open thread – October 15-16, 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.

{ 1,226 comments… read them below }

  1. A&D*


    Interview help please! Got an interview for a job that I think is super well-matched with my skills and is almost exactly what I want to be doing. I passed a phone screen, and now am prepping again for an interview (with all of the fantastic resources on this site) and have a few questions:
    1. My first interview is 30 min with an HR coordinator. I’ve only had two jobs and have never worked at a place big enough to have HR so I have no idea what this meeting will be about – is this the place to talk about benefits (including flexibility & work from home) and culture?
    2. My second interview is 45 min with my potential manager. My read on this manager so far is that he seems great – BUT I have had a couple of past managers who are good people but baaaad managers. Outside of asking him what his management style – does anyone have any additional good questions they reccomend to ask a potential manager? Honestly, I wish I could ask them behavioral questions to get the best understanding but I doubt that will go over well. My understanding is this is an entirely new role in the department so I will be relying on hypothetical questions about what the manager hopes for the role (daily tasks, good characteristics to have, etc).
    3. How many questions is too many questions? I have more than a dozen, and don’t know if there is a third interview with my manager after this…

    1. Mental Lentil*

      HR interview is probably to determine if you have the background and skills required.

      Manager interview is probably to see if you will be a good fit with the team.

      Yes, it’s good to ask him about his management style! Ask for some examples of how he’s handled specific things in the past: missed deadlines, customer complaints—whatever is relevant to the job.

      I think it’s okay to have too many questions. If you can’t get answers to all of them, you can always ask in a follow-up email, if they encourage that sort of thing. It shows that your interested. And it may be that your interview goes well beyond the allotted time. That’s a good thing!

      1. Putting the "pro" in "procrastinate"*

        At my company, HR interview is about culture fit, compensation/benefits, visa situation, questions about relocating, etc. The manager determines whether the needed background and skills are present — HR doesn’t have the expertise to do this.

    2. CBB*

      For #1. At several companies I’ve interviewed at, when I show up to the interview, I have been asked to fill out a job application (which seems extraneous, but whatever). It’s possible that’s what the 30 minutes with HR is for, at least in part. Make sure you have all the info you’ll need for that, including contact info for references and past employers.

      1. Hannah Lee*

        The job application isn’t always extraneous. Often it includes state required notices regarding hiring practices. And it often includes a section that the candidate signs to attest that all information provided is accurate and complete to the best of their knowledge, and that they understand if they are hired and are later found to have falsified anything on their initial employment application, they will be subject to immediate dismissal.

    3. FridayFeels*

      Re: #1, in higher ed at least, when I’ve met with HR during a second-round interview, it’s a presentation of the benefits and an opportunity to ask questions about benefits.

    4. Lady_Lessa*

      I would also, if you have a chance to see the work area, you might be able to get a feel about the company that way as well. Are there personal things on the desks or not.

      FYI, it might look good on paper, but be a disaster in life. Think an intuitive creative type in a very process driven company.

      I had an interview like that, and by the end we both knew it wasn’t working. (and for their industry, I am SO glad it is process driven)

    5. Admin 4 life*

      Our HR interviews are to go over qualifications, verify your right to work in the country, documented proof we require (official transcripts, passport or green card, etc), a few personality questions to ensure you’re a stickler for policy and procedures, tell you the hiring process and what to expect for the timeline. Then you get to ask a few questions (I suggest asking about covid procedures, reporting structures, growth opportunities, and employee engagement groups you’re interested it, etc)

    6. California Dreamin’*

      For HR interview, in my experience it’s mostly to figure out if you are qualified, for example my company will administer Excel tests during that portion (for jobs listed as a requirement).

    7. A*

      First off, best of luck!

      The HR portion is most likely going to be focused on skillsets, background etc. In my experience these tend to be fairly high level and are to ensure that the foundational requirements are met, and to offer a second opinion on whether you’ll be a good match for that role. Typically I use this stage to also confirm the general salary range they are looking at (if not already advertised), and sometimes high level questions on benefits – but I safe the detailed questions for the second round.

      In regards to management style etc. one thing I’ve found helpful is I try and naturally work into the convo a script along the lines of “I am always as flexible and accommodating as possible and have a whatever it takes attitude, but in turn I do expect my employer to also offer me as much flexibility and accommodation as possible so long as the work is getting done and getting done well”. Gauging their response has been a helpful indicator of whether they are of a differing opinion (more of a ‘butt in seats attitude’ etc.). Rather than asking about their management style, which is fairly open ended and I’ve not have luck in finding to be overly helpful – I tend to phrase it more as a question of what style of work they expect from the individual filling the position – i.e. independent work, or collaborative with management? That can also help dig up any red flags that can be indicative of a micromanagement attitude. Obviously these are based on my own preferences, but just some examples.

      I try not to ask more than ~7 questions per interviewer per round (I’m just making that number up, I just try and avoid consolidating everything all at once so as not to be overwhelming, and because a lot of questions tend to be answered organically as the interview rounds progress). And gauge your audience – if the interviewer seems engaged and excited about the questions, keep going! If you get the sense it might be toeing the line of too many, focus on the top priority ones and circle back to the others as it progresses.

      Again, good luck!

    8. rl09*

      For Question 1:

      When I’ve had interviews with a similar set-up, the HR interview was more of the standard behavior based questions (i.e. Tell me about a time when you dealt with a difficult coworker…etc.), and the manager interview was more informal/conversational (do you use SAP in your current job? what modules do you use? etc.). But it can really vary from company to company.

    9. BRR*

      #2 I wouldn’t even ask what his management style is. I don’t think you’re going to get a helpful answer. Partially because nobody is going to answer “I’m a huge micromanager who will constantly contradict what I have previously said” and partially because I think a lot of people, including good manager, don’t really know how to talk about their management style. So they give some kind of boilerplate answer.

      #3 I don’t know what the hard ceiling is, and it partially depends on how in depth the answers are, but 12 is too many. I think 5 or 6 is probably the max. If there’s not another interview, you can ask if you get an offer.

    10. Recruited Recruiter*

      1. Having been on the HR end of that kind of interview a large number of times, they will likely ask you a set of questions that the hiring manager provided to make sure that you’re able to do the job, and that you don’t raise any major red flags. In addition, at those second level HR interviews that I have done in the past, I have gone over pay range, benefits, schedule, to make sure that there are no true deal breakers prior to filling the hiring manager’s time slot.

      2. I would recommend asking what success looks like in this role. In the past, I have gotten some very enlightening answers about hiring managers from asking a combination of what success in the role looks like to the manager and asking for a description of the manager’s management style. (description is important. I had an interview a while ago in which I asked this question and the manager said “very hands off” and then proceeded to describe micromanagement.)

    11. not a doctor*

      I’m cutting it close, but in case you see this (or as advice for any other interviewers): ALWAYS ask what onboarding and training will be like. Always, always, always. I can’t tell you how informative that question has been for me.

      1. You get a pen and you get a pen*

        I SO wish I had this question in my pocket a few months ago! I’ve posted further down this thread but have run into a huge issue with this currently. I am nearly certain had I asked this, their confused scramble for a response would have indicated the lack of planning I’m encountering now.

        However, thank you for posting this in case I need it in the near future.

    12. Sheik YurBooti*

      #2: ask your potential manager what thinks successful employees of his look like: what do they do and how they perform their job well. Anything that he mentions that you have done well in your previous role you should respond with.
      #3: should have a good number of questions but make sure you do research — as much as you can — about the company for some answers that may already be available.

    13. Esmeralda*

      HR interview. Many possibilities. You should ask what the focus will be and what documentation should you bring with you.

    14. CarCarJabar*

      For the potential manager- ask what circumstances led to the creation of this new position? what will the training be like? is there anyone else in the organization with these necessary skills or will you be the only one? is there budget for outside training/professional development courses? what the vision is for the role in the future?

      Really try to suss out how well they thought out the new position, and if you really want to take it on.

      My only experience with a brand new position was a total sh!t show… they needed someone with a particular skill set that they didn’t have, hired me to do it, and the ENTIRE job took me about 3 days a month to do. They could have easily sent a current employee to a training course, but had a kneejerk reaction instead. I was in absolute boredom hell and only lasted 8 months.

    15. RagingADHD*

      If you want to find out about management style and aren’t sure whether the manager is self-aware enough to describe their style accurately, you could ask about their perspective on the team:

      What is the team great at?
      How does the team interact with other stakeholders, any challenges or successes in those relationships?
      How would they like to see the team grow, what goals do they want to achieve?

      The way they talk about the team will reveal a lot about their style.

      It’s okay to have lots of questions. Probably a lot of them will get answered as you go along. IME, it has always been helpful and made a favorable impression when I make notes and literally check off my questions as they get answered during an interview, or if they say, “do you have any questions” and I review my list to see what we already covered.

      Some people try to hide that stuff and look like they’re extemporizing the conversation out of their head, but there’s no reason to. People use agendas and take notes in important business meetings, and that’s what an interview is.

    16. Damn it, Hardison!*

      For my current position (started earlier this year), my first interview was 20 minutes with HR, and it was focused on my experience and why I was interested in the position. The only questions I asked were about the interview process and hiring timeline. It was a pretty basic screen. Once the hiring manager gave my application the go ahead, I had several traditional interviews, as well as another call with HR to talk about benefits, salary expectations, etc. before I was offered the job. Good luck!

    17. too many too soon*

      I ask something along the lines of ‘how do you support employees at different levels of professional development, i.e. veterans who are self-starting/managing as well as newbs who need more coaching/training?’
      My department just hired my new manager, who is also new to managing full time adult staff, and we veterans have been traumatized by some brutally bad supervisors. On the flip side, there are a lot of new staff hires that will need extra help, so it was nice to hear a layered approach to managing, instead of one size fits all.

    18. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      When I’m prepping for an interview, I take the job description (preferably reformatted so I can have it long and lean on a page. I then make tiny notes about how I fit each requirement and/or put in my questions. This sits in my folder and I look at it while I’m hanging out in reception.

      Then I also have on a pad of paper tiny notes down one side about my key points and questions that I bring out for the actual meeting. (e.g. “mgmt skills – the teapot spout story” “training – Fergus & Jane”)
      The top margin is where I put the names/titles of the people I’m talking to (in order of where they’re sitting). I leave space under each name to jot reminders about what they asked or told me during the interview.

      If my questions got answered during the conversation, I’ve checked them off, or I check them as I’m formulating my questions when they ask. So then I can say “gee, this has been great, I think we covered my list, except for B and C — so [insert B and C questions here]?”

      If it’s a double appointment on the same day, I might refer to my notes from the HR appt when chatting up the manager interviewer(s) for confirmation or clarification. And if I’m getting a vibe that we’re not covering “offer details” stuff yet, like the nitty gritty of benefits and whatever, then my question might shift to “Would details about the benefits plan come at the time of an offer, or can you give me a quick rundown what’s available?”

      Having a cheat sheet makes you look super organized and smart at the interview. (And I think it still works even for virtual ones.) The trick is to keep it all to one page that looks practically blank when you pull out your pad and paper so that you’re not flipping through pages and pages, and still have room for new notes.

    19. Spaceball One*

      I think having a lot of questions is good. I once had an interview where I had a lot of questions, and by the time we were done, the hiring manager said, gee, I think you asked as many questions of us as we did of you! They offered me the job a few days later. It would have been a significant pay cut, so it pained me to turn it down but I had to. But it was one of the more pleasant interviews I’ve ever been through.

    20. Chilipepper attitude*

      I asked a behavioral question or two at my most recent job interview (I got the job!). I asked if they could give me examples about how they work as a team to prevent conflicts.

  2. Networker*

    I wrote last week about trying to network with a contact I met randomly (link to follow)

    I followed the advice here, and sent my resume to the office manager listed on the website on Tuesday and got a confirmation email (from a person!) the same day.

    Today, they just posted a new job opening that might be a good fit…..

    a) I know you can apply to positions that are not a 100% fit. This new position is for someone with 3-5 years experience, I have about 8 years. Is that too great of a difference?

    b) Should I even apply to the new position? It directs to a different email address than I used earlier, but it’s a small company, and part of me (the dedicated AAM reader) thinks they have my stuff already and that’s that

    1. Bean Counter Extraordinaire*

      I think the “not 100% fit” is typically interpreted as “applying to things I’m slightly UNDERqualified for”, like wanting experience with softwares A and B and C, when you only have A and C, or wanting Masters + 5 years, when you have Bachelors + 3 years. Being OVER qualified is likely not an issue. (Caveat that if you had 20 years and were applying to an entry level position, yeah that’s probably not going to fly.)

      This might not be true for every field, but it certainly seems true for mine (accounting) – the years of experience is usually a MINIMUM, and having more experience than required is typically desirable.

      1. Yipsie*

        And what counts for over qualified doesn’t usually mean you have too many years experience in the role their looking for, its usually about having experience that is higher up in the hierarchy. So if you are a manager/executive applying for a more junior role.

    2. Coenobita*

      Definitely apply! Lots of places can’t/won’t consider your candidacy unless you go through the official process.

      1. I'm just here for the cats!*

        Yes go for it! and keep in mind that the 3-5 years a lot of the time is arbitrary. There’s this joke thing I see pop up on facebook every few months. There was more to it but it goes something like this:
        Guy developed some software for Company A that became very popular and is used in many different companies across industries. He’s looking at moving to another job at Company B. The job would be a step up for him. The job add wants 10+ years experience in the software that he developed only 3 years ago.

        So what I’m saying is don’t worry so much about the years. So many times job ads have years experience to = knowledge when it really does not equal the same thing. You could be terrible at coding but were able to squeek by for 3 years where another person is a coding genius but only has experience for 1 year.

    3. Anne of Green Gables*

      ALWAYS apply. I can’t speak for other companies, but at my employer, you must apply for that specific opening to be considered. If you applied before and I loved you and you only narrowly didn’t get the job because it was *this close* I still have to go through the whole process for my next opening.

      1. comityoferrors*

        Yup. I’m hiring right now and have a few candidates who I think would be excellent…to replace my other report who’s being managed out. For the position posted, we really need specific skills which these candidates don’t have. But when we manage out the other employee, I have two or three people tapped that I would like to reach out to and encourage to re-apply. With my hiring process, even if I know who I want in the role, I can’t consider them unless they submit an application and go through the interview process.

    4. Annony*

      I would apply just so long as you actually want the job posted. If you are hoping to convince them to make the position more senior, you could burn a bridge.

      1. Putting the "pro" in "procrastinate"*

        I don’t think this would burn a bridge. At least, speaking only for myself and the way my department does things, as a hiring manager I wouldn’t be offended by it. If I had the budget and flexibility to hire a senior person, I’d be delighted to talk to the candidate. If I didn’t, I would pass on the candidate, and that would be that.

    5. Person from the Resume*

      1) No. More experience is better. Apply for the job.

      2) Yes. Apply for the job. The office manager is not holding a bunch of resumes and trying to guess if the people on those resumes want to apply in order to apply for them.

    6. cubone*

      years in my opinion is such an unhelpful metric to assess someone’s candidacy. Personally when I hear “1-3 years experience required”, I think “entry level” (or junior-ish, even if it’s not your first entry job), and “10+” as “executive/managerial level”. That weird spot in between of 4-9 years is really odd for both candidates and employers. I interpret as “you need to have a decent amount of experience but not so much that you’re WAY overqualified”, you know? I think this is where there is the most flexibility. If I posted a role with 5 years experience and someone said 8, I wouldn’t bat an eye (unless the 8 were all very clearly progressively senior roles and this role was maybe a step ‘down’. And even then I wouldn’t disregard the application, I’d just make sure we were on the same page of the what the role and responsibility level is).

      All of this to say: definitely don’t overthink the # of years experience and focus instead on why you want to work for them!

    7. Observer*

      Should I even apply to the new position? It directs to a different email address than I used earlier, but it’s a small company, and part of me (the dedicated AAM reader) thinks they have my stuff already and that’s that

      As an AAM reader you should know better than that. It’s one thing to keep “reminding” a company that you applied. It’s another to expect them to READ YOUR MIND. You sent them your materials, but how should they know you are interested in THIS position? Sure, they might look at your materials and decide that they want to reach out. But they might not even though they would give you serious consideration if you showed interest in THAT position. So, show interest by applying.

    8. Richard Hershberger*

      I almost didn’t apply for the job I have been in for twelve years now. The ad listed a minimum GPA. My first thought was that they were looking for an entry level hire, which I was well past by that time. I decided to apply because why not? It turns out that my predecessor didn’t work out due to being unable to write, which is indeed important for my work. The GPA bit was a poorly executed attempt at conveying the thought that there was a lot of writing involved.

      So yeah, apply. It may be that you are indeed too overqualified for this to work well, but you will never know if you don’t ask.

    9. Falling Diphthong*

      I would swear there was a letter this week about not assuming the company has your stuff and will consider you for future roles as they arise.

  3. Into The Wild*

    I’ve been in my new job for five months and I still feel like there is a lot of training that got glossed over. This week, I was emailed by another department about an action item I’ve never heard of before that should be a regular duty of mine apparently. While I was trying to figure out how it was done, the person who had taken it over between my predecessor leaving and my being hired had already done it, without copying me on it or telling me about it. So then I sent out an email about it, and people replied back that they’ve already done it with this other person.

