption it’d be easier for you to get back into the flow of your work.

  48. Mewt*

    My employer is known to pay well, we’re a small non-profit where all roles make above market rate. Not vastly above it, but definitely one of the better paying employers in our field. Since I was recruited my job has grown significantly in duties and responsibilities, way outside my job description and the scope of what I was hired to do. When it became evident this was going to be an ongoing issue, I submitted a request for my role description and salary to be reviewed based on the significant change. So far all I’m getting is informal pushback, with the tone of ‘you’re already well paid’ being used. Objectively we are all well paid for the roles we were recruited for – however mine is completely different now. No-one from on high is disputing that my job has changed immensely or that I’m performing well in it, but when I ask to be compensated for that I’m treated like I have ideas above my station. I’m really frustrated. Is there a constructive way to engage with that (my working for an employer that pays well) being given as a reason I won’t be getting a raise?

    1. CatCat*

      I’d do research on the market rate for the work you do now and present that to them. “I was hired for role X and was paid well for role X. However, now I am no longer in role X. I am now in role Y. I’d like to talk about compensation for role Y specifically. The average market rate for role Y is $$. Given the significant contributions I have made like [examples] and the extra duties I have taken on as I moved into role Y, I am looking for a title change to Y and to be paid salary of [whatever you think is right based on your research, maybe a little more than the average if that’s normal for your employer]. Is that possible here?”

      Honestly, if they say again that you’re already “well paid,” I’d reiterate what the question *is*: “Is it possible to get a title change and raise that reflects role Y?” Maybe it’s no, or maybe they just hem and haw more in which case, that’s also a no.

    2. Snailing*

      Maybe frame it more about the job description or the “whole package” and less about just the pay? I understand that’s what you’ve asked for anyway, but it seems TPTB are focusing only on the pay portion when they answer you.

      Something like “Yes, I realize we are all paid very well and I love that our company has a leading compensation philosophy. But my role has significantly changed since I was hired X time ago and I would like to formalize my new job description and how my current compensation relates to my evolved role. When we can meet to get that on paper?”

      Essentially, but forcing them to examine your job description and role, you’ll then have more standing power to ask “Does my current compensation reflect this role?”

  49. Director of Alpaca Exams*

    A nice difference between being in my 20s and being in my 40s is that I approach ill-fitting jobs very differently. I used to cringe and hate myself and feel like everything was my fault and desperately try to cover up my failings until I was found out and got fired. This time I was the one asking my boss for a conversation about how this position isn’t working for me, and because I’ve always been clear about the areas where I can excel and the areas where I struggle, she was able to offer me contract work that’s everything I like about the job without all the being-an-employee parts I hate.

    I wish I could give everyone (including my past self) the confidence to negotiate from a position of feeling that both one’s skills and one’s needs are deserving of respect.

      1. Director of Alpaca Exams*

        Thank you! Still trying to figure out how it will work in practice, but in theory it’s going to be a very positive change.

  50. ben*

    I’m looking for perspective from someone who has been in the workforce longer. I work at call center-type job with around 50-60 employees (when we’re not horribly understaffed, like we are now). I’ve been working here about three years and I’ve been promoted twice in that time, first to a shift supervisor and now to my current position. In my current position, I maintain a schedule for all 50 or so part-time employees. I also directly supervise about 6 employees, who supervise about 2-3 employees each. I help interview and train new hires and help develop the standards and processes for the entire call center. Due to some constraints from higher up I’m still part time. We do have a full-time manager but a lot of his work involves communication with other departments and he only deals with personnel issues when I bring them up to him.

    Based solely on these details, how much would you guess this job pays?

    1. Director of Alpaca Exams*

      You’re doing all that part-time? However much your job pays, it’s not enough.

    2. Malika*

      Hard to say when we don’ t know where you are located! This can vastly differ depending on industry and where your office is placed.

      Do you want a raise or a more public acknowledgment of your growth? In this economy, i would look elsewhere. At the moment i am waiting one more year before making the jump as i want that bit more experience. I can get better pay and growth elsewhere and will cash in the experience as soon as possible.

    3. Twisted Lion*

      Im going to say not enough if its PART TIME. You are a grand boss, manage the schedule of 50 employees, hire and train and develop standards? Brush up that resume and go searching. You sound vastly qualified for something better.

    4. RagingADHD*

      Completely depends where you are.