    Stuff like this has happened multiple times. There was no clear task list or training schedule when I came on, it’s been a lot of “oh yes, that’s something you need to know so let’s get you trained on that last minute”. Meanwhile I feel like I don’t have much to do and probably spend half the day twiddling my thumbs. I want the tasks that I meant to do, but I don’t even know what I’m supposed to do until it comes up and somebody’s already done it rather than coming to me and telling me how to do it. My boss is kind of all over the place and doesn’t remember things that I should be doing until I specifically ask about it. People seem happy to train me and give me the task to do when I ask, but they’re kind of plowing on business as normal as if I wasn’t here, and I’m constantly playing catch-up. It’s very frustrating. Any tips?

    1. House Tyrell*

      I’ve been in my job for 6 months and feel the exact same way! My boss has been here for ages, I started virtually during a reorg, and it feels like no one knows what to train me on because no one knows what is happening now after the reorg or it’s basic stuff that is so common knowledge to them they forget someone who hasn’t been here for a decade wouldn’t know that.

      What I’ve done is keep a running OneNote doc of all my questions and what I’m currently working on/need from people. My boss and I do two 1:1s a week which feels like a lot but has been helpful because we mostly use the second one for big picture stuff I don’t know yet and the earlier one is going over tasks. When I’m asked to do something that confuses me I don’t even start on it until I get all my questions answered and background information and that usually reminds my boss to teach me about 1-2 other related things. It’s very pieced together training to be honest but better than nothing and reminds everyone that you’re still pretty new and learning.

    2. Colette*

      Follow up with the person who did the task, and say “Hey, thanks for handling that. Can you show me how to do it so that I can handle it next time?”

      And build your own documentation as you go – X gets done Fridays, Y happens every second Tuesday, Z happens the first day of the month.

      1. CTT*

        Seconding this. If there was a gap in time between when your predecessor left and when you started, people adapted in their own way and they won’t know to change if you don’t get in touch with them.

      2. ferrina*

        Yes, this. Just let them know that you didn’t know but you’ll be happy to do it next time. Be proactive in scheduling any training that you need. If you handle it with grace and cheerful honesty, they will (should) understand that you’ve been doing your best and simply didn’t get information.

        To prevent in the future, schedule some semi-formal sit downs with your boss and some knowledgeable colleagues that you work closely with. Explain that this is happened to you a few times, and you’d love to be proactive about these things. Ask them to list every responsibility that your predecessor had that they knew of. Once you’ve got a list, go to your boss and ensure that he wants you do all of those tasks (some may be working better under a different role, who knows). The key is to be cheerfully proactive in all of this. It sounds very frustrating, but save that frustration for non-work friends.

      3. John Smith*

        I’ll second this, followed maybe an email to your team (or whoever) inviting them to send that portion of work your way once you know how to do it.

        However, are you sure you want to remain in an organisation that hasn’t even bothered training you properly? What else have they missed out? Are you the fire marshall or first aider but don’t know about it? It’s rather unsettling! Good luck though.

      4. I'm just here for the cats!*

        In the situation that was mentioned I would check to make sure that the other person hasn’t taken over the task for good and that the other team didn’t realize that your role no longer does that.

        Definitely go to your manager and say there’s been confusion on what tasks you are supposed to complete and wonder if there is a way to finalize your task list.

    3. cubone*

      I could’ve written this. This might not be the most helpful, but to be perfectly honest, I’m trying to be very discerning to assess if it’s the right place for me. I might just have a very low tolerance to it from some past not great jobs, but I think it’s a pretty big red flag when there’s no clear training or even list of responsibilities. It feels really odd to be asking people to help you understand what your job even IS, really (let alone show you how to do it) and in my case, I’m starting to see the connections where reactivity and disorganization is the standard and there’s no interest in changing it. I’m hoping to stick out a year just to see how things go, but I’m pretty confident this is how they operate and training, efficiency, and clearly outlined responsibilities isn’t a priority to them. They are to me, so it’s probably not the right fit.

      I think other commenters have some good tips on how to deal with it in the meantime, but I’d also try to pay attention to how people respond to your questions, efforts to make your own documentation/schedule, and how much of this they actually acknowledge is a challenge, vs. thinking it’s completely fine and dandy.

      1. Hannah Lee*

        I think asking for clarification about job responsibilities is a lot like asking for clarification on someone’s name: do it as soon as you notice a gap in info, sooner is better than later, because later it starts to look weird.

        If you’ve got a manager you report to, it would be worth scheduling a meeting with them to review your responsibilities. Bring a draft summary that you’ve put together based on any information you’ve gleaned from the job posting, hiring process, whatever minimal onboarding, direction you’ve gotten, as well as the vaguer things you’ve picked up on. And then use that to get input from your boss on what they are expecting you to focus on and if there are any key responsibilities you’ve missed. After the meeting, summarize it all to come up with your “job description”, possibly provide it back to your boss for review, in case something else comes to mind. Then at least you’ll be able to have some structure, guidelines to work from.

        And if boss is either reluctant to sit down and talk about this, or gives useless feedback such as “we all just jump in and do what’s needed” then at least you’ll have your answer about whether this is the right place and role for you sooner rather than later.

        In the meantime, are there any of your co-workers who seem to be a little island of sanity and organization? If so it might be worth getting to know them, interacting with them on whatever job functions of yours interact with theirs. They may be glad to work with someone else who isn’t reactive, and you might be able to carve out at least some respite from the dysfunction until you make other plans.

    4. Mockingjay*

      Ask your boss for a 1 on 1 check-in and write a duty list to go over.

      “Hi, boss, I’ve been in this role about six months now. I really enjoy it (blah, blah) and feel comfortable in most of my role, but I do have a question about whether a couple tasks are mine or Other Dept.’s. With the turnover before I came, there seems to be some confusion over who handles what. Can we go through this list and figure out assignments?”

      Then you can follow up as needed: recap email (I swear by these), request training for Task X (now that you know it’s your responsibility), etc.

      It sounds like your department lacks a blueprint for onboarding. That’s something you and your coworkers could pitch to the boss eventually, but get your work assignments clarified first.

    5. BlueDijon*

      Yeah I strongly feel that…. Someone else mentioned document, I would definitely second that, and compiling a skeleton like processing document. I have that, and it’s been really helpful to use in conversations with my manager about expectations and where I am aware I need to be acting and to make sure I am not missing anything. Granted, this requires them to follow through, but… it at least could help you feel better and have a better grasp of what you’re working on, and is theoretically being kind to whoever is in your role next.

    6. You get a pen and you get a pen*

      I, too, have been at my current employer for only a few months and have found this to be the case for me as well. In my instance, the month after I was hired, my boss stopped showing up at the office (our team is all back in office now). He is the only one that is able to train me & my role was sold to me as becoming his back-up and eventual successor upon his retirement. He has been back to work now for a couple of weeks but says he’s too busy playing catch-up to allow for any training time.

      I am not keen on leaving as I JUST took the job but am not sure what my options are.

    7. Chilipepper attitude*

      I felt that way years ago at my current job. So I wrote the training manual that we now use for all staff. Maybe write up your task list and run it by your supervisor and even ask others if there is anything that you left off?

  4. Salary Specifics*

    General question: How do you perform good salary research when your specialty either falls into the cracks of your field, or seems more tied to the industry than to your job duties?

    Specific example: I’m a technical writer, looking for a senior-level position. It’s a tech-adjacent job but it isn’t pure tech, so Levels/Blind/etc don’t apply. TechComm communities are telling me that Glassdoor and BLS are all over the place and not accurate. The industry society, STC, puts out a yearly salary document, but it’s pulled directly from the BLS, so per previous sources that isn’t useful. Lots of people suggest Write the Docs, but that’s for software technical writing. I’m in product technical writing, for actual physical objects. I’m finding that estimates for physical products seem heavily tied to the product’s industry–for example, writing manuals for consumer products is $, writing manuals for industrial machinery is $$, writing manuals for hospital equipment is $$$. I’m so frustrated and lost, and trying to play chicken with recruiters is just not working.

    1. Rainy*

      Have you tried payscale dot com? I usually look at a lot of different resources in a case where there’s not a clear way to figure out a reasonable salary expectation, and payscale is one of those sites.

    2. CindyLouWho*

      Are you sure the STC salary document is from BLS data? They usually do a survey, I think.

      That’s where I’m going to look today, in fact, for some negotiating I need to do.

    3. A*

      I was in a similar situation a few years ago – was in a very specialized line of work, with a narrow focus within that. My job title was vague and general salary market data is heavily skewed. I knew I was being paid well below what the market value of my work was, but needed documentation to back it up as part of my salary renegotiation pitch. I ended up hiring a consultant to pull together market data specific to my narrow focus – but at a high level so it was a quick job, cost me around $100. At the same time I reached out to my colleagues in the same function both at my company and others and asked about their backgrounds, responsibilities, and salary ranges (this was after laws were put in place protecting employees rights to discuss/disclose salaries – and I only asked those I felt would be open to that line of questioning and/or knew me well enough to feel comfortable declining if they felt the need to).

      I used those two data sets to put together a presentation for my employer at the time highlighting where my current salary fell in relation (also included a slide that conveniently highlighted where my current salary fell compared to my male colleagues with comparable backgrounds – didn’t call it out specifically, but just having that included got the message across that this was a bigger issue). It was a bit of a pain, but it worked – and I’m so glad I decided to get outside help because the data the consultant had access to was much more specific than what I was able to find on paid reports from salary data websites. It also added legitimacy to the data as they were able to provide source citations and backup data in a way that was less easy to dismiss than say a report from salary dot com or something.

    4. Generic Name*

      The State of Colorado has a law that all job postings must include information on pay. So even if you don’t live in Colorado, it might still be useful information. But it looks like you’re seeing salary info, and it varies by industry. I think that’s true for a lot of types of jobs. I’m in life sciences, and I could work in nonprofit, government, industry, and consulting, and each industry has a different pay range.

      1. Anonymous Koala*

        Seconding this, and also the fed gov has a bunch of tech Writer jobs and they disclose salaries for everything. So maybe use those are a kind of salary floor? Gov will probably pay less than the private sector.

      2. PostalMixup*

        Even within the same city, within the same category, salary can be wildly different. My city has a surprising amount of life science industry; some pharma, some ag, some reagent suppliers. There’s a 50% difference in pay between the lowest paying company (mine, unfortunately) and the highest for the same job and seniority/experience level.

      3. Lauren Comrade*

        Ah – I remember reading a while back that’s why a lot of remote jobs exclude CO applicants from applying. So shady.

    5. Anon this time*

      I’m also a tech writer for industrial equipment and I feel your pain. I have no idea how much someone like me is “supposed to earn”, and as far as I can tell, employers have no idea either.

      My first tech writing job, when I left after 8 years, my salary was $70k. Took a break for a few years, then started applying for tech writing jobs again. The first recruiter who called me back asked my salary expectation and I said $70k, and he was like, “just so you know, it’s not really a senior position,” so I was like, “ok, how about $50k?” I interviewed but didn’t get the job, I suspect because I was still asking too much.

      Out of desperation, I ended up taking a job that was part tech support and part tech writing for $35k, eventually rising to $45k after a few years.

      Then when I applied for my current job, the only clue I had about their expectation was that it was a non-exempt (meaning at least $58k), so I asked for $60k, which must have been too low because they offered me $65k. (Still slightly kicking myself for that.)

      (For reference, where I live, the COL index is 120, and the median individual income is $32k.)

      1. Jennifer Fregeolle*

        Happy Friday, Fellow Technical Writer! The STC’s report actually is a good baseline for our trade, even if it’s not specialized to what you’re doing – the critical pieces are the industry and your company’s location. If your gig is a hybrid of user’s guides, web content, and marketing fluff, you could cross-reference with salaries for copywriters or editors, but otherwise, the report is pretty accurate.
        Hope this helps. One other tip: if your colleagues aren’t sure what you do – and depending on the size of your company, they probably aren’t – prep an elevator speech-type description and share it with everyone who has even the slightest interest. Also, if your company does this, get a 10-minute spot at an all-hands Department Meeting to talk to what you do and, more importantly, how you add value. This will help you AND your company better categorize/qualify your work.

    6. PM*

      The only way I’ve figure out how to do this is to talk to recruiters and ask about pay. I respond to random emails on linked in, and I do a lot of screening calls. It’s a bit more work-intensive, but it’s been the best of source of getting an understanding of the range for my particular skill set.

    7. cubone*

      Do you have trusted friends/mentors/contacts in the industry you can ask? Obviously “hey, what’s your salary” is not a great question unprompted but you could even frame it as: “I’m hoping to do X work and to be honest, I’m having trouble putting realistic estimates to offer recruiters because of the unique nature of my work. Would you be willing to share an estimate of what you would expect a role like XYZ to be paid, based on your experience in the industry?”

      Not in tech but I’ve been very politely and no pressure asked something similar by folks looking to get into my area of work, and I find it pretty easy/non-invasive to say “from my experience, X roles pay in this range” etc.

    8. Lorac*

      One thing that I haven’t seen mentioned is looking at H1B salaries.

      By law, H1B salaries have to be publicly available, so you can look on H1B salary sites, search for your company, and see what they hired H1B workers for. That’s how I found out I was being paid about the same as my visa coworkers, and possibly less if they received RSU compensation!

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Have you looked at Alison’s salary survey from earlier this year? Factor for degree, because for our role, BS often pays more than BA.

  5. TheyThemTheirs*

    I posted awhile ago about my boss misgendering me. I don’t know what changed, but all of the sudden all my coworkers and my boss are gendering me correctly. It is very weird but I’m grateful for it. Thanks to everyone for their comments here.

    1. I'm just here for the cats!*

      Maybe someone figuratively shook them and told them all to stop it! Or maybe it just finally clicked for all of them.
      So glad for you!

  6. Ali G*

    Can anyone recommend a good (quick) icebreaker exercise for a virtual meeting? We are doing a trianing that normally happens in person but it’s virtual this year. We will have people participating from all over North America and so I want to break people up into groups of 5-10 and do a quick icebreaker/intro. Literally don’t want to spend more than 15 min on this and I don’t want it to be too onerous for a group of typical introverts.

    1. Alexis Rosay*

      Some I have enjoyed in the past, YMMV:
      – What’s the first or most unusual job you’ve had?
      – What is your favorite emoji to use and why?

      1. The Rural Juror*

        I’m laughing thinking of someone saying they love to use the eggplant emoji…but not realizing its innuendo…

        1. Olivia Mansfield*

          My husband bought a purple kayak and one of the guys at the waterpark said it looked just like the eggplant emoji. All the guys spent the whole day making eggplant emoji jokes about his kayak. I asked him if he knew what the eggplant emoji signifies, and when I had to tell him, he was like, “Ohhh god — I think my boat is ruined for me!” He finally got over it, and now he has a vinyl “Aubergine” sticker on there as a little joke.

      2. Blink*

        I love the emoji one! We have weekly zoom meetings that start with some kind of silly question – I’ll be using that one!

      3. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Some years back, a new executive brought together a recently reorganized team. We’d been in different management chains until that point. When we did introductions, he asked us to include one non-work- related skill we like to talk about. Juggling, furniture design, photography, martial arts, knitting, ballroom dance, brewing… it was a fun conversation. More importantly, it somehow thawed a couple of *existing* relationships, which I’ve never seen happen with an ice breaker before or since.

    2. sagewhiz*

      Suggest they group themselves according to birth month! This was done at a major conf I attended years ago, and was a huge hit.

      1. MissCoco*

        A couple other ways to “randomize” groups is to go by birth date (either day and month or just days within any month). That one is fun for larger groups because it’s almost guaranteed that there will be shared birthdays
        Alphabetic order by a random factoid (like the street you live on, favorite food, or your favorite place to visit), or number of letters in names are also easy ways to put people in order, and then divide into groups of X number of people.

      2. Mademoiselle Sugarlump*

        My fairly large group did something like this at a conference – everyone had to line up in birthday (month / day) order – without talking, just sign language. It was really fun!

    3. Meghan*

      My partner has weekly “moral” questions at his work meeting, and they’re just silly positive-forward questions to get the meeting going. This weeks was, “What are you looking forward to?” My partners answer was, “Tacos!” as we were having them for dinner that night. Other questions have been the silly bread graph on how toasty do you like your bread. Another (heated one) was “is a hotdog a sandwich” debate.

        1. Hannah Lee*

          LOL! I was really curious what the moral questions were going to be, because some ethical quandaries would absolutely NOT be a quick icebreaker to kick off a meeting.

      1. Kimmy Schmidt*

        If you have the right group for it, I adore those ridiculous “is a hotdog a sandwich” type questions. Other favorites include “if a dog wore pants, would she wear them on two legs or four” (four) and “is cereal a soup” (yes) and “what is the right way to pronounce gif” (jif) and “is water wet” (yes).

        1. Anne of Green Gables*

          I did a fun one where you had 30 seconds to grab an unusual item around your desk and show it to folks. It was a nice way to see the fun knick-knacks that mean something to people, but wasn’t super personal in a forced kind of way (which can be a problem with lots of ice breakers)

            1. Jay Gobbo*

              My team did a whole “virtual Olympics” that was all silly little games like that. “The first person to grab 12 pens wins”, etc. Honestly it was goofy but super fun, as Anne said above none of it was too personal or awkward which is very important!

        2. Pippin*

          A recent one that came up was crunchy vs smooth peanut butter. But only in the US-my Scottish colleague felt the question was absurd :)

          1. Trawna*

            Staff deathly allergic to the stuff might find the discussion more than just absurd, and really not an ice-breaker.

              1. RussianInTexas*

                ^^^this. By this logic you can’t have ANY tiebreakers ever. Because someone may be allergic to hot dogs too.

            1. OpalescentTreeShark*

              Oh you can’t be serious I teach high schoolers, and even then aren’t this dramatic about peanut butter.

            2. Annie Moose*

              Are you implying that people with food allergies are traumatized by simply hearing the food mentioned??? People with peanut butter allergies are perfectly capable of going “nah I’m actually allergic” and do not need you to “defend” them from the terrible fate of someone asking them if they like peanut butter!

            3. RagingADHD*

              If the staff are having anaphylactic shock from the *word* peanut butter, then that’s not actually an allergy.

        3. Mr. Shark*

          A hot dog is a sandwich.
          The dog would only wear the pants on two legs.
          Cereal is not a soup.
          It’s “Gif” not Jif
          Water is wet (yes!)

        4. Jay Gobbo*

          Kimmy, thank you for joining me in “it’s pronounced jif” land ;)

          Honestly I don’t mind the debate/divide, I just hate how nasty people get about it. Like people treat you like you’re stupid and inherently wrong for pronouncing it that way — when it wouldn’t be a question if *everyone* pronounced it the same way! Obviously there’s a dialectal reason why people pronounce it one way or the other!

          My brother is a teacher and he once had his students list every word they could think of that starts with gi– so he could show them how it’s a pretty even split of common words pronounced with a “hard g” vs. “j” sound. I love that he did that XD

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            My teenager gave me the perfect answer for that: it’s pronounced exactly like the G in garage.

            1. Nina*

              so depending how fancy your parents imagined themselves to be…

              gif (hard g)
              jif (soft g)
              zhif (French j, ‘garazhhh’)

        5. banoffee pie*

          Is a jaffa cake a cake or a biscuit? People used to be able to argue about that for ages. But then the courts ruled on it (cake). McVities was pleased about that because they means they don’t have to pay VAT. Maybe you don’t have jaffa cakes in the US though so the question would just confuse everyone.

        6. Might Be Spam*

          According to Steve Wilhite, the creator of the original GIF format, it is pronounced “jiff” (like the peanut butter brand). However, most people still pronounce it “gif” (with a hard G)

      2. A*

        “is a hotdog a sandwich”

        Whoa. Bold to take on such a divisive topic! We have a similar one that comes up often… “what is your opinion on pineapple on pizza?” it’s a silly question, but one that people have very strong thoughts and feelings on so everyone is always engaged in the discussion, but in a lighthearted way! I’m totally stealing the hotdog version.

        1. allathian*

          Oh yeah, pineapple on a pizza is a great question. Most people who eat pizza have an opinion about that. That said, another version is, “which is worse, pineapple or banana on a pizza?” Yes, banana is a popular pizza topping in Sweden, apparently.

          1. Chilipepper attitude*

            In the UK in the early 90s, we were served a sunny side up (practically raw) egg in the middle of our pizza!

      3. cubone*

        Shucks, I was really hoping these meetings were opening with a Trolley Problem question. Now that would be a wild icebreaker.

        1. pancakes*

          Anything but that one, please!

          Actually, I’d avoid the ones that have a one-word answer, too. There isn’t much ice-breaking going on with those.

          Dream travel destination, maybe?

          1. OpalescentTreeShark*

            Can’t you just add “why” to the one-word icebreakers? This is what I do with my students.

            1. pancakes*

              I suppose, but I think they’ll still tend to make for less interesting discussion than some of the others suggested.

        1. MacGillicuddy*

          Unless you have a toddler who likes to spin the TP roll on the holder, and you end up with a huge pile of TP on the floor! In this case “under” is the correct answer.

    4. A&D*

      If they’re already doing an intro that presumably includes location, so maybe one thing they enjoy about their city, or one thing everyone should do in their city on a visit? I like icebreakers that aren’t totally random, and that can require as much thought as the speaker wants (aka listing the major tourist attraction in their city or providing an off-the-beaten path rec or activity).

        1. AY*

          I knew some commenters wouldn’t be able to resist dumping on icebreakers, but it really, super, extremely is not helpful to this OP.

      1. Ali G*

        I think my attendees are capable of being not serious for 15 min out of over 18 hours total of “work”. But, thanks.

          1. pancakes*

            Surely people who really dislike wasting even a few minutes on chatting can handle their own minor disappointment or frustration without acting out.

          2. I heart Paul Buchman*

            Ice breakers serve a purpose. Meetings that begin with an ice breaker have a different culture and format to those that don’t. Personally, I love a good ice breaker and so do my colleagues (evidenced by the fact that we often have to rein them in).
            I can’t imagine working with people who can’t even take 15 minutes to be pleasant.

          3. OpalescentTreeShark*

            My question is why one adult is responsible for managing these feelings for another adult, especially considering icebreakers last for a short amount of time. Why do you think that these feelings of annoyance and inconvenience are so severe that someone should have to anticipate another adult’s reaction and modify for it?

      2. Olivia Mansfield*

        The icebreakers I’ve encountered happen during the five minutes before the meeting starts and people answer them as they trickle in. They wrap up within 3 – 5 minutes of the meeting’s actual start time, so that anyone who didn’t get to answer the question has a chance if they want to, but it’s primarily a pre-meeting activity as people log on.

      3. Feral Fairy*

        I get why some people don’t like ice breakers, but they exist for a reason. It’s a way to get to know something about someone’s personality or likes/dislikes. In the context of remote work, I think that teams are doing them so that people who were onboarded during covid can still be introduced to their remote coworkers.

        There are definitely bad icebreakers out there that either take too long or ask personal questions (like the one from a recent letter here that was something like “what was the most traumatic experience of your life”. I think that’s why this commenter is asking for input…

      4. I need cheesecake*

        Actually icebreakers help people learn better in training and bonding helps teams perform better. HTH

    5. Blink*

      These have all been fairly successful in the past:
      – describe your perfect sandwich
      – describe an extremely silly conspiracy that you think might be true (mine is that Derren Brown is actually magic, but he thinks he isn’t)
      – would you rather get socks or a scented candle for a birthday present
      – would you rather be able to play any instrument or speak six languages fluently
      – show and tell (ie hold up to the camera) some version of: your favourite mug; longest-lived houseplant; cheesiest souvenir; most impractical kitchen gadget; favourite photo

      1. Filosofickle*

        Similar to sandwich, I’ve had good luck with favorite breakfast cereal as a “introduce yourself” icebreaker. (Or what you’d eat instead if you hate cereal.) It’s accessible and not too likely to trigger cultural or personal stuff.

    6. Girasol*

      I’ve always been a fan of two truths and a lie. Each person tells three unusual things about themselves and everyone else tries to guess which one isn’t true. It makes one’s new coworkers rather memorable.

    7. Twisted Lion*

      Well people just had debates about the perfect ratio of Peanut Butter to Jelly on a sandwich. That might be one you can do.

    8. LKW*

      Draw a Pig. – Google “Draw a Pig Icebreaker” for more details.
      In short, everyone draws a pig. Then you hand out the “how to interpret your drawing” sheet. People can share the pig picture by holding it up to the screen – or simply say how they drew the pig – or not. No real personal info is shared, just an insight into perspective.

    9. MissCoco*

      We recently had a pretty enjoyable discussion around a silly “would you rather” question asked in a class poll, since it doesn’t involve any personal info, and people don’t have to make up a creative answer it seemed to open up a lot of discussion. Plus since there was no real-world consequence, people were more passionate about their (silly) opinions than usual.

      Some other questions I’ve liked: what’s your favorite thing to do on a rainy day? Favorite food to make or eat? How do you take your coffee/tea/morning beverage of choice? What would your ultimate pizza toppings be? Or your personal favorite sandwich?

    10. Chauncy Gardener*

      A trivia game is always fun. Each breakout group is a team and they need to appoint a team lead and answer the questions

    11. TiffIf*

      My department’s standard questions for new hires, when they first get introduced in a department meeting:
      – Who is your favorite Disney Princess?
      – What is your favorite breakfast cereal?

      These questions are lighthearted and fun!

    12. PostalMixup*

      For our big internal conference this year, we were asked to put together “about me” slides that included the question “Who is your favorite animated character.” Answers ranged from old kids cartoons to modern kids cartoons to adult-targeted animation to international animation. Lots of stuff I’d never heard of, which was fun. It tells a little about a person, because you find out who spends enough time around kids to know who Fig the Fox is, or who’s an anime buff, or who’s clearly too young to have watched Josie and the Pussycats when it first aired but is apparently an old-school type.

      1. Vici*

        I hate anything that asks for a favourite, as I don’t usually have one and I find it stressful to have to pretend. It makes me feel left out and unwelcome – like I don’t fit in, again.

        1. I need cheesecake*

          This sounds upsetting for you, but I’m going to refer you to the ‘not everyone can have sandwiches’ rule. It’s not unreasonable to ask for a favourite. They’re not asking you to swear it in blood and die for it!

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            Wow. Personally I WANT to hear potential drawbacks of an ice breaker. It’s specifically intended to set people at ease. And especially when it’s so very easy to add “or if you don’t have a favorite one you eat the most”.

    13. smirkpretty*

      I love “share one boring thing about yourself.” And encourage people not to try to be clever or funny, just truly boring, and to present it with as little fanfare as possible. It almost always leads to fun, interesting conversation. Seed them with one or two of your own. Like, I can’t for the life of me figure out how to boil an egg properly. My dog’s nails grow really long even though I trim them and I worry it bothers the downstairs neighbors. And I can’t stand when invitations/announcements include the date without the day of the week.

      1. Cordelia*

        I love this one! totally takes the pressure off needing to be funny or exciting or have interesting tales to tell. Actually, I wonder if this would work for “2 truths and a lie”, but all the facts have to be dull – I bet it would. Thanks, that’s my next ice breaker sorted!

        1. Green Goose*

          I love both these ideas! I have to come up with icebreakers so I’m definitely stealing these.

    14. Epsilon Delta*

      I don’t have a specific icebreaker suggestion, but whatever you choose please keep it simple. The worst ice breakers are where there’s like 5 things you have to remember to share or one that’s really hard to think of, and you spend the whole time trying to think of a clever answer or rehearsing the five things you have to say instead of listening to everyone else.

    15. Metadata minion*

      My workplace once used “share something that brings you joy”, and it worked particularly well since there wasn’t any obligation to be deeply profound about it — answers ranged from coffee or pet antics to finding meaning in the work we do to.

    16. Green Goose*

      Here is one that has always been easy to answer and gets a bit fun:
      What is a popular food you don’t like?
      What is an unpopular food that you love?

    17. Just me, Vee*

      Just don’t use the one that was asled in a group I was in .”Share the worst thing that ever happened to you.” Seriously.

    18. I need cheesecake*

      Google ‘How are things going today on a rubber duck scale’. This works well with basically everyone in my experience.

    19. The New Wanderer*

      In the past we have used “what’s your favorite superhero” (or if not a fan of favorites, just “name a superhero”).

      One that took a bit longer to prepare was “name an inventor you admire.”

      My personal favorite was “what spaceship would you most like to own/fly/be a crew member of?”

      Other options:
      Name a bucket list item you want to do.
      What book are you planning to read next?
      What fictional boss/workplace would you love to work for?

    20. acahacker*

      Thanks Ali G and everyone for all of these suggestions! Have compiled these (with acknowledgments) for use in a (higher ed / adult ed) online classroom context – excellent quick icebreakers for first day of teaching!

  7. Friday is not Monday*

    I work on very deadline-focused work. I am having an issue where my boss and I will agree to have a complete draft of something on, say, Monday, in order to be ready to submit it by the deadline. However, I find that she will frequently want to check the draft some random time that is not Monday and now I feel “bad” that it’s not ready, even though we said Monday. I am juggling different deadlines and there’s really no point her wasting time reviewing something on, say, Friday afternoon when I haven’t finished it. Now I feel guilty and like I was late but … we said Monday!! It’s Friday!! Am I thinking of this wrong? I realize some people manage to always have work in a condition to be checked at any time and I certainly aspire to that, but as I said, I have multiple simultaneous projects going.

    1. 867-5309*

      I would just ask. “I was working against the Monday deadline for getting a first draft to you so don’t have something to show just yet. Do you need it sooner?”

    2. California Dreamin’*

      I’m probably more like your boss than you, and I would find if somebody said, “My plan is to work on it this afternoon and finish up on Monday morning to review with you at x time on Monday” that would work for me. I don’t typically ask for f/u like that though unless my TM has a history of missing deadlines, so your boss may be different.

      1. Friday is not Monday*

        I do feel like it’s totally her (but I realize I’m biased and feeling defensive). I’m pretty sure she has some holes in her schedule, gets bored, and decides to check up on my stuff even though that’s not the timeline I was tracking. Partly I suspect she finds my stuff more “fun” than most of her work, although she has a *lot* of other things I wish she’d focus on.

    3. fueled by coffee*

      This sounds like it might just be a mismatch of expectations: Your workflow involves completing things as they are due, and she seems to expect you to have made substantial progress ahead of the deadline.

      If this is happening consistently, maybe it’s time to have a conversation with your boss about how you can bring your expectations in line here. Would it help to have a more explicit pre-deadline “check-in” date to review your progress (i.e., “I’ll have a draft completed by Monday, but on Friday I’ll send you [an outline/a rough draft/the first five pages] so you can look it over”)? Or would it help to be very clear that you will have your work finished by the deadline, and not before (“I’ll have this draft completed by Monday. If you’re going to want to look at it earlier than that, then we should change the deadline, because with projects X, Y, and Z on my plate, I’ll have to prioritize things by their due dates.”)?

      1. Friday is not Monday*

        I think you’re right and this is where I need to end up. It irritates me because we’ve already backed up from the actual deadline to our own internal review deadline, and now I guess we’re going to back it up even further for *her* internal review deadline; these are generally pretty short turnaround projects (usually two weeks total) so this is going to get a bit silly (here is your new assignment I need a review draft right this second) – but I may just need to adjust my thinking.

    4. Designer*

      First off, don’t feel guilty because it’s not ready, clients do this all the time (I work in graphic design, and constantly have people checking in earlier than what I initially told them to expect something.) I would be upfront to her about your work schedule and work flow, sometimes people don’t think it through when they reach out about projects. I would just tell her “I haven’t gotten to it yet/I’m not at the point to review it yet, but I’ll have it ready by Monday at our agreed time.” I find that tends to get people off my back. If she pushes about still seeing it sooner, make sure you are clear about any conflicting projects. “If this is a higher priority now, then I’ll adjust my schedule so we can meet at four today about project X instead, but I’m going to have to put off project Y until Monday, is that okay?” That way it calls out any conflicts, and puts it on her about prioritizing, as your boss that’s what she should be doing. If she seems unhappy about it or still has issues, then she’s not telling you what she actually wants you to do, and is putting unreasonable expectations on you, and I would ask her to clarify how she wants you to work.

    5. ferrina*

      Is she looking to review the draft early, or is she just checking the progress?

      I work with several people who like to look at a draft a couple days before they do their actual review. It helps them understand the direction of the work and start to think about what questions or key areas they want to focus on when they do their actual review. If it’s something like this, try to recalibrate your brain as “She’s getting a sneak peek to start warming up her brain for the review”. It’s about her, not you or the draft.

      1. Friday is not Monday*

        In that case, I want her to tell me that explicitly! “I need a draft ready for my review on Tuesday” is different than “have the draft by Friday.” That would change my prioritization. I guess I should start asking her explicitly but I am irked I tell you, irked.

        1. Working Hypothesis*

          It may be that you feel a need to have something “ready for her review” as a specific status, whereas she just wants to see what you’ve got at that time, without expecting it to be specially prepared for her delectation. Can you clarify exactly what she expects stuff to look like, and whether she’s expecting completed or just “let me see it at whatever messy condition it’s in” when she asks for an unexpected look before the stated deadline?

          1. ferrina*

            This is what I was thinking. She might just be checking to see what it looks like, but not expect it to be done or “ready for review”. I’ve seen people check a doc early so they can see what the layout looks like, or understand the main arguments in the doc, but they don’t care about punctuation or minor details until Official Review Time.

            1. Friday is not Monday*

              If someone plans to search out my files on the shared drive and review them for whatever reason, I’d appreciate a heads up on that! Of course it is her right but I’m going to start keeping my drafts on my desktop if this is standard.

        2. Esmeralda*

          I do a lot of drafts in google docs and share w my supervisor. I let him know when it’s helpful for him to review it, or when it’s at the “here’s the completed draft for review” stage. If he wants to look at it sooner he can. Usually he’s too busy to do that. Sometimes he has a nanosecond and looks at a draft in progress and offers suggestions, to which I say “thanks!” and then use or not as appropriate. I will take a little time to explain briefly in the doc comments why I’m not following up with one of his suggestions. (I trust him to not waste my time with pointless suggestions, so I assume there’s a point, and he trusts me to use my expertise and judgment. Awesome boss.)

          Maybe something like this would work with your boss?

          Anyway, your boss is not a mind reader. I think you just need to sit down with her and figure out what each of you expects. Also, I’m sure you’re just venting here, but try not to convey the feeling behind she’s looking at your stuff because she’s bored. Unless you know for sure that she’s spending a lot of time thumb-twiddling, assume she’s as busy as you. Maybe busier.