      But I agree with the others, if you’re PT with that level of responsibility you could do a lot better.

    5. ben*

      In my original comment I purposely left off an important detail. I’m a student employee at my university and the people I supervise are other student employees. I’m part time because my university doesn’t allow student employees to work more than 25 hours a week. My university also doesn’t allow student employees to make more than $15 an hour, so my pay is $13.10 (very high for student-employee standards).

      Good to know people think I could do better! I hope I can find something better after I graduate, but I’m not sure if anyone wants to hire new college grads for similar management-type roles regardless of their experience.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Remember that people can be successful in those roles without a bachelor’s. You’re acing it now, so I bet you’ll go even farther with the degree. We’ll be the cheerleaders.

  51. Looking for change*

    I’d love to hear about people’s experiences going to back to college for a second bachelor’s degree to change careers. Was it worth it? Was there anything you didn’t expect?

    I graduated college four years ago with a major in liberal arts subject. After bouncing around between internships and temp jobs, I finally landed my current position, where I’m a project manager for one huge, non-technical government project. I’m ok at this job, but many of the skills needed to succeed in it don’t come naturally to me and I’ve come to really dislike the nature of the role (always being the middle man, rarely seeing concrete results of my work, reviewing and tracking other people’s work rather than doing my own work). Many days I’m depressed at work and feel like what I do is tedious and meaningless, despite having a good boss, good work-life balance, and a good office culture.

    I’ve thought about it long and hard, and I’m now starting to think I might want to change careers entirely. I’m considering becoming an engineer. I’ve always been interested in and good at math and science, and I like the idea of building or designing real, physical things that have a real, physical impact on the world. Plus, I’ve become increasingly convinced that the best way to make change on many issues I care about will require, in part, technological advancements, and I’d like to be part of that.

    I would have to go back to school and get another bachelor’s to become an engineer, however. I would be able to live with my parents if I did so, but I’d probably take on some debt for the tuition (I don’t have any existing student debt, fwiw). That said, I’m seriously considering the idea anyway. It’s exciting to think about! But there’s also a voice in my head telling me this is a stupid idea and I shouldn’t even consider it. I’m not sure what to do.

    (Also, just to preempt this response, I have considered switching to software development, but I don’t think I’m interested in that to the same degree I am in engineering)

    1. Gracely*

      I went back for a master’s (not in engineering, fwiw, but like half of my friends are different kinds of engineers), and if there’s any way you can do that instead of just a second bachelor’s, I’d recommend that.

      And do you know what kind of engineering you want to do? There’s electrical, wireless, aerospace, civil, mechanical, chemical….which one you want to do could have an impact on how much your school/degree(s)/ certifications might end up costing.

      1. enough*

        While this might work for some if your undergraduate work didn’t include enough engineering basics you might not get accepted And if you did it would be provisional and you wold need to take a lot of undergraduate courses in order to qualify for the graduate level courses.
        Also Master’s are more subject specific so usually work best when you want more depth in one area not if you need the breadth of a Bachelor’s.

      2. AcademiaNut*

        I’m in hard science, and I had two classmates in undergrad who were doing a second bachelors (and a couple of mature students). All are happily employed in their new fields.

        For hard science/engineering, you really can’t do a Master’s without the relevant bachelor’s – you can shift a little (undergrad in math, Master’s in astronomy, say), but there’s essentially no overlap in subject based material between a general liberal arts program and an engineering degree. You might squeeze a year off a four year degree by already having your general ed requirements, however.

        I would be, by the way, be very careful of online programs if you actually want to work in engineering, because you’re not just needing to tick a degree box, but actually need to master the material. At a minimum, you’d need a program that would have an in person lab component. Part time studies can be tricky in science/tech because the cascading pre-requisites mean you have to take courses in a certain order. You could probably do the more basic courses part time while working, if you wanted to minimize the time spent in full time studies (I’m thinking first year physics/chem/calculus).

    2. Strider*

      Hi there! I have gone back to school for a second bachelor’s (about 5 years after I got the first one). Similar to you, it was a switch from liberal arts (english literature) to something scientific (in my case, biology). It was a huge time commitment, but I was in a stable place in life, and knowing that it was really what I wanted to do helped make it bearable.

      It was absolutely worth it, as I’m 99% sure that having that second degree got me my current job, which is a great fit for my skills and interests, and after 5 years, my income has tripled from what I had been making at my previous job.