    6. Clisby*

      When you say a “complete draft”, do you mean a final draft? If so, I can easily see a boss wanting to see an earlier draft a few days before. But of course, she should say so. “I’d like to see a first draft by COB on Wednesday, so I can review and give input for the final draft due at 8 a.m. Monday.”

    7. Bean Counter Extraordinaire*

      Perhaps your boss is assuming you work on everything a little bit every day (like in primary/secondary school with math, science, history, etc), and not what you’re really doing (and what I would do), of going “Ok, I’ll do A on Monday and Tuesday, Wednesday is B, Thursday I’ll finish up B if there’s anything still to be done, then the rest of Thursday and Friday will be C”.

      1. Friday is not Monday*

        Yeah, a lot of times what I have is a completely vomitous draft of goobledy gook of A, that is going to stay that way until it comes back to the top of the deadline pile because I’m getting B over the finish line – so her looking at or editing A (which she will do given half a chance) is a big source of stress for me.

    8. Trawna*

      Hum. There is nothing here to feel “guilty” about. Tell her you’re on-track for her to review on Monday as promised.

    9. EmKay*

      Boy oh boy do I have **no** patience for this nonsense.

      – are you finished with that report due next Monday?
      – nope, still working on it
      – what?? but it’s Wednesday already! omg you are so late, will you make it on time?
      – maybe if you let me get back to work

      1. Owlgal*

        Ugh. I’m the type of person who only does one draft. I used to hate English classes where they’d want you to turn in 1. An outline and 2. A rough draft. My mind doesn’t work that way.

    10. Teapot Wrangler*

      My advice is to keep the draft only on your personal drive until you’re done with it – move it into the shared drive only once it is ready to be reviewed. If she asks for it earlier, you can say it isn’t ready yet – didn’t we agree Monday was the deadline?

      Make sure you’re clear on timings if there is any scope for confusion e.g. close of business Friday means (to me) that it has to be with me by 5.30pm Friday whereas some people assume it just has to have arrived before logging on Monday morning

  8. Christiania*

    I’m about 4 months into a “good-enough” job. It’s my first after college, it’s in my field, my coworkers are nice, and it pays decently. It’s not want I want to do with my career, but I’m planning on staying about 18 months to get experience and references. [And so people will stop asking about my GPA.]

    For now, I’ve been keeping a list of companies I’d like to take my time and look into whether they’re a good fit for me. Usually I jot it down in my Notes app if I’m reading an industry thing or see something interesting. My question is, how do I decide if it’s a good fit, especially when I’m not planning on interviewing for at least a year? Office culture is important to me, obviously, but so are professional ethics and active sustainability, which are a little harder to get a true sense of.

    1. Colette*

      Do you have contacts at those companies – former classmates, friends of friends, etc.? Can you make an effort to talk with them about what life’s like there?

      Also, watch the news as well as the company’s blog/press releases.

    2. Rainy*

      Reach out to people in those organizations and do some informational interviewing. That way you can ask directly about the things you’re curious about without worrying it will derail a job interview or impact an interviewer’s impression of you.

    3. Coenobita*

      I think your situation is perfect for informational interviews! Maybe plumb your network to see if you have connections or connections-of-connections at any of those places (whether that’s through an alumni group, faith community, whatever). I’m personally always happy to chat for 30 minutes with a recent grad who is trying to figure out the field, especially when it’s a truly informational interview and not a backdoor attempt to get hired.

    4. Wendy City*

      This isn’t specific to professional ethics and active sustainability, but keep an eye on their LinkedIn presence – do they frequently have lots of new job postings, especially for the same roll? Are they constantly looking for new directors/higher level decision makers? Those are both huge red flags for me – it says that the environment is chaotic.

      Definitely start working that professional network as others have mentioned. It might be worth informational interviewing with a couple of folks at those companies.

    5. ATX*

      I have a list of companies that I’d like to apply to if one day I’m looking for a good job. I’m at a Fortune 100 company with great benefits, so my requirements are pretty picky (and my list is small as a result, lol).

      Here are some things I look at:

      – I stay away from smaller companies, they tend to pay less and have fewer benefits. And I never do start-ups.
      – I do read Glassdoor reviews and like when companies have over 4 stars, love their CEO, and there are US employees talking about what type of PTO/stock options/401k match/health insurance they have
      – If a company offers “unlimited PTO” – do the Glassdoor reviews say that they honor that and people actually take a good amount of time off, or is there so much work that you can never take more than a few days or a week? I would never apply to a job that didn’t offer at least 4 weeks of vacation (I get 4 now, and can buy an extra week)
      – The average salaries for that job, I check them out.
      – Is this company on one of the “best of” lists?
      – How many applicants are there on LinkedIn? If there are tons, it usually means a lot of people want to work there for a reason (and it will be competitive, which sucks)
      – Remote flexibility. Doesn’t have to be full remote, I’m currently 60% remote 40% in office so I’d prefer something similar to that

    6. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      Follow your target companies on Twitter, not just LinkedIn. Sometimes you can get sneaky insights about stuff (especially if they post pics of staff bringing cans to the food drive or posing at their retreat), and they might also post about opportunities.

      Check LinkedIn profiles to “meet” people at those companies, see how they describe their work. You don’t have to directly reach out to them, just read through their profiles and follow them if they are actively posting.

      Also — good for you. This is SO SMART.

    7. LKW*

      For general ethics – follow news feeds about business and litigation. It’s not 100% – one employee can be a crook and the rest stand up citizens, but consider how the issue came about and whether this was a person acting alone or potentially part of a larger culture issue where people turned a blind eye to unethical practices. Think companies that knowingly cause their customers harm for the sake of more money. Or companies that are in the news with discrimination litigation.

      But you can also get info on their websites or ask about their actual practices. Diversity in the workplace? What kinds of organizational initiatives do they support? Are their communities of interest? What events do they publicly support? Which politicians do they give money to? What kinds of charitable organizations are they affiliated with? Are they committing to, and tracking, sustainability efforts, diversity hiring efforts – how public are they with these efforts?

  9. For the assist*

    I started a new job a few months ago, and the responsibilities are much more demanding/extensive than advertised. (My position was posted as an assistant-level role, but I’ve consistently been required to identify, plan, and execute projects with minimal oversight on top of a full plate of assistant-level tasks.) I’m on a tiny team at a large employer with salary bands and semi-standard titles. My current title is a hindrance for some of the bigger tasks I’ve been asked to complete, and I would have negotiated for more if I’d known what the role required! How should I approach this with my supervisor?

    1. 867-5309*

      Ask for a check in, under the guise of you’ve been there a few minutes and want to get some feedback. Then ask, “When interviewing, the role was positioned as an assistant-level but I’ve been doing work at the manager level, like planning and executing projects with minimal oversight. This is on top of a full plate of assistant-level tasks. Normally, I would not ask this so early into a job but wonder if given how much it’s changed, does it make sense to reevaluate my title and salary, or adjust the workload so I can focus successfully on the tasks like x, y and z.”

    2. Observer*

      Ask for a check in.

      Bring up the fact that you are doing tasks X, Y, and Z that you are happy to do. But the fact that you are at an Assistant level rather than a Assistee level creates these particular roadblocks to accomplishing your assignments. Can this be addressed. Of course, you should also bring up how much things have changed from how the job was sold, but it’s still early so your boss is likely to be resistant, and pointing out how the title change will enable you to do what your boss wants you to do makes it much more appealing.

    3. Eleanor Shellstrop*

      Seconding what other have said about having a check-in with your boss! I could have written this exact same comment, honestly. I really hear you on your current title being a hindrance for what you’re working on – I had an experience where my title was “front desk assistant” but the actual work was more high level than that would imply, and the types of projects I was working on required a lot of liaising with external vendors/stakeholders, and I felt like sometimes my title wasn’t getting the response I needed from them to do my work well.

      Is your role a newly created one, or was someone in the position prior to you? For me, my role was newly created, so I was able to come to my boss and say basically “The responsibilities of this job are not in line with the title/job description that was created, can we have a conversation about updating the title to reflect the duties I have taken on?” And then I offered a few different titles that I felt would make sense, as well as research I had done on similar positions in the field that used the proposed title. But I bet you could still have a similar conversation if the role is not a new one, it may just be that the person before you didn’t advocate for themselves (or wasn’t as high of a performer so wasn’t assigned as much work?)

  10. SpEd Teacher*

    I am a special education teacher in a public school. I’m 12 years in. I have a masters degree +60 credits. I am making $90k and I have summers off and work 40 hours a week about 10 minutes from my house. But I am so over it. It’s not quite soul crushing yet, but I do not enjoy the work. (I like the people I work with and I have a good principal.) Can anyone thing of anything else I could do and keep my hours and pay about the same? I’m feeling like I’m pretty stuck. Now it could be that after 12 years I’m just tired and honestly there isn’t a single job that I can think of that sounds good. I do not dream of labor. So I’m pretty sure I’m just going to have to stick it out for 20 more years until I get my pension. Thoughts? Ideas? Suggestions?

    1. Meghan*

      Is it possible to switch age groups? My cousin works in special education and when he was working with middle schoolers, he hated it, it was very soul crushing. When he went to down to the elementary school, he liked it a lot more because he said he felt like he could make more of a difference.

      1. Zee*

        Another option I haven’t seen mentioned yet – switching to work with adults. I have a friend who is a certified special ed teacher, and after working with kids for a while, she found a job doing basic job skills training for young adults (ages 18-21, I think). The program is still through a school district (it’s tied in with their GED program), so she still gets the regular teacher benefits. But it’s a completely different universe.

    2. Colette*

      Why don’t you enjoy it? Is it working with the kids, teaching in general, administrative overhead?

      Can you change to another teaching position to change things up?

      Can you do that job half time while teaching something else half time?

      I wonder whether you’ve just been in the same position for too long, and changing things up would help.

      1. Colette*

        Also, if teaching is not what you want to do at all, think about what is most important to you (i.e. close to your home, 40 hours a week, summers off, your current salary) and what can be changed if you’re happier at work. Would you be willing to work 50 hours a week once a month if you were in a job you liked more? Could you take a pay cut for more interesting work? Can you adjust to working summers?

    3. Gouda*

      You could try to work in your state’s department of education? I don’t think the hours are exactly the same as school-school, but they might be more flexible than school-school.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          The flexibility to take a sick day without having to prep materials for a substitute.

    4. FridayFeels*

      Do you have any interest in moving to admin? What about teaching at a college of education instead? You don’t necessarily need a PhD/EdD if you’re off the tenure track, like in a lecturer or professor of practice role.

      I guess you’d also want to consider your retirement, since I’m assuming you have a state pension?

      1. Esmeralda*

        You will not make $90K as a lecturer. Maybe as a professor of practice you would? Hours would be similar though.

        1. Anastasia*

          Academia is also SUPER competitive; even those with PhDs struggle to break in to the field. Without a PhD, it’s unlikely you’d get a position as anything other than adjunct/sessional, which means much less job security.

    5. Admin 4 life*

      Are there any aspects of the job that still bring you joy? Could you envision working with disabled children in another setting like as a therapist or as a program director for a company that provides therapy services?

    6. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

      Can you switch to mentor teaching for a bit — teach the teachers? I’ve known several teachers (although they were regular classroom teachers not special ed) that have taken a few years to mentor teach. It gives them a break from the classroom without totally disrupting their career. If your school district doesn’t have a program like that, maybe somewhere on the county or state level. Another possibility is to see if there is an adjunct position at a college/university that has an education program.

    7. T. Boone Pickens*

      I’ll be blunt here. No, no you won’t be able to find a job that pays you what you’re making right now with having summers off. You could go the self-employment route perhaps but I have zero idea on the type of service your background would allow you to pursue unless you were some type of consultant.

      1. Person from the Resume*

        I agree. That sounds like great pay in a profession that is frequently cited as low paying. And you’re not being asked to work more than 40 hours a week. And you get the summer off. And you have a short commute. And you like your boss and coworkers.

        My suggestion. Is there any way to really use your summer to refresh, relax, be slightly happier to go back in the fall?

        My job isn’t soul crushing; it’s fine. But I do it for the benefits and the pay. I’ve made that decision that I will do it until I afford to retire (earlier than many not as soon as I could feasibly retire because I am risk adverse person and want to have a bit more in the bank than the bare minimum).

        1. SpEd Teacher*

          I think this is exactly right. I’m going to stick it out. It’ll be ok, I’m just got the itch. I am VERY lucky to work where I do with a strong union and great pay. Just gotta keep going.

          1. CupcakeCounter*

            Also maybe look into taking a sabbatical. The past two school years have been a nightmare for a lot of teachers so take a look and see if there is a correlation between when the pandemic started and the job becoming soul crushing.

            Some other things to look into to help with the burnout:
            1. Do you work that job and then have to deal with cooking, cleaning, etc…? If so, look into getting some assistance with those things. Hire a twice monthly house cleaning service/person, get meal kits delivered to take the load off a bit. If you go the takeout route, rotate who does the restaurant selection and ordering (if you have multiple people in the household…my husband and son literally threw darts at a piece of paper with names of restaurants and meals on them before).

            2. Self care and therapy. Special Education is very difficult and takes a special person to be great at it and those individuals tend to be highly empathetic. Get a massage, facial, & mani/pedi, or just take a bubble bath with a glass of wine and a yummy candle. Get yourself that fancy coffee with ALL THE CALORIES once a week/month. And look into therapy – the soul crushing sounds like the population you work with maybe don’t have the most options for their futures and that is weighing on you. My friend is a special education teacher as well and works with very young children. She has told me that the hardest thing is knowing that some of these kids won’t graduate, will struggle more than any kid should have to deal with, be bullied, and in many cases get absorbed into a traditional classroom where they won’t get the support they need because of funding or their case not being “serious enough” so all of the progress they made will be lost. Therapy helped her a lot.

        2. Tess*

          It’s really not the norm to be a public school teacher and make that kind of salary, even with the raises that go with longevity.

          Same with “summers off”; often, teachers spend summer writing curricula for other grades they’ve been assigned to teach in fall, or work at least part-time during summer, since they can opt to collect their paychecks nine out of twelve months (or have their pay spread over twelve months).

          OP’s situation is quite unusual.

    8. A*

      Not sure if this would work in your area – but have you considered working directly with one family, being a special education home school teacher? I have a friend that made a similar switch, and ever since she secured her first gig she’s been working on a referral basis only and has been steadily employed from one family to the next (luckily those affluent enough to afford such things tend to know others in the same boat).

      Highly dependent on the socio economic statuses in your area, but if you’re in or near a high COL area it might be worth looking into! My friend secured her first job by starting out nannying on the weekends/over the summer to build her network contacts.

      Best of luck!

    9. not a doctor*

      Are you done with special education completely, or just classroom teaching? If you have any interest in sticking with SPED, you could look into doing Child Find evaluations. I was an evaluator at the end of my time in education, and I found it a lot easier and more enjoyable than full-time teaching.

    10. Ali G*

      My mom was a Special Ed teacher for many years and she switched to being a Guidance Counselor. The state we were in pays based on years and level of education so her pay didn’t change. I think the only thing that changed is she then had to work one week in August before the kids went back to school. She was much happier.

    11. So Very "Special"*

      Gonna offer a little bit of a different perspective here:

      I was a kid in special ed classes. I could tell when my SpEd teachers were burnt out and over it and stuck, because they got frustrated more easily. And a lot of the time, without meaning to, they took that frustration out on me and the other SpEd students.

      It’s one of the things I’m in therapy for, decades later- and I’m lucky enough to be able to self-advocate. Not all the kids in my SpEd classes were verbal. Some of them are probably just as screwed up as I am, without any way of getting help for it.

      If you stay in a position you hate for 20 years *and you’re working with a vulnerable population*? You have the potential to do some serious harm, not only to yourself, but *to your students*. And the longer you stay in a position you hate, the more likely it is that you will do that harm.

      1. Dino*

        My lens is similar. I worked in K-12 as a related service provider with students in SpEd/Life Skills and I definitely witnessed the way teacher burnout was taken out on students. It’s upsetting and awful.

        If you stay in this position, please do whatever you can to find some kind of enjoyment for the job itself. Manage your burnout and frustration off the clock so you can stay and not negatively impact your students.

      2. Generic Name*

        Yeah, as the parent of a kid who receives special education services, I hate the idea of one of his SpEd teachers who is at best just phoning it in for 20 years in order to collect a pension. Special needs kids are a difficult population to work with, and very vulnerable. What about moving to administration or training, as others have mentioned? Can you take a sabbatical?

      3. KoiFeeder*

        Fourthing. I never did special ed, but the person at my high school who was in charge of handling IEPs and other disability stuff was obviously disinterested in her job and it absolutely impacted the kids who needed her to be on top of things and not, say, signing off on making the kid who broke their leg do P.E. classes for the rest of the semester. Even removing when she took out her frustration on us (often), her complete apathy towards the rest of her job was damaging enough!

    12. Not So NewReader*

      A friend switched from teaching to working in the school library, she got an MLS to do it.

      Teachers in my area tell me that the burn out rate for SE is about five years. So you have done really well. According to them, it wasn’t the kids. It was all. the. regs.

      Anyway, my friend finished up her teaching career in the library and retired from the same school.

    13. Iris Eyes*

      It sounds like you might need a sabbatical or a gap year. If you were going to take a break for a school year what would your finances need? I’d work toward that personally. It doesn’t sound like you need a career change as much as a time to rest and refresh. Is there a grant or something you could apply for to do some further study? Don’t love the house you are in? Maybe sell the house and RV around the state and substitute teach enough to cover expenses. I think the pandemic has given a lot of us a persistent case of cabin fever.

    14. Anon this time*

      I used to work for a company that designed and manufactured educational products, and also provided related curriculum and training. We employed former teachers as product developers, product managers, professional development specialists, curriculum developers, tech support specialists, tech writers, sales reps.

      Some of the more senior among them made $90k+, but they worked long hours. The ones who worked 40 hours/week probably made closer to $70k. Our PTO policy wasn’t bad, but nowhere close to having summers off. Our retirement benefits were probably also less valuable than your teacher pension.

    15. Double A*

      90k! Where do you live?? I was making more like 62k with 10 years and a masters. And I’m making even less now that I’m teaching just English.

      Could you take a sabbatical? The last couple years have been brutal. Or explore if your district has TOSA roles (teacher on special assignment) that might work more with coaching teachers or something. Just something to mix it up and get a break from the classroom.

      1. SpEd Teacher*

        Connecticut! Our pay scale starts at $52k for first year just a bachelors. If you get your masters+60 and work for 30 years you’ll retire at around $153k.

    16. anna green*

      “So I’m pretty sure I’m just going to have to stick it out for 20 more years until I get my pension.”
      Oh this is one of the saddest things to hear. I worked at a govt job in college and most people thought this way. I actually decided right then I’d never do that because I didn’t want to start counting down to retirement in my 30’s.
      20 years!! that’s a long time to do something you hate. If you are just burnt out (it’s tough right now) that’s understandable. Take a vacation, etc. etc.
      But if you don’t want to do this for the rest of your life, dont! Don’t waste 20 years on the assumption you’ll get a pension that you’ll be health enough to enjoy.

    17. Zona the Great*

      I’d just like to suggest considering that summers off might not be such a big thing if you find a job that makes you really happy. I was a school teacher. There’s nothing that compares to the feeling of constantly counting down. Counting down the months til break, the weeks til break, the days, the hours….then summer comes and you switch to the dread-countdown. $90K is an ungodly amount for a teacher but you might be surprised at what else is out there. I left teaching and went back to grad school and now work as a program manager for a state agency. Sounds boring but I love my job the same on Monday as I do on Friday and I never think about summers off.

    18. WI to AZ*

      I’ve worked in special education for 20 years in 3 different states. In my current state, administrators don’t even make close to what you make in a year. If you are managing to keep within 40 hrs/week AND like your principal then you have the absolute dream job in your field. I’ve never managed below 50 hours a week in a full-time special education position.
      I would agree with the first time poster that switching age groups can help. I was K-5 most of my career but switched over to high school 5 years ago. It definitely helped especially since my own kids were starting elementary school. Now that my daughter is creeping toward adolescence, I foresee a switch back to K-5in the next few years.

      I have tried completely virtual work from home teaching positions but they either pay considerably less OR have 100 student caseloads.

      If you have licensing as a speech-therapist or school psychologist you would probably be able to do contract or consulting work and make a similar salary.

    19. Elephant*

      Hi! I’m also a teacher of 12 years, and I have had those times where I thought “is this really worth it?” So just a couple thoughts on that:
      1) there are MANY different kinds of jobs within the education world. Branch out of you want something fresh (does your district have Sped support people who work with multiple schools, like a sped curriculum specialist or administrator?). If you hate what you branch out to, you haven’t left the field, you haven’t lost benefits, and you can literally always go back to classroom teaching.
      2) keep your current job but change it up! Switch to a new grade or course (inclusion versus pull out support, for example). Add a responsibility or take one away (sponsor or stop sponsoring a club, coach or stop coaching a sport, etc.). One of the things I have come to love about education is how you really can make every year different, all while doing “the same” job.
      3) (this is the hard one) quit if you don’t enjoy kids. You don’t have to think teaching is your calling, it doesn’t have to be your favorite thing about your identity, and you don’t have to love your students every single day. But take some time to reflect on if you actually LIKE working with kids, because you should for your job. I teach about 100 students a year (high school). If I didn’t like them and I stuck it out for 20 years, that’s 2000 students I have had a negative impact on. For what? My pension? 2000 miserable kids is worth a pension? Hard no.

    20. AY*

      Did you feel this way pre-covid? I wonder if the unique awfulness of schooling in the covid era could be causing some of your unhappiness? If you could go back to your job as it was in 2019, would you still feel awful about it?

    21. J.B.*

      To be honest, this is risky but have you considered parent advocacy? The rules are so byzantine and the cooperation varies so much by school and per district that if you have been doing the coordination and paperwork you might have great insight.

    22. Sun in an Empty Room*

      Really explore your options with your current job. I encouraged a coworker to look into leave without pay and she was just granted 6 months starting in November. It’s not something normally put on the table but they even offered her part time work (something they turned her down for for years) when she was at a point something had to give or she would walk away from the job. Also, have you seriously looked in to early retirement options? I’m not saying for this year but to make a plan for the future that might cut down your retirement timeline? I know government jobs usually have set date for FULL benefits but you likely will get something if you’re beyond 3 or 5 years (Not sure about your state specifically, though). Don’t let these be golden handcuffs. I’ve started planning to retire about 8 years ahead of my full retirement age. Really cutting back on expenses and ramping up savings has helped me refocus in my mission-driven job despite the COVID pressure so many of us are feeling.

    23. Gnome*

      Have you looked into private schools? Depending on what the issues are, that might work better for the same reason it sometimes works better for kids (less paperwork, more of a school community, etc). I have a kid in a private school for SpEd, and… It is just amazing! I can say the parent support/appreciation is also far and away higher than I have seen elsewhere.

      Alternately, maybe a sub-specialization? I know some places have Autism specialists, 2e specialists, specialists in dyslexia/dysgraphia, behavior specialists, etc.

      1. Dino*

        Private schools don’t always have the same requirements to serve students with disabilities. Most of the protections and services afforded to disabled students are tied to federal funding, which isn’t a given for private schools. Some may accept disabled students but it’s a very different landscape than SpEd is normally.

        1. Tess*

          Yep; good call. Plus, private schools have smaller classrooms and don’t have to take in students they don’t want to – unlike public schools, who must take in everyone.

          There’s really no comparison between private and public. They just operate under very standards, though as a taxpayer, I resent private schools that take public money.

    24. Anony*

      Could you find another specialty area that you prefer within the school? I have a friend moved from classroom teaching to being a reading specialist and another who became an ELL specialist later in her career, and both have really felt that the change reengaged them with their work. They also got to work with small groups of kids (but you may already do that).

      I do want to second what someone else said though – I was a teacher with summers off and now work full time at a nonprofit with no summers off, but great flexibility and vacation time, and honestly I really value the flexibility across the whole year. I thought I would miss summers off more than I do. If you really consider a career change, look for employers with good vacation/benefit policies and you might find the summers off isn’t such a big tradeoff. The issue for you is more sacrificing your salary- but twenty years is a long time.

    25. StellaBella*

      Find hobbies for your summers off that enrich you. Then go back, each year is a 9month contract to get thru, then enjoy summer. You are in an enviable position, maximize the time off you have to enjoy olife then work the other time.

  11. California Dreamin’*

    I have a very good friend who is unhappy in her job, but doesn’t know what she wants to do. Mostly she is unhappy in her pay. She is very talented and should earn more, but is somewhat risk adverse and doesn’t know where to start in job hunting or if she should change careers altogether. I have recommended AAM as a great resource, but I would like to do more for her.
    Are there legit resume services that I can gift her? Or is there such a thing as a career coach to help her figure out what to do?

    1. Lady_Lessa*

      My local community college has a career center with lots of free help for all job seekers, not just the ones attending the school. It included some aptitude interest testing followed up by a conversation with one of their counselors.

    2. Haven’t picked a user name yet*

      Based on my experience there is not a lot of value in hiring a resume service. Advice in how to create an accomplishment driven resume on this site is great and should provide the guidance needed.

      It honestly sounds like your friend needs to commit to either looking for a new job, or making a case for a pay increase (or both!), but as a friend I don’t think there is much you can do other than be supportive and suggest the resources. But this is on her.

      1. California Dreamin’*

        Maybe part of my gift could be in helping her with her resume. She has made a case for a raise was told no. She works for a non-profit but isn’t passionate for the cause.

        1. Haven’t picked a user name yet*

          That sounds like a great idea! I have long coached others informally in my career and review resumes, but I also have someone who always reviews mine. I think there is so much value in having someone you trust take a look and make suggestions!

        2. Zee*

          Unfortunately the non-profit sector is pretty abusive and really relies on people’s commitment to the mission to accept substandard pay. Because of this, exit into the for-profit sector is pretty common. I can’t think of a group off the top of my head, but there are definitely communities out there for people who are trying to make that transition – maybe do some searching for one of those.

          The nice thing about coming from the np sector is that people usually have a diverse skill set (from orgs being understaffed) with a lot of good transferrable skills. I’d sit down with her and really comb through what her job duties are and which of them she likes, and then do some brainstorming and research into what other professions utilize those skills. She should be doing this herself already, but it’s useful to get another perspective to find things you’ve overlooked or minimized.

    3. PNW_HR*

      I’m working with a career coach right now and I am pretty happy with her advice and guidance. It was 6 phone sessions for $500,though, so not cheap.

    4. ferrina*

      A good career coach can help with this, but ultimately your friend will need to do a lot of the work. Career counselors are expensive (and you’ll need to look around to find one that meets her needs). It also won’t make a difference if she’s not willing to make the move for herself.

      If this were her writing in, I’d recommend identifying a couple areas she might be interested in and doing informational interviews (school alumni networks are a good place to start, and sometimes career counselors can put you in touch with people). Think about the lifestyle that she wants and where a job fits in to it. For many people, it’s less about the actual work than how the work is done (collaboratively vs independently, physical vs sedentary, hours, etc.). Then just start applying! It will take time, so thinking of it as a hobby can help. In the meantime, find actual hobbies and enjoyable things to keep you grounded.
      But again, this ultimately needs to come from her.

      1. California Dreamin’*

        Those are great thought starters!
        I know she is willing to do the work, I just thought a career coach could help point her in right direction.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      Encourage her to think about things that she is good at doing. if she thinks about where she routinely gets compliments she might find some clues. Here’s my thought, if she picks something she is good at, she has a strong chance of always having work in that area.

      Just my opinion, but when a person makes a career jump one thing to look at is does the new employer understand that this is a new-to-her field. This matters because they will be more apt to put the time in orienting a new hire to the new arena. There are people out there who are really good about this- I can vouch for that.

      I have been scared to make the jump myself. And I have made a couple jumps. No regrets. Encourage her to picture herself on the other side of this whole question and being happy with how things land. I took the perspective that “anything has to be better than what I have now” and even that perspective helped me.

    6. MissDisplaced*

      I’m not sure a career coach would help that much if you don’t know what you want to do. I’ve always thought they’re more for helping you advance to the next level?
      Anyway, for a less expensive way, I have always suggested the book What Color is Your Parachute, which has exercises to help people find things they like doing and careers that match.

  12. Aarti*

    You guys I am literally sick over something my boss told me yesterday. When we had another employee leave not too long ago, willingly and happily (this is important), I realized I was now the most senior person at that level. I sent my boss a joking email saying something like “last person standing”! That was months ago. I meant it to just be a friendly sort of thing, not mean, just a shock that i, with only 4 years’ experience, was now the senior person.
    Yesterday she told me that that had come off as me mocking him and being cruel by celebrating his departure. I did not mean that at ALL. I of course apologized and explained how I meant for it to come off, but I feel so bad now. I am glad it only went to her and I did not publically do it, but now I can’t talk myself down that that’s how she sees me.
    I hate this feeling. I try to be a good employee and work hard and always be smiling. But this made me feel sooo bad.

    1. Rainy*

      Your boss is being unreasonable. I don’t think that seems mocking and cruel at all.

      My spouse just found out that the only senior person to them in their small company is job searching, and came home and said “I’m going to be the senior editor!” That was not mocking or cruelly celebrating either.

      Do your best to put it out of your mind. You’ve apologized and explained, now assume your boss is going to let it go, like a reasonable person would do.

    2. Bean Counter Extraordinaire*

      That’s a very bizarre and uncharitable interpretation of your comment!
      I wouldn’t think another thing about it.

    3. Princess Flying Hedgehog*

      If you have a reputation as generally being a kind, friendly person, then this is not a big deal! Everyone puts their foot in their mouth every now and then. And, you’ve apologized.
      That said, it does seem that you inadvertently hit a sore spot for your boss. But all you can do going forward is to be a little more careful and thoughtful about what you say!
      Accept that you are human and that you messed up, but don’t beat yourself up! This is a small thing, and it gives you a little insight into what your boss is struggling with.

      And at the end of the day, your boss’s reaction says more about her than it does about you.

      1. Jay Gobbo*


        I say that about almost everything. “A person’s reaction says more about them than it does about you.” It’s so important to remember!!!

        Unfortunately sometimes you can’t change hearts ands minds. Maybe the boss was just in a certain mood that day; maybe that’s actually the way they think. Either way, I think that consistently showing that you are a kind and considerate person is more important than worrying about a one-off comment.

        (YMMV I still remember a dumb thoughtless thing I said in 6th grade and I’m in my late 30s now, so you know ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Can’t win ’em all)

    4. londonedit*

      Yeah that seems unreasonable and humourless. We’ve had loads of people leave recently (not because of anything bad with the company, just because of the whole ‘everyone’s changing their life after 2020’ thing) and there’s definitely been a ‘last ones standing!!’ sort of vibe among those of us who are left. I can’t really see how that comment could come across as mocking the person who left.

      1. Aarti*

        Thank you guys. I try so hard to be kind and understanding. I have had a history in my twenties of putting my foot in my mouth a lot but I am now in my forties and usually do much, much better. I specifically didn’t think it was mocking because he was so HAPPY about the new job he was getting, so it wasn’t like he was leaving under bad circumstances. And people leave! It’s ok that they leave! Ugh.

    5. Bean Counter Extraordinaire*

      The only other thing I can think of is that your boss felt it was a dig AT HER, like “Wow you suck, everyone else has left you and I’m the only one still on your team” and got her feelings hurt, but didn’t want to come out and say that, so used the former employee as the “injured party”?

    6. learnedthehardway*

      This is really on your manager – the rational thing to do would have been to assume it was a wry comment along the lines of “OMG I’m the only person left… flailing”, or “OMG now I have to do the work of everyone who has left”.

      I can’t imagine why your manager would have thought you were celebrating your colleague’s departure and being cruel, not unless you were in constant, acrimonious, OBVIOUS conflict with the person.

      You might want to circle back and make it clear that you were upset that she would think you would be unprofessional like that, and reiterate that it was a wry comment about being the last of the old guard, and not a comment on your former colleague.

        1. ten four*

          You might also consider job searching! I don’t like that your boss is making you feel this bad over a harmless joke. And also, perhaps there is a REASON you are the last person standing?

          I have been at my job for a similar amount of time as you, we have also seen a lot of turnover. I’m realizing that I have perhaps stayed too long. And the nice thing about job searching is that it’s about figuring out your options – if you don’t find anything you like better that’s a win: helps you feel good about your current role. And of course if you DO then off you go!

      1. The New Wanderer*

        Seconding that last paragraph, if you think your manager would listen. It is an obviously uncharitable interpretation of what you wrote and you definitely don’t want her to have that perception of you.

        FWIW I had a manager who was initially a strong supporter of my work and thought highly of me. Then she had a terrible meeting with other managers, some of whom made it painfully clear they didn’t think I was of much value (it’s a long story). After that meeting, she kinda took it out on me in our next 1:1 – I think she was defensive and reacting to this unexpected negative pushback of her original opinion of me. I was so upset I couldn’t even speak. I waited several days before bringing up the topic, laying out the whole long story, and basically showing her why I had earned her high opinion in the first place. Our relationship recovered and she went back to being a strong supporter. So my advice is, don’t let it fester!

    7. footiepjs*

      Do your best to not think about it. Your boss’s commentary coming months after the fact isn’t helpful at all and I don’t know what her motivation was for even bringing it up. Let your work and smiling attitude speak for itself and move on.

    8. Sandman*

      If you are normally able to joke around with your boss a little bit – which I’d assume, if you’ve been there four years and didn’t think twice about sending an email like this – it sounds like your boss might be a little bit sensitive about having enough people leave for you to be senior after just a few years and taking it more personally than is warranted. Humor can be so contextual that it’s hard to say, of course. But I would try not to spend a lot of time agonizing over it.

    9. Esmeralda*

      Your boss is a twit. Obviously a joke, and not a mean one either. If your boss has FEELINGS about all this, she needs to be a professional and keep them to herself. Unprofessional to make you feel bad about it.

    10. Not So NewReader*

      Your boss has gotten a little hypersensitive or he just suddenly let go of surrounding context for some reason.

      It sounds like you apologized profusely. And it sounds like you have built up capital in the years you have been there.

      The only thing I think I would have added to the discussion with the boss is to say, “OMG, I am really upset that I came across that way. Hopefully, there will never be a next time, but if something I say/type ever sounds odd to you please, please address it asap. I am doubly upset that you carried this for months before we chatted. Please be sure to know that I do not want anything like this to happen again and please know that I want us to talk about it as soon as possible. I like my job, I like the people here and I do not want anything to get in the way of that.”

      For me, the fact that the boss let this go for months would be really unnerving and I would wonder what else the boss was dwelling on that is not addressed.