      Some caveats:
      -I’ve always been a “good student” and good paper writer/test taker, which made the courseload while also working fulltime doable. If I had to study several subjects that I had to try really hard in (as opposed to only 1 class per semester that was really hard… I’m looking at you, Organic Chemistry), it would have been much more difficult and demoralizing.

      -I knew that I wanted a career in science because I was working in a lab at the time. I knew I would need a biology degree to do more interesting/complex work. (I’m actually using both my English background and biology background in my current role.) If any part of you is unsure about engineering, I would suggest finding a way to dip your toes in first. (Maybe others in engineering can suggest small roles or projects that make sense to start out with.)

      -I went to a state college known to have a lot of commuter students for that second degree, so I had plenty of classmates who were my age or in a similar place in life (had jobs and/or families and other commitments outside of class). It would have been much more isolating if everyone was 7-10 years younger (though I did have good relationships with the college-aged students, too).

      Anything else you are curious about?

      1. Looking for change*

        Oh man, I don’t think I could work full-time AND be in school. How long did it take you to earn the degree? Were you doing classes only part-time, then?

        Did any of your classes from your first degree transfer over so you could skip gen ed requirements? That’s one concern I have. I think if all relevant courses from my first major transferred, I could complete the degree in 5-6 semesters instead of 8.

        1. Strider*

          Yes! Prerequisite courses/Gen Ed carried over, so I took classes for 2 years (5 semesters), and they were pretty much just the required biology degree classes.

          I took classes full time, too. (I worked night shift and went to class during the day.) I also did 1 summer course/year to keep things a bit lighter in the spring/fall.

    3. HereKittyKitty*

      If you don’t have any debt and your feel like you can come out the other side with good finances- I say go for it! There’s also the option of attending part-time at a community college and transferring to a full university later on.

      I have a BFA and MFA, but the role I’m in now works very closely with web development. I knocked around the idea of getting a BS at a public university part-time, but after doing some research and knowing that I’m already close to “hands-on” in the field, I decided to get an associate’s in web development at a local community college. It is wayyyyyy cheaper. For example at the public university 12hrs was looking at around 4-5k a semester. The same classes at community college were $750 a semester. And those classes transfer to that same public university.

      So next week I’m starting some classes towards a web development associate’s degree. And I figure if I do decide I want to get another bachelor’s, all those classes transfer to the public university and I could finish up there if I want. And if I decide to abandon the idea completely, well I’m only out $750 and not $5,000 dollars.

    4. PollyQ*

      Are you 100% sure you need a whole new BA? Would it be possible to just take the science/engineering classes you need for the work? I had a cousin who was a PhD English professor, but then realized she really wanted to be a medical doctor. She took all those basic science courses pre-meds take and then went on to med school, but she didn’t get another bachelor’s degree.

      On the larger question of switching careers, I’m definitely pro, and I don’t think there’s anything stupid about it.

    5. Pam Adams*

      Start talking to Engineering schools now. Find out what’s possible. For instance, my California public university does not accept students for second bachelor’s degrees, except under extremely rare circumstances.
      You can also start on the required math and science prerequisites at your local community college. You might also look at programs in Business- Operations Management, Supply Chain/Logistics, or Analytics programs may be what you want. Students can generally enter MBA programs with any bachelor’s degree.

    6. Bethie*

      Random – but my husband hated his job and when COVID started, he stayed home and enrolled in a 2nd bachelors degree program. His grades werent high enough to get a masters, and he is changing from History to Media Production. We are doing student loans – but we dont have any besides this as far as student loans go. Keep in mind if you are a 5th year senior you only get enough in student loans to do 24 hours per year, with no money back for living. My husband is doing 9 hours per semester and we are getting 2 classes back in living costs per semester. I got my Masters 10 years ago when I realized I would rather eat grass than work at the job I was at for the rest of my life. I did work and go to school online full time. But I make double what I did 10 years ago and I love my job! i am more of a if you arent happy make the change! Especially when everything is online now.

    7. Sarah*

      One thing to consider, if you already have a bachelors degree, you may be able to transfer credits from your previous college to serve towards getting your degree.
      Ages ago, I got a bachelors degree from a fairly prestigious school on the West Coast. Five years after that, I went back to school and got another bachelors degree from a state university. I did not have to take any of the core requirements classes because essentially I was a transfer student. So it might not be a four-year thing for you.
      You might be able to get away with doing it a year part time and two years full-time. So look into that too.