    11. RagingADHD*

      Well, you feel this way precisely because you are NOT a cruel person who is indifferent to others.

      It’s fine and appropriate to feel bad when you accidentally upset someone. That’s empathy. It’s a good thing.

      It was an accident. You meant one thing, and she took it another way. It happens. You did the right thing, which is to apologize sincerely and explain what you meant. That’s enough.

      I think it’s unlikely your boss sees you as a habitually cruel & mocking person, or she would not have told you how she felt at the time. Nobody makes themselves intentionally vulnerable to assholes.

      You just need some time. It’s a totally normal reaction to be mortified, and it will pass.

      1. Maxie's Mommy*

        And since you’re not a habitually unkind person, why wouldn’t your boss give you the benefit of the doubt??

  13. Batty Twerp*

    So I’ve managed to f- up at work. And I’m having trouble getting over it, for want of better phrasing.
    I’m owning my mistake, mostly – a spreadsheet submitted to payroll by my manager has a different figure that I don’t know where it came from and can’t justify, but it’s my spreadsheet that gets used so it’s me who gets the queries. And my spreadsheet did have a significant error initially, but it’s been corrected and *still* doesn’t match the payroll file. So now I don’t know if this second change is my error or not.
    The first error is problematic enough, but the second is just eroding trust in my department (direct quote from the stressed out manager who phoned me 10 minutes before logging off time to berate me for it) and right now I’m doubting my ability to keep doing the job I’ve been doing for 2 years in a company I’ve worked at for over 12.

    I don’t know how to make this better. I don’t think I can. My resilience is at an all time low. Anyone got any pick-me-up suggestions so I dont spend the weekend crying and stressing about this?

    1. Can't Sit Still*

      Just as an FYI, these are classic red flags for embezzlement. I mean, you may have made several unexpected mistakes or simply mis-keyed something, but something is fishy here. At the very least, your company’s controls are bad and need to be fixed. If it were a spreadsheet that you transmitted directly to payroll, that would be one thing. But your boss sends it on to payroll and there’s an error you don’t have in your original spreadsheet? That’s not great on your boss’ part.

      1. not a doctor*

        Agreed. Is it at all possible you could suggest to Payroll that you send them the sheet directly, CCing your boss, and she signs off on it in that thread? Phrase it as wanting to make absolutely sure you’re on the same page or that you want to minimize any chance of this disconnect.

        1. not a doctor*

          Also: people screw up! It happens! Sometimes in pretty major ways. And then they fix it, as you did, and most of the time life moves on. Yours will, too.

        2. Ali G*

          Maybe also lock it for editing? Or compare yours to the copy that payroll has?
          Batty, one thing I would suggest for you is to save a new copy of your spreadsheet and go through it and check all the formula’s or whatever you have going on in there. Sometimes when you have a lot of data and functionality, those things go bad. Especially if you are making multiple copies or if it’s linked to other data sources, etc.
          If it’s possible, I’d take the time to start fresh with a new spreadsheet so you know it’s not corrupted.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            Yep, yep, yep.

            As I read through I thought to myself someone is syphoning money some where.
            OP, I have had my own version (tamer than yours, however the general similarities are there) and it was indeed someone taking money.
            Ali G has great advice, put the time in to find out where the wheels fell off. Stand up for you. I know it’s easier to stand up for others. Pretend you are helping your favorite coworker save their butts and see what you can find.

            1. Big 4 Denizen*

              Yep! Performing a root cause analysis is important. Plus, if your boss starts to act shady about you doing this, then you know something’s up.

    2. Sleet Feet*

      This is tough. As someone who rarely makes mistakes, and I get the sense you are in the same boat, I can sometimes over react to them.

      My advice is:
      1 reframe the mistake. Imagine your friend/beloved aunt/significant other made this mistake. Would you think they are a screw up who should quit their job of 2 years? I’m guessing not.

      2 Troubleshoot the mistake. I know you said you have no idea where it came from but go through each step and compare. For example is the query pulling the same data now that it was when you pulled it? If you can’t tell what steps can you take to be able to troubleshoot that in the future (such as saving the data extracts somewhere etc.)
      3. Own the mistake and solution it. Your coworkers may be continually bringing it up because you haven’t found the problem source and haven’t offered any solutions. Even if you can’t find the mistake if you come up with ways to avoid probable causes of the mistake in the future that should help.

    3. Iris Eyes*

      Does everyone have the same version of Excel? I have had sheets where a formula did not calculate properly in one version but did in others. Excel is not entirely trustworthy and shouldn’t be used for as much as it is, there have been billion dollar mistakes made. (Perhaps a perusal of some of those would lift your spirits?) Also switching to a browser based Excel or Smartsheet that tracks changes could be a BIG help for seeing who and what changes may have caused the issue.

      When I have made big mistakes at work I found it helpful to journal the problem in red ink and outline the problem and what steps I could have done to fix it or identified that there was a problem even if I couldn’t identify what was causing the problem.

    4. Koala dreams*

      Sometimes people make silly mistakes that just are super weird. Tell yourself to put the mistake away for the weekend and then you’ll look at it with fresh eyes on Monday.

      Do you have any hobbies you can distract yourself with over the weekend? Knitting is a great distraction, or perhaps physical exercise. If you end up crying anyway, try some sad music and hot chocolate.

      If it’s any comfort, I’ve made a bunch of small mistakes today, and in the end I decided to put the work away and continue on Monday. Hopefully I’ll be more alert then. Fridays can be tough.

      1. Aarti*

        So I too would have a hard time not agonizing over it all weekend. I have that kind of personality. The only way I have found to truly deal with this is:
        – distract myself temporarily. Yes, it will not work all weekend, but i will fill as much time with games, exersice, movies, books, hobbies, whatever.
        – Exercise. Really wear yourself out because,
        – Expect to sleep less. When I am anxious I don’t sleep well so I go in with the expectation. But if I wear myself out with exercise I do tend to sleep a little better.
        – Talk to someone. I know sometimes it feels like GOD I AM SUCH AN IDIOT but I do find talking to someone helps, even if it is hard to spit out initially.

    5. Generic Name*

      Wait, why are you blaming yourself? The spreadsheet you sent to boss was correct, but the spreadsheet your boss sent to payroll had an error. Is your boss blaming you for the error? It sounds like your boss introduced the error, intentionally or otherwise. Something isn’t right here. I agree with the first comment that this is a red flag. I’d be curious how your boss reacts if you offer to track down the error so it won’t happen again.

    6. ByGolly*

      Spreadsheet errors can happen. Is there someone who can walk through the whole thing with you and make sure there are no more errors and you can move forward with confidence? I think your script should be “Look, I can see that there’s an error here, and I obviously wouldn’t have turned in work with an error if I knew about it. Can you help me figure out what happened so we can ensure it doesn’t happen again?” Ideally your manager would be the one doing this, since they are the one who submitted the thing. In the mean time: Job search? Netflix binge? My drug of choice is British Chick lit when I need to engage my brain and also relax.

    7. RagingADHD*

      I spend a lot of time dealing with random “how did this happen in my brain” errors (see my username), and most of the time I can catch them before things go out.

      When something does slip through the net, the thing that relieves my anxiety is to acknowledge that this mystery needs to be solved, and work out a way to solve it. The error itself needs to be diagnosed and solved, and the fault in my error-control system also needs to be diagnosed and solved.

      Usually putting those things on my “t0-do” list as valid work tasks that are worth spending time on allows me to compartmentalize my feelings about it and get the rest I need. (Sometimes I have to jump down the rabbit hole and hyperfocus on tracing the fault, but the to-do list usually lets me categorize them as things to think about on work time, rather than personal problems to think about in my personal time.)

      Perhaps you can contact someone in Payroll to help you review the problem cell and make sure the formulas match, whether there’s someone else with access to the sheet that you’re not aware of, etc. Screenshotting the sheet showing the correct info or sharing screens can also be helpful.

    8. Anonymous Hippo*

      Errors happen. There are controls you can put in place to help limit them, but as long as human beings are involved in the process, mistakes will occur. Stress increases the likelihood of further mistakes. The best you can do is heartily acknowledge the mistake, and provide a plan to decrease the likelihood of this happening again in the future. In any reasonable company, this would in no way be an indication that you can’t do your job, especially since it seems you can’t even point to an error on your part for the second problem. Heck, I made a 10M mistake on depreciation my first year with my company and now I run the department. Take a deep breath and try and ignore this until Monday, when you can create an plan to engineer out this error in the future.

    9. hamburke*

      I make a copy of the payroll spreadsheet on my own system before I send it off bc of something similar happening (updates were made after I pulled the data).

      To get thru it, make a plan for how it won’t happen again – perhaps you send a values-only (no formula) spreadsheet or a pdf copy for approval.

  14. Taura*

    Cover letter question – do I need to include my current city/that I’m willing to relocate explicitly in my cover letter? I have my current address on both my cover letter and resume, and use it in my contact info obviously, under the assumption that companies that are definitely looking for local candidates will see it in the first screen and toss out my application. But last week, I was called for an interview with a company across the state from me (I’m in Texas, if I get the job I’ll need to move, which is part of why I applied for this one) and they asked first for an in-person interview and then seemed really surprised when I told them where I was before changing it to a video interview. Going forward do I need to put something like “I’m planning to move to City, so that’s part of why I applied for this job” in my cover letter?

    1. House Tyrell*

      Also from Texas and moved cross country for a job earlier this year. Definitely mention it in your cover letter! It can just be a line but that helps them know that you know the job would require moving and that you want to move there. I used to live in the city I moved to and my (ex) partner had gotten a job here so in my last paragraph I said something like “I’m excited to move back to City in Month for my partner’s job…”

      It also helps with interview scheduling too so you don’t run into in person requests when you can’t get there that fast and reassures them that you are willing and able to make the move for the role. If you haven’t ever lived there before then you should be ready to talk about why you want to move there because many employers will be nervous that you’ll hate the new city and leave quickly.

    2. Scoffrio*

      I’m surprised they were surprised honestly, seems like they weren’t reviewing your materials very thoroughly. Perhaps that was just a one off?

      When I apply to out of state jobs I remove my address from my resume (though my current job has my city listed next to it) and tend to address it in my cover letter so that they don’t automatically weed out my application – I give a compelling reason (aka partner or family) or state that I’m already basically committed to moving to that city on X timeline (“I’ll be relocating there in March”).

    3. Anne of Green Gables*

      can’t speak to your filed, but I appreciate it when candidates who are out of state tell me why they are interested in my area. If they are planning to move to my area, that could make a difference between interview and not.

      If it’s a move that’s already in the works, I’d actually add that on your resume with your current city, kind of like this:
      Anne of Green Gables
      Avonlea, PEI (relocating to Charlottetown December 2021)

      1. Taura*

        Thanks for all the replies, I’ll add something about being willing to relocate in my cover letters in future. I’m basically applying to jobs in 3 cities atm: mine, sister 1’s, and sister 2’s, so while nothing is already in the works I also don’t have any qualms about living in any of those places.

        1. Winona*

          I’d add a line about being interested in relocation to be closer to family, if you’re applying for a place in a sister’s city. I think saying you’re open to relocating is good (since so many people want remote work now), but actually giving a reason is even more helpful.

          It’s a question that we often have, and will discuss internally, when interviewing people who don’t live in our area, and as soon as they say something about local family, that answers our question.

          Because just because someone applies for a job in a certain city and says they’re open to relocation, doesn’t always translate to them actually being willing to accept the job. Having an actual reason has seemed to make the hiring committees I’ve been on more confident that the candidate really is willnig to relocate.

        2. Zee*

          From my cover letter for my recent round of job applications:

          “I am currently in [State], but finding the right position and organization is my priority and I am open to relocating anywhere within the US.”

          *Technically not true, since there are some places I’m not interested in living, but obviously I just didn’t apply to jobs in those areas.

          I got plenty of interviews around the country, and got a job offer last week in a state I’ve never been to before and where I have zero connections.

          That said, I was in the same situation in 2014, and nobody would interview me if I wasn’t already in the area or had a specific moving date to go to that specific city (which I didn’t have, because I was planning on moving wherever I got a job). You may run into a little of that, since you don’t have a moving date and aren’t committed to a single city, but you could say something like “I’m in [place] and am looking to relocate to [other place] this year” and just not mention that there are 2 other cities you’re looking in as well.

          But definitely don’t just leave it out of your application, because they might assume you read the listing wrong or don’t know how to use google maps.

    4. A*

      When I was in a similar situation I kept all my contact info as my current residence (not local to the employer), but called out in the second line of the cover letter that I was looking to relocate to that area. I also referenced the fact that I have social connections in the area because some employers like to see that relocations are not 100% due to the job (for reasons I’ve never understood). I also included a line in the last paragraph about how I was excited for the opportunity to join their team, and to settle into XYZ area.

      It’s strange that they were surprised as they should have taken note of your address, but if you didn’t mention it in the cover letter it’s entirely possible they thought that your mailing address was different – or you relocated temporarily during the shut down etc.

    5. T J Juckson*

      I had a line at the very end of my cover letter something like, “I am relocating to New York and will be available for in-person interviews after X.” This was pre-pandemic, for a very competitive job, which I got. I remember being in an interview and seeing one person had circled my midwestern address (but I was sitting there in NYC), so clearly it was something that had concerned at least one person.

    6. Sleet Feet*

      What I do is on the resume for location I put “relocating to City of Job December 2021” instead of where I currently live.

      I was successfully moved by the company across country using this tactic. I recall mentioning a few reasons why I was relocating in the cover letter – just a sentence or two – but the rest focused on the job. Then on interviews I was clear that my goal was to move December 2021 but that’s only of I can secure a job.

  15. Feeling Conflicted*

    So how about this one:

    I work with someone I know socially, more than acquaintances but not best friends. They have been involved in a project with me, I am senior to them but less experienced. They have been derogatory to me about my ability and appearance both inside and outside of work which has been upsetting, but in terms of their role do a good job. They have now listed me for feedback on their performance review. The feedback must include comments on professionalism, supporting team members and working collaboratively to include everyone. I have no idea what to write…..none whatsoever

    1. Rainy*

      Oh man. Your acquaintance is relying on you being Cool About Their Shitty Behaviour and giving them glowing feedback, and I think that was a tactical error on their part.

      I think in your place I’d probably say that their work is good in these specific ways, but that you see some room for improvement in professionalism, teamwork, and collaboration, and give a couple of constructive suggestions for improvement.

      You could also reach out to them privately and ask if they meant to include you on the list for feedback, since you know them socially, and perhaps it would be inappropriate for you to contribute to a performance review.

      1. Feeling Conflicted*

        I was included deliberately, it would be unusual/impossible not to with our roles. I gave feedback last review season which was positive-I had no reason not to be positive at the time.

        1. Rainy*

          Interesting. Yeah, I think I’d go ahead and be honest, especially since the reviews are explicitly also about collaboration, collegiality, and professionalism. If nothing else, you might be providing a wakeup call that helps them turn things around before their attitude affects their career.

    2. Colette*

      I’d be honest with specific examples. It’s feedback they need, and it would be doing them a disservice to hold back.

    3. James*

      Note that while they’re good at their role they need to work on interpersonal skills, don’t support team members, and have real problems working with other people. This isn’t a small thing. This person is actively undermining you, and making fairly inappropriate comments (how you dress isn’t correlated to your ability to do the work in many fields, especially outside of work!!).

      I’ve found this can be a problem with people with more experience but a lower position, and you need to nip it in the bud. They’re testing boundaries and trying to see what they can get away with. I’ve had to toss people off projects for this before. If you let them get away with this you are training them that this is an appropriate way to act, and they will keep doing it–to you, and to others.

      1. Feeling Conflicted*

        Just to clarify appearance comments were focussed on physical features rather than dress. I would not be anywhere near upset about outfits, this was very personal.

        You are right about doing it to others and this isn’t an angle I had considered. Thank you

    4. 867-5309*

      Leverage your organization’s values and use that language, whatever it might be.

      So for example, “Person’s work product is excellent but there are times when how the work is getting done is harmful. They will often make derogatory comments about other team member’s abilities or appearance that are not grounded in something that affects the project or their ability to do their work.”

      Also, have you said anything directly? When they comment on your appearance – “Wow. That is hurtful.” When they comment about ability, “I welcome constructive feedback but this is beginning to feel unproductive. Is there something specific that you would like to see me do differently or have I done something that is affecting a work outcome?”

      It sounds more like a frenimy relationship… Sure, they are social and kind of a friend but undermining you at the same time. You might need to institute boundaries around the social part of your relationship.

      1. Rainy*

        Yeah, very frenemy-esque. I find that when you realize that’s the way things are trending with someone, it’s best to take a big step back personally or cut the connection entirely.

      2. Feeling Conflicted*

        I love your wording for the review, thank you. It says what I have been trying to with a very professional tone.

        I haven’t yet said anything directly to anything hurtful, I have elected to ignore and move on as appropriate within the specific situation. They can be confrontational so I had been deliberately not engaging rather than get dragged into a discussion of what’s appropriate vs not, but I will keep those phrases up my sleeve. I have offered 121s to draw on their knowledge and ensure my lack of experience is not inhibiting them but these offers have been rejected each time. To be clear it’s my experience lacking not my ability, I am a high performer and have had exemplary reviews.

        To note-I fully agree and I will/have removed the person from my social circle. This isn’t a friendship I am interested in preserving beyond a friendly hello, but this makes me mindful I don’t want review comments to be dismissed as “p****d off friend”

    5. You get a pen and you get a pen*

      Keep the review focused on how this person completes their job and role. As you stated, this person is good at what they should be doing so that should be the focus. The derogatory comments, as hurtful as they are, should not be mentioned.

      1. not a doctor*

        Hard disagree. This person made these comments AT WORK — that makes them unimpeachably fair game for criticism. Keep it professional but feel free to be honest, OP.

      2. Rainy*

        The commenter specifically says that the review includes feedback on the person’s professionalism, support of teammates, and collaboration.

      3. James*

        Along with what everyone else said, the derogatory comments are likely an attempt to undermine Feeling Conflicted’s authority. That very much IS a work-related issue.

        1. Feeling Conflicted*

          Undermining authority was my grand bosses take also, combined with resentment for seniority vs experience.

          To be clear if this was 100% outside of work and was not specifically in reference to the work I would not even be considering bringing it into the review. I do not plan to incorporate anything not work related.

      4. Anonymous Hippo*

        I disagree as well. How you work with others is (or should be) an important factor in overall job performance. Jerks aren’t okay because they have excellent output.

    6. Sandman*

      It sounds like you might be hesitant to point out their derogatory behavior because you know them socially, and I’d encourage you to leave that out of it if you can manage it. No-one deserves to be treated poorly and this behavior is something that should be addressed. Part of the job is being decent to the people around you. I haven’t always gotten this right and am grateful for people who cared enough to address it – I had things to work out and wasn’t doing myself any favors, either.

    7. Jean*

      You have been handed the kind of opportunity that someone like me fantasizes about having. Take it and run with it – within reason, of course. Be honest and frame it in terms of work, but don’t hold back. This person literally set themselves up for this.

      1. Morning coffee*

        The universe has provided you the perfect opportunity to help this person improve her skills. Take it. :)

    8. PollyQ*

      Tell the truth of your experience, including how they treated you as a co-worker, and ignore the fact that you knew the person socially first. If they were really your friend (or even just professional), they wouldn’t have treated you badly.

  16. Anne of Green Gables*

    I’m a plus-size female looking for recommendations of great work pants and shirts. My place is business casual, and I tend to lean to the slightly more business, less casual end. (If it helps, I’m size 18 ish US and chesty–40 I chesty.)

    Bonus points for comfy but professional looking pants. Now that I can’t work from home, I really miss my sweatpants!

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      I love Torrid’s ponte pants – stretchy and comfy, but very professional looking. My fall/winter work uniform is their ponte pants and a Harper blouse.

    2. Rey*

      Love the screen name! If you use Instagram, I recommend Mia O’Malley! She is an awesome plus-size follow, and she frequently crowdsources recommendations from her followers for plus-size folks. She has a Stories Highlights titled WORKWEAR that has tons of store and brand recommendations, including specific links. Personally, I have tried Maurices, Torrid, and Eloquii for pants (I’m a size 18-20).

    3. Glomarization, Esq.*

      Corporette-dot-com has a dedicated page for plus size suggestions, and the daily posts often include options.

    4. Been There Done That*

      Lane Bryant, Macys Plus Size department, and believe it or not Talbots has some really good sales every now and then. And I use the online shopping option for all of them.

      1. Blinded By the Gaslight*

        Yes, I have some great pieces from the Talbot’s Women’s Petite line. Not every season is a winner from them, but sometimes they really have some beautiful, classic items. They’re more expensive than Lane Bryant or Torrid, but my Talbot items have lasted me literally years whereas my Lane Bryant/Torrid items are usually worn out or dated in a year or two.

    5. Chereche*

      I buy my work pants from Avenue . com. I wear sizes 16/18 depending on the stretch. My one caveat is that if you are 5ft6 or above order pants in tall. I tried an average length pants from them from a coworker and it looked like I was preparing to wade through flood water.

    6. knitcrazybooknut*

      Universal Standard is my favorite clothing line. They have options for sizes 00-40, and the fit is brilliant for all of them. They have suits, jackets, skirts, pants, and run all of the way down the casual scale into athletic wear and pajamas. Everything they make is really comfortable.

      1. Jay*

        I LOVE them. My absolute favorite pair of pants is a muted plaid wide-leg trouser of theirs. Love love love. Last year I splurged on a pajama set and robe and OMG. So pretty and comfy.

        1. knitcrazybooknut*

          Did you get the pajama set sale? I got a robe and pajamas and nightgown for cheap! I’m honestly wearing the pajamas right now for remote work — the top is super classy.

      2. Can't Sit Still*

        Lots of their stuff is machine washable, too, which is nice in workwear. Most of their dresses have pockets, too.

    7. Countess of Upstairs Downstairs*

      I love Lands’ End Starfish Mid-Rise Pants – They’re pull-on elastic waist pants, with a ponte type material. I feel like they’re stretchy and soft like sweatpants but can be easily dressed up for the office.

      1. Jaded Millenial*

        I add a second vote for Land’s End. I gotten mostly shirts from them, but I’d like to try more of their pants, though my hips seem to put me one size larger in their pants than at other retailers.

        Target is also carrying super cute plus size clothing right now, though the most variety is online, but returns in-store have been very easy.

    8. Jay*

      J Jill has great work clothes and they go up to 20 or 22 online. It totally sucks that they won’t stock above a 12 in the store and you may not want to support them for that reason…but the pants are great and they have good sales.

      Same applies for Chicos. They have their own sizing which can be hard to suss out if you can’t try things on. You can drop off returns for free at the store even if they don’t stock the size. I love their ankle pants – they’re not particularly tapered, they’re SO comfy, and and they have pockets!!

      Online only and expensive: Universal Standard. GORGEOUS stuff, well-made, high-quality fabrics, and size-inclusive with models that show you how the clothes will actually fit.

    9. Jean*

      How attached are you to a pants-and-shirt look? LOFT Plus and ASOS Curve are both good online options with a ton of cute, but maybe a little more offbeat/still office appropriate type of looks (dresses, dressier jumpsuits, pretty blouses, etc)

    10. Blinded By the Gaslight*

      I am currently wearing a pair of black work trousers I got from Universal Standard that fit beautifully on my short tree-trunk legs and wide hips. I have worn these at least a dozen times, and there is no pilling in the thigh/crotch area. The material really nice–jet black, just enough stretch, soft on the skin. And they have pockets!

      I also have another pair of black trousers from Eloquii – fabric doesn’t feel quite as lush as my US pair, but they also have a great, comfortable fit, pockets, no pilling, etc.

      Also from Universal Standard, the Next to Naked bodysuit is a wardrobe staple, perfect for under dresses or tunics. For leggings, I also love SheFit, which carries an amazing size range for large folks, and the material is great – sturdy, comfortable, no pilling, and generous pockets!

    11. Haha Lala*

      I’m about the same size in pants, and I love Lee’s Flex motion pants and jeans. They sell them at Kohls, and usually have lots of options of colors/washes and fits. They have just the right amount of stretch– enough to be comfy, but not too much that I feel like I’m in yoga pants or underdressed.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I love Lee; they actually fit me.
        Walmart used to carry Riders, which were made by Lee and cost less, but OF COURSE they don’t have them anymore. >:(

    12. SomethingClever*

      If it hasn’t been mentioned, my go-to for business casual is Old Navy. I am larger than you but have found their plus-size selection to be true to size. Their khaki style pants were a life saver when my daily uniform included black pants and all I could find were man pants and skinny jeans.

    13. Sunshine*

      Not helpful but my kids pants have internal belts in the waist band. It’s elastic and you pull it and button to better the fit. I want this feature in all my pants.

    14. Cube Farmer*

      I have actually had amazing luck with Stitch Fix! I hate clothes shopping and was matched with a great stylist.

    15. braindump*

      Are your hips big too? Also petite?

      My hips might as well be a man’s (all my bulk is in front and I can usually get by wearing men’s pants) and I’ve found Kohl’s to be great with plus size petite pants that fit.

      Not so much with the tops – I’m only a B cup but holy boob gap and arm weirdness on everything, batman.

      1. Anne of Green Gables*

        I really think that most of the people who designs women’s tops must not have boobs! I don’t understand it!

        1. Blinded By the Gaslight*

          TRUTH!! This is where even my favorite plus-size retailers fail me – chest, shoulder, arms; but if I size up for those areas, the rest of the fit is off. Being super short and short-waisted doesn’t help either.

          I’m finally accepting that some things I just need to order a size up and then have tailored so I don’t look like I’m wearing daddy’s suit. Le sigh . . .

    16. Lizard*

      Another +1 for Talbot’s and J. Jill. I’ve also had good luck with the pants at

    17. Pam Adams*

      I got nice black stretchy pants from Catherine’s. I tend to wear polos as tops- I work with students, but they look nicely dressy with a camisole and blazer.

    18. Dragonfly7*

      Hello from the more casual, less business end! I wear about the same size and am liking Lane Bryant for dresses, trousers, and dressier jeans mixed with Maurice’s for regular jeans and blouses. Surprisingly, my favorite open-front cardigans right now are from Wal-Mart.
      Thanks for asking this question! I’m making notes for myself as well.

    19. Seeking Second Childhood*

      My pandemic surprise-favorite cheap jeans just redesigned slightly and the fabric is now lighter. More office than barn. Gloria Vanderbilt Amanda 2.0.
      Pre-caffeination ramble: When I was a kid shooting up like a weed, Gloria Vanderbilt jeans were hot&trendy, and so expensive my mom refused to buy them. So it amused me to find them at BJ’s (a membership shopping club) when I was only looking to replace WFH jeans I’d just ripped doing yardwork. And they were a good enough fit I later bought shorts and the 2.0 version.

    20. Hamburke*

      My boss turned me on the Rekucci brand dress slacks. The ones I buy have a bit of shapewear built in but they are probably the most comfortable pants I own aside from lounge pants. I buy them on Amazon – they have a shop. I bought 2 sizes the first time but they fit pretty true to size.

      I struggle with shirts being a chesty girl as well. I have a handful that I like and when I find one that I like, I buy a bunch of them at the same time. I was just talking with my Catholic school friends about how I still pretty much wear a uniform – a handful of identical pants and a pile of identical except color shirts – b/c I never figured out fashion being in a plaid kilt and oxfordcloth shirt for 12 years.

  17. Pranks that have lost their appeal*

    A hand-sized novelty (plastic) cockroach has been making the rounds in my office for a while (weeks). When light hits it, the thing makes a horror-movie scream. It’s loud and annoying. Well, people have been hiding it, trying to “get” other people and scare the crap out of them. If I had to guess, I would say easily 50% of people flat-out hate the thing and want it gone. The others think it’s hilarious and roar with laughter any time they hear it go off or hear about someone falling for it. I was mildly amused by it at first (pranks are not really my thing to begin with but I also try to go with the flow on stuff like this if it’s harmless) but I assumed the novelty would wear off and it would be forgotten about by now. FWIW, a couple of the people have been genuinely frightened by it; we’re in an office of 40~ people of all ages; and we don’t have a tradition of pulling pranks around here. Am I ruining the fun if I throw the stupid thing away the next time I find it?

    1. House Tyrell*

      Nah throw it away that’s so disruptive and annoying in the office. No one even has to know it was you who threw it away probably.

    2. Elenna*

      Maybe “hide” it somewhere like your desk drawer under a pile of papers, where nobody but you will find it and it won’t be hit by light? That way, if people seem really upset that it’s gone, you can always consider “finding” it again and maybe figuring out some sort of compromise. But I strongly suspect that if it doesn’t get found for a while, people will initially assume “must be a very good hiding spot” and then just forget about it.

      1. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

        I agree. Next time you find it, hide it someplace really really out of the way — is there a basement? If anyone asks, you can honestly say it’s hidden, they just have to get better at finding it.

    3. Princess Flying Hedgehog*

      This is NOT fun for “easily 50%” of your coworkers. Make it disappear.

      Where’s your boss in this? At the very least, the boss should realize this is pretty disruptive.

    4. Lady_Lessa*

      I’d hide it under some papers or gross stuff that will be picked up and discarded the same day.

    5. Sharpieees*

      Seems like if it disappears there’s a good chance that someone will create a fuss looking for it, or will just replace it with something comparable. Just don’t give the pranksters the reaction they are looking for. If you find it, give a very subtle sigh and eyeroll and just put it down and ignore it – a combination of mild annoyance and overall disinterest. Hopefully the others who hate it will follow suit. Eventually they’ll get the hint that the “joke” has outlived it’s sell by date.

    6. Mental Lentil*

      I’d stomp on it, thinking it was a real cockroach, then pick it up and throw it in the trash. End of problem until the immature person on the other end of this comes up with something else.

    7. Pocket Mouse*

      I say toss it. At the very least, remove the batteries or disconnect the sound mechanism. If you can’t, definitely toss.

      1. KoiFeeder*

        There’s almost certainly an infographic on how to break the sound mechanism without wrecking the toy in any other way, probably on a parenting facebook post.

        1. Former Young Lady*

          My first thought was immersing it in water.

          NOT in a toilet where someone might be startled by it, of course. Though there would be a certain poetry to that approach.

    8. Mockingjay*

      Alison answered a similar letter years ago. Toss the damn thing.

      “Gee, I hid it but now I can’t remember where.”
      *Cue colleagues searching for months.

    9. Not So NewReader*

      I’d have no problem throwing that out. I go to work, to, uh, you know, WORK.

      Reality is that half of your cohorts will hate you if they find out and the other half will put up a plaque in your honor. This is how these stories go. Be discreet and ditch it in the garbage. Use an outside container if possible so that people do not hear it go off and rescue it from the can.

    10. Jean*

      This reminds me of that old AAM letter about the people who kept making sex noises whenever the OP was on the phone. Like I can see once or twice being funny, but eventually stuff like this stops being funny, and if you’re one of the people it doesn’t get old for, well…. That doesn’t say anything positive about your intellect or sense of humor. Throw it out. Anyone whose fun is “ruined” by that needs to grow up.

    11. MissCoco*

      You are absolutely not ruining the fun, but I would probably take the secret of the disappearing cockroach to my grave (or at least to whenever I leave that workplace), just to avoid the vocal cockroach enthusiasts being annoyed about it’s loss at me

    12. Former Young Lady*

      I feel for you. I worked in an office where half the staff thought noisy freak-out toys were HiLaRiOuS!!!1! and, like most invasive preferences, it annoyed the crap out of the politer half — who didn’t feel like we could say anything, because we were clearly surrounded by toddlers.

      I think disposing of it is the mature, professional thing to do, but if you’re feeling petty, you’d have my support in posting anonymous signs with its likeness, demanding a sizeable ransom for its return.

    13. SlimeKnight*

      When I was much younger and more immature I worked in a big retail store. Snakes would get in the rafters (to eat the birds), especially in the summer. One time a coworker and I bought a bunch of rubber snakes, waited for another worker to walk through the aisle next to us, then tossed them over the aisle to land on her hand. She nearly died.

      At the time I thought it was hilarious, but not I realize we were just being mean.

    14. Big 4 Denizen*

      I actually have a slight allergy to cockroaches (the chemicals they secrete make me go all stuffy-nosed), so I would scream and stomp on it to kill the chip and throw it away.

    15. RagingADHD*

      No. Someone should either smash it or throw it out.

      If someone leaves you a “gift,” then it’s yours to do with as you like. Fundamental etiquette rule.

      1. RagingADHD*

        Another etiquette rule that’s relevant is that you don’t have to attend every party or play every game that you’re invited to.

    16. Elizabeth West*

      This would be fun if it weren’t loud.

      I used to work in a lab where we would hide a six-foot cutout of Frankenstein’s monster around the office to scare each other, and also a giant plastic rat we would put in each other’s desks or on people’s lunchbox in the fridge (I still have the rat). It was all in fun and no one got hurt, although our metallurgy guy did get a little ticked when we put the Frankenstein in his darkroom and nearly made him wet his pants. But neither of these objects made any noise.

      A hand-sized bug is obviously not real, so little to no perceived threat, but loud screaming is seriously disruptive when people are trying to work. I’m on Team Hide-It-And-Forget-Where-You-Put-It. Or at least sabotage it so it can’t scream anymore.

    17. Caboose*

      My completely not realistic idea would be to take it, snap a few pictures of it on top of a piece of green paper, and then toss it. If someone starts asking where it went, edit the photo so the cockroach is in front of some world landmark, print it out, and leave it somewhere with a typed note about how much fun he’s having traveling.

    18. Chaordic One*

      Yes, you’re ruining the fun for a handful, but also making things better for a few more people, so feel free to toss it. I can’t really recall ever being in this exact position, but through the years, nearly everywhere I worked, a lot of things that were worn out and didn’t work “accidentally” fell in the trash or disappeared. The dribble pitcher from the espresso machine, the 2-holed punch that allegedly was supposed to make 3 holes, the pencil sharpener that didn’t…

  18. Don't want Covid for Christmas*

    My partner is relatively new at his job. Most employees including him are 100% remote, but they’re having an in-person indoor holiday party this year at a restaurant. Leaving aside the fact that we’re not yet comfortable eating indoors under any circumstances since that means removing masks, his supervisor is vocally anti-vax and engages in a lot of very covid-risky behaviors. So he doesn’t want to attend.

    How can he decline this party without stepping in it politically? It seems like a bad idea to give the real reason. Should he just decline and say he has a schedule conflict? Accept and then OH DARN come down with an explosive GI condition the day of the party so he has to cancel?