    8. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I went back for a certificate in computer science. It’s designed for people who already have a bachelor’s degree. It basically adds a minor in a new subject.
      You don’t need to repeat the core classes.

  52. Temporary Temp*

    For medical workers that have dealt with busy periods at work due to COVID-19 surges, do you have any tips on staying sane and healthy through the experience?

    I do the admin work for COVID-19 vaccines and tests and function as a receptionist greeting patients and checking them in. My employer has been hugely ramping up the availability of tests due to the delta variant and a bunch of “get the vaccine or get a test weekly” mandates coming into effect in my area, and I’m assuming we’ll need to hugely ramp up our vaccine appointment availability when third dose eligibility expands on September 20th. I am a per diem employee and after a summer of low shift availability I am constantly being offered shifts and told I can work an unlimited amount and work overtime so we’re obviously desperate for staff. I am probably going to be working something like 4 12 hour shifts a week during this rush, and will probably going to be dealing with more stress than I was this spring/summer due to patients that are mad about vaccine/test mandates and want to take it out on me, patients anxious about 3rd doses and variants, and the general stress of the predicted delta variant surge in my area.

    I have my reasons for being willing to take on an increased shift load, but I am still nervous about potential exhaustion, stress, and burn out. I am trying to plan ahead to keep myself at my best, and my ideas so far are finding ways to lessen my chore load so I can focus on relaxing activities on work nights, always scheduling myself weekends, and putting aside money so I can do something like take a vacation or a longer break from picking up temp assignments when this is done. Does anyone else have any ideas or words of wisdom?

    1. Gracely*

      A friend of mine who is an ICU nurse has been treating himself to expensive food and wine after particularly rough days/shifts. He also avoids the news/unplugs from media as much as he can on his off-days. He also posts a lot of snarky memes during his work breaks, which I think helps him laugh a little about the things he can’t do anything about.
      But I know those things only go so far when you’re in the middle of a deluge.

    2. LizB*

      Make it as automatic and easy as possible to get food and water into your body to fuel you. For food, stock the freezer, get some sort of meal subscription, set aside money for takeout, build up a stash of snacks in your office, whatever it takes to make sure you aren’t skipping meals due to exhaustion/inconvenience of food prep. Aim for a balance of things you enjoy eating and things that make your body feel good when you eat them (example for me, I LOVE sushi, but it doesn’t fill me up, so if I want to get that for lunch as a reward for myself I will also plan to have a bunch of side dishes readily available). For water, make sure you have water bottles you like drinking out of, get in the habit of refilling them frequently, or get multiple so you can always have a backup at hand.

    3. Diatryma*

      Avoid Facebook and anything else that you do in your free time that leaves you drained (my list includes advice columns; I can’t read comments on some AAM posts because RAGE.)

      It sounds like you’re not worried about the workload alone, but about the patients you interact with. Can you build scripts or canned responses to a lot of the conversations? I do a lot better when I take calls if I already have a sentence prepped for common questions.

      Work hard, rest hard. Don’t work when you’re not at work, and don’t let work’s needs for more people take away your need for more rest. Your breaks matter. Your health matters. Your weekends matter. If they need more staff, they can hire more. Take your sick time and personal time and do whatever you have to to keep work out of it.

      Thank you for working with patients. My lab job would be a looooot worse if I had to field calls from patients rather than providers. You’re doing good work.

      1. Temporary Temp*

        Aww thank you! Working with patients can be really rewarding—I’ve helped so many people with questions about the COVID-19 vaccine or struggling with figuring out appointments get their shots—but sometimes it’s awful! What I’m really struggling with are people saying incredibly offensive things about how they feel about “forced” vaccinations/tests or “experimental” vaccines. It usually goes to Nazi comparisons, and I’m descended from Jews that fled Germany pre-WW2, so obviously those comparisons really hurt me personally. So far my response to those people has been total blankness and then to go home and cry about it and I have no idea if that’s the best way to handle it or not. It’s also really frustrating dealing with patients who rant and rave about things like wait times, appointments being booked up, anything that goes wrong; especially when I’m working really hard and going out of my way to solve their problems. But it is easier to give those people canned apologies and sympathies compared to the “this is just like the Holocaust” people *cringe*

    4. WellRed*

      Outsource if you can. If not grocery delivery, at least do it as pickup. And be ok with letting other things slide a bit. Maybe you use paper plates instead of dishes.

  53. Tabby Baltimore*

    DATA SCIENTISTS – How can I topic model my emails in Microsoft Outlook? I work in a “closed” system (not connected to the Internet), and want to teach myself Python by figuring out a way to topic model my emails. I’m fairly sure MS does sell this capability, but my agency would never buy it, so I’m stuck trying to figure this out on my own.

    Has anyone ever used Python for this purpose? If so, how did you even start a project like this? I’m not sure what to do first (other than getting a Jupyter notebook installed, which I have done, and I have access to various libraries, none of which I know what to do with): collect the emails, each in its own Word document? or put them all in one big Word document? I’m open to suggestions. Thanks, all!

    1. J.B.*

      If you’re working with text, I would put it in a text doc to get away from word formatting. There is an online free book text mining with R that includes sentiment analysis and topic modeling. I have found python libraries like Pandas to be very similar to R, although your libraries might not match this book the ideas should translate.

  54. I'm just here for the cats!*

    Anyone else having problems with replying to comments on AAM this morning? Especially on mobile?

    1. Mental Lentil*

      I always have huge issues on mobile. Ads get in the way, and because the ads are constantly rotating and they have different sizes, things jump around all the time. It’s frustrating.

    2. RosyGlasses*

      For the weekend threads, I almost always use my laptop. Mobile refreshes and sometimes bumps things back up to the top and I lose my place, if I’m reading replies and more replies are being added on top of the ads refreshing, I have to hold my finger on the screen to stop it from moving. I’ve just given up on mobile – but I don’t want to log an error because I know Alison should have an outlet to make money on the blog and it really seems to stem from the ad placement/refresh.

  55. Anonymosity*

    This question refers back to the “jobs that say they’re remote but aren’t really” post from a little while ago. Does anyone have any advice for cover letter phrasing when applying to out-of-state jobs that are still temporarily remote?

    I’ve included that I’m 100% willing and free to relocate for the job, but I wonder if employers think I’m just interested in working remotely. I prefer to be onsite the majority of the time.
    You would think the pandemic / WFH pivot would make this easier, but it doesn’t seem to be.

    1. Impatient*

      Not tried-and-true advice, but I’ve applied to a few jobs recently that are not local to me, and I’ve included WHY I’m interested in moving to the location where the job is, instead of just THAT I’m willing to move. Two of those applications were just in the last two weeks, so it’s too soon to know if that works!

    2. onyxzinnia*

      I’ve changed states several times for my career (most recently in 2016). I used to put in my cover letter that I was “moving to [location] shortly” and later negotiated a start date 3-4 weeks after the offer was made so I could make the move. None of these employers offered relocation so I had make it clear it would be at my own expense. I suppose now with WFH you could start earlier while organizing your move, but sounds like a lot of companies are still figuring things out.

      1. Anonymosity*

        Did they ask more about that? If so, what did you say?

        That makes me nervous, since I couldn’t actually move unless they hired me. I would need a couple of paychecks under my belt first. But I could absolutely start earlier; my previous experience included a lot of remote collaboration with colleagues in my target’s time zone. I even have a reference who could speak to that.

        1. onyxzinnia*

          It was mostly to get my application considered at all since the recruiter would see that I was in a different part of the country and immediately discount me otherwise. Shortly can mean tomorrow or three months from now, it’s purposefully vague.

          Once I was on the phone with the recruiter and hiring manager, I was able to talk about why I was a great fit for the role and why I thought the organization would be a great opportunity, and how much I looked forward to relocating to the location. They’d ask me what my timelines were for relocating and if I was aware that they didn’t offer relocation (most were understanding that I’d need an offer before I officially relocated but that I was willing to fly in for the interview process).

          COVID has changed things enormously though as recruiters seem to be a lot more open to candidates outside the local area than before. I am currently job hunting for remote roles and a number of internal recruiters I’ve spoken to from locations across the US have commented on how the pandemic has widened their candidate pools and they’ve now been able to consider people that they weren’t able to previously. Good news for you! I’d definitely highlight how well you’ve managed to collaborate remotely.

          It’s something that would have to be negotiated but if they want you, they’ll make it work. I’d probably lay out your plan, that you’d start WFH straightaway and then move to location by X date.