    It’s unclear whether this is a company where skipping the holiday party is no big deal, or a thing that Is Simply Not done. It’s a small enough company that his absence would be noticeable.

    1. Taura*

      I would say the schedule conflict is the best bet – accepting and then not showing, even with an excuse, is probably going to get him way more questions than “I’m so sorry, we made plans with my parents that evening” or something like that. I don’t really see a way for you to judge whether it’s a huge deal or not beforehand unfortunately, I think you’ll have to plan to deal with the fallout of it being a huge deal, and then be pleasantly surprised if it’s not.

    2. learnedthehardway*

      Can he say that he is not going to attend because he has relatives who are immune-compromised, and that he has to use extreme caution. A parent or grandparent would do nicely for this – it would be pretty crappy of his boss to insist he go to an in-person event if it means he can’t see his elderly mother for Christmas.

      1. Sandman*

        Somebody who is vocally opposed to the vaccination has a whole worldview around it and won’t consider this a valid reason (based on the anti-vaxxers I have to interact with on a regular basis). I think anything that references COVID is going to be politically risky.

      2. Ashley*

        If they weren’t an anti-vaxxer I would say this might be fine, but this can even lead to more discussion then you want with some groups. I use this phrasing on more middle of the road COVID people. Hardcore I don’t even let is be a discussion point.
        A schedule conflict can be super helpful. (Use sickness if there is major pressure to attend or change your plans.)

    3. ferrina*

      Both the schedule conflict and the explosive GI are reliable routes, so I’d go with what feels best to your partner. Usually I’d recommend the schedule conflict, but if that feels politically dangerous, the GI route is fine.

      I’d also recommend that your partner reach out to a work friend that is not his supervisor and ask about the party- what is it, who gets really in to it, etc. That will give him a better sense of the politics at play.

    4. Big 4 Denizen*

      Prior engagement that you agreed to months ago (e.g., before they started at the company). If anyone is super-nosy, they can say they’re disappointed to not attend but they can get the highlights on Monday/next business day.

    5. Chauncy Gardener*

      I would accept and then be “sick” unexpectedly. But he could be feeling slightly unwell the day before…

    6. LKW*

      Scheduling conflict and if need be, you can be the person who takes the hit to save your partner.
      “Oh, I forgot to mention, I checked withy my partner and we’ve committed to something else that day/evening. Maybe next year calendars will align better.”

      And “We committed to this even before I started working here, maybe next year!”

    7. RagingADHD*

      Thanks, but the holidays are crazy! Everyone wants to get together…sorry I can’t make it!

  19. L. Ron Jeremy*

    I was on disability for 6 months prior to quitting my final job and plan to start my social security claim for retirement benefits soon.

    Is my last day of work my final day on disability or 6 months prior? I know they will ask and I’m unsure what is the correct answer.


    1. not a doctor*

      I had to quit a previous job after exhausting both STD and LTD and on my resume I list the day we officially parted ways — BUT since this is for the feds, I agree with “call and check.”

    2. Monty & Millie's Mom*

      Definitely call to clarify. I work for my state unemployment and when we ask for last day of work, we mean “last day you actually did work for the company”, even if your separation date was different. But also, government’s not consistent (shocker!), so it’s going to be worth it to check.

    3. Cj*

      If you are at retirement age and filing for retirement benefits with Social Security, and not disability benefits, I’m not sure it’s that important. You are eligible for retirement benefits at your specified age whether you last worked a month ago or 30 years ago.

      The only reason I can think of that it might matter is if they are wondering if you will have social security paid in for you for the current year that would affect your benefits.

  20. Elenna*

    Super low-stakes question: how do y’all indicate agreement or acknowledgement in long text conversations? (e.g. skype or webex messaging.) There’s only so many times I can repeat “yeah” “ok” “I agree” before feeling like a broken record.
    Also, if my boss is giving me a long set of instructions, often I don’t have any comment beyond “ok” or “sure”, but if I keep just responding with “ok” I worry that it looks like I’m just nodding along and not paying attention. Probably I’m overthinking this.

    1. Kimmy Schmidt*

      Is there a reason you need to keep punctuating the instructions as they’re being given? Can your boss give you the full instructions or message, and then you reply to the full thing? If it’s an ongoing conversation, do you need to say ok? Can you like the message instead, or just chime in sparingly? I also find it helps to switch up the way I say sure. “I’ll get right on that”, “No questions at this time, but I’ll let you know”, “Sounds like a plan”, etc.

    2. Coenobita*

      Does your platform allow for a thumbs-up or similar reaction? We use Teams and I lean on the thumbs-up feature in cases like that.

    3. fueled by coffee*

      This sounds like overthinking, but if there’s a long list of instructions, I’d wait until the end before responding with one overall “Okay, will do!” (or whatever). For smaller scale things or individual items that require acknowledgement from you, you can probably intersperse some “That makes sense.” “Sounds like a plan.” “Got it.” to vary up the language a little. Otherwise, restating the instructions back to them (“check the accounts for Project X, write report Y, and call client Z – got it!”

    4. Daffodilly*

      Sometimes I ask clarifying questions even if not needed. Or summarize at the end.
      But yes, probably overthinking it.

    5. James*

      I had a boss ask me about this once. He’d send me texts that were quite obviously orders–“Do X, Y, and Z”. I’d send him a text when I was done. He called once and asked if that’s what I was doing, because he wasn’t clear. Once we got on the same page, everything was smooth.

      As an aside, I DETEST this as a way of giving out instructions. Unless it’s someone I’m VERY comfortable with, and a relationship that’s firmly established, I won’t do it. Email is better. It forces you to think about what you’re asking people to do, and provide some structure to the instructions. Text are stream-of-consciousness, which is the opposite of what you want when giving instructions.

      One thing I’ve found helps: Send an email summarizing the conversation. “Per our discussion, I will be focusing on the teacup painting project moving forward, specifically ordering supplies and scheduling staff. Is there anything else I need to add to this list?” This does a few things. First, it shows you were listening and got everything. Second, it gives both you and the boss a chance to correct any errors in how the two of you view the project. Third, it gives you a written record you can check to make sure you’re doing what you said you’d do. And if you’re not comfortable sending something in email, it’s probably your brain telling you that something’s not quite right–it’s a good gut-check of what’s going on.

      1. Happy Lurker*

        +1 James for following up via email. My first reaction to your situation was that I would HATE for my boss to send me directions via text. The details get lost in the shuffle of all the texts!
        I would direct boss back to email at every interaction, if possible.
        Also, there is a really good chance I would start responding Yas Queen and put myself in a bad situation. That is how much I dislike text for work. Good luck!

    6. Anonymous Pygmy Possum*

      “Sounds good” and “Alright” are my main go-tos and are basically the same thing as “Okay” and “Sure”. “Got it” is also good.

    7. Not So NewReader*

      You are over thinking it. In the example of lengthy instructions all you are doing is following along, so saying OK, Sure, Will do, etc is perfectly fine. All you need to do is let the boss know you hear and understand.

    8. MissCoco*

      Thumbs up/check mark/smiley face emoji if that feature’s available, so they know I’ve seen it, especially if it’s a pretty basic task.

      If there’s anything unclear, I will send a quick clarifying text, or summarize what I’m going to do

      Otherwise I cycle through: “sounds good,” “will do,” “I’ll let you know when I’m done/if any issues come up/give you an update on x date”

    9. EmKay*

      “I’m on it”
      “okey dokey” (not for everyone, I realise)
      “sure thing”
      “I’ve added this to my to-do list”

    10. Purple Penguin*

      I’d wait longer before replying – quick response to the first one to acknowledge is fine (hey, can you help with the X account? “Sure, I’m free”) but then let it sit for a little while. (great I need you to do thing.) In computer chat there’s the three-dots “person is typing” and I never reply while that’s up. (and be sure the other thing is red) So click the thumbs-up to acknowledge but just wait a minute, (Fergus has the files you’ll need) go ahead and get started if necessary, ping Fergus and get on it, but don’t reply if it’s not a complete thought from the boss yet. Then when you have an update, give it “ok, Fergus sent me a link and I’ll check that it’s red and send it by 2”. And when you’re all the way done, give the status update “We’re all set, Jane has the updated X account files now” If you put something in chat to acknowledge the end of one set of instructions, that can also help separate conversations so that yesterday’s requests (thing? ok) don’t blend in with this morning’s requests (thing? ok will do) of this afternoon’s (thing? ok). It’ll still be monotonous, but maybe think of clicking the thumbs up for “ok acknowledged” and then reply actual text “ok, done” when a task is complete. Makes a better log of the to-do list anyway.

    11. KR*

      10-4, Copy, Understood, Got It, Sounds good, I’ll take care of it, Sounds like a plan, thumbs up emoji if your boss is that casual. My husbands job communicates through group chat a lot and they like the message to indicate they saw it so they don’t have 10 different messages that say “Rah” or “Aye”

  21. Anon for this*

    Interview help at mid-career to advanced levels in large orgs.

    Once I get past HR, I am great at interviews when i have a single interview or the first round of multiple interviews. My issue is that when I have multiple rounds, I can’t seem to get anywhere.

    Are there any tips for multiple round interviews vs single rounds? Not sure if I’m repeating my examples too much, if the interviewers compare notes before or after?

    1. Not Today Satan*

      I hate this as a candidate too, but on the hiring side I’d say repeat as necessary. Especially if you had a compelling example you shared in an early round, there is almost zero chance the person you spoke with relayed your example to the other folks.

    2. ferrina*

      I have a suspicion that the multi-round interview orgs may have less organized hiring practices. This depends on the position your applying to, but if some places do a single round and others are doing multiple rounds, that’s rather interesting.

      I’d go in assuming that the person that you are talking to hasn’t heard every example that you previously gave. Observe the non-verbal cues as you are repeating information- if they seem to get bored, you can pause and say “I realize that this is the same example I gave at an earlier interview- please stop me if you’ve heard this and I can provide another example!” Usually examples will naturally vary somewhat because the interview questions should vary. That is the point of multiple rounds of interviews. If you find the questions are the exact same, that’s a reflection on their hiring practices. You can even gently point it out- smile and say “that’s so funny! Sylvia asked me that same question in the previous interview!”

    3. Ali G*

      I’ve done hiring where staff meet with a number of people individually, which I think you are describing. We are definitely not comparing answers to questions with each other. So if you have one strong answer for a question and happen to get asked it more than once, you should still use it.
      What we are each evaluating individually are: do they have the skills needed to do the job (we are probably each looking at different skills), do they seem to have a good understanding of what we need and how that relates to their skills/interests, will they be a good coworker, red flags.
      We meet after all the interviews are completed and rank each candidate and discuss where we are dissimilar (this is more important to discuss than why everyone liked Jane) and why. Then we make recommendations for who to move to the next step.

    4. taylor swift*

      If I’m using the same examples, I usually say, “I was having this conversation with Mary earlier, and we talked about XYZ” which explains why you are using the same example, and also I think allows you to use any insights you may have gained from the previous conversation to make your answer even better.

    5. Product Person*

      Repetition is unlikely to be the problem because I interviewed a lot over the years and typically get multiple offers each time despite repeating myself in all rounds.

      My interviews are always with multiple rounds and I use the exact same example with each person. Ask me what project I’m most proud of, it’s X, no matter how many people ask. Ask me why I want to work in their company, same. Sometimes I feel like I said the same thing 4 times! Never had trouble getting offers because of that, so I think this particular issue you can cross off your list…

  22. Serious Pillowfight*

    I’m looking to change careers and need some advice. I work full-time in a traditionally low-paying industry fraught with issues (News). I have part-time work in the industry I’d like to enter full-time (Higher education). I am looking for a substantial salary bump but want to keep my expectations realistic. Please correct me if my hopes are too out-there.

    I am hoping to make six figures but would be good with a salary of at least $70-$80K. I would rather not manage anyone or have to deal with pressure like enrollment quotas or other things where my job would be on the line if students don’t do something I can’t force them to do (enroll, come to class, meet with me, whatever). Obviously I do want to work with students, though. I am looking at a private college but am open to working at a community college.

    Are my hopes realistic? What kinds of jobs exist in higher ed that I could try for according to those in the scene? Can anyone tell me about differences between private versus community colleges?

    1. Rainy*

      Six figures in higher ed at least in my experience is director-level stuff: Directors of service-side departments, AVCs, etc. There’s a university in my state currently looking for an associate director position in an admin department planning to pay about $55k, in a very high cost of living area.

    2. Anne of Green Gables*

      I work at a community college. I’m not faculty but am considered professional staff (meaning I am required to have an advanced degree for my job). The salaries in my department are lower at the community college than my counterparts in other organizations. Additionally, I count as a state employee so raises are done through the state legislature, and I am in a state where the legislature cannot pass a budget, so we haven’t seen a raise in several years.

      Community Colleges (and higher ed in general) was hit pretty hard by the pandemic. There are jobs open, but you aren’t going to get everything on your wish list.

    3. Forkeater*

      Most higher ed institutions have a communications department- that might be a good bridge? I’ve been in higher ed in the northeast for 20 years and I’d say six figure salaries are pretty rare, here, and I’ve worked for some big name schools.

    4. Not really a Waitress*

      Salary is going to differ based on what you teach or do, not just the type of college. For example, I was at an instructor level )(Contract, not tenure track) in a College of Business and made about $70,000. My sister applied for a tenure track position at the same University, in their school of communication and it started at $45,000. State and Public universities are considered state employees and salary information is considered public information. Depending on your state , this info is easier to access than others.

    5. A Beth*

      I’ve been in higher ed for 12 years and I’m still not even at $60K — mostly in academic support roles (working first with faculty, then with students).

      You might check out the Chronicle of Higher Education, specifically the Data tag, to see what kind of salaries and roles are available for someone with your skillset.

      1. pancakes*

        Yes. Inside Higher Ed is another publication to start reading. I don’t think it’s realistic to expect six figures unless you expect to be hired as a college president.

    6. Oreo*

      I’ve been in higher ed for 10+ years. My experience as well is that six figures is more common around higher level positions like Directors, Assistant Directors, Deans and usually some highly specialized positions. I’m in CA in HR and only some of the managers make $100k+ Everyone else is pretty spread between $50k-$80k depending. Student advisor positions can range from $21-$26/hr depending on the department. For me personally I know I could be making more elsewhere in my field but I really like my benefits I get through the university. Best of luck!

    7. Esmeralda*

      Six figures in higher ed? Yeah, you’re going to be dealing with pressure. That’s what the six figures is for.

      You want to earn 6 figs in higher ed: chancellor, president, provost, director, dean, full professor in many subjects, associate prof in some other subjects (however, lots of full profs are not making 6 figures); lawyer, doctor, coach of revenue-generating sport.

      1. Lives In a Shoe*

        I don’t know. . . I work for the administrative body of a large state university system as an analyst. All of my colleagues at the same level make very low six figures. In our system, “analyst” is the golden ticket job – you can get sidelined if you start as an administrative person, like an assistant. My first “analyst” position was barely above receptionist/writer, and I started at like $60k.

        1. Esmeralda*

          Ah, you’re working for the system office, not at one of the constituent schools. Yep, more money there.

          Possibly also a state that funds higher ed well. Rather than one of the states where the legislature sees state employees, and especially university employees, as lazy incompetents sucking at the public tit. And/or where the legislature tries to play K-12 against the uni system, and everyone against the community college system.

    8. Anona*

      This is going to depend on your area and position level.

      I work in higher ed and make about $60K. I’m an assistant director. I have a master’s degree, and work in administration, and supervise a few people. I’ve seen some faculty member salaries that are over 100K, but that’s usually if they’re a professor in a hot field, like Computer Science or Business. Other fields, even professors make a lot less.

      Making 100K as a staff member is rarer — you need to definitely be a director level or higher, but often something higher than that, maybe head of a larger-sized unit (20 people or so).

      1. Anona*

        And my assumption is that community college salaries will be much lower, but I don’t have direct experience with that. I’m at a public university that’s not in a major metropolitan area.
        I agree with others’ suggestions on looking at publicly accessible salary information. Many states publish state employee salaries– in ours, local newspapers publish the data online. That should give you a more realistic take on salary expectations.

    9. Pippa K*

      It sounds like you’re hoping to work as an instructor (rather than in administration)? If so, I think you’ll likely find that your salary hopes are not realistic. Starting salaries for tenure-track jobs in my field, for people with PhDs, are well below the six figure mark, and non-tenure-track full time jobs pay less than that, although even most non-tenure track jobs require a PhD at my institution. And community college positions tend to pay less than 4-year colleges.

      Not sure why it’s private and community colleges that are your particular focus, but you’ll probably find that a relevant difference is public and private 4-year colleges versus community colleges. Community colleges are less likely to require a PhD for instructional jobs. Are you hoping to work in the field of journalism or do you have an advanced degree in something else? Field matters a lot, too, in terms of job availability, requirements, and salary. Hope this helps; good luck with the further career-change research.

    10. Academic Anon*

      Not my area in academia, but you might want to gut check salaries and find jobs through a website called higheredjobs dot com. They have an area for Communications, Marketing and Public Affairs that would fit your background. You can filter by type of college and/or by location.

      A community college is one that focuses on the first two years of a college degree (granting Associate’s degrees) and depending on the state, may have arrangements for automatic transfer to four year colleges for the student to complete the last two years towards a bachelor’s degree. They can interact with local government.

      For example, my county pays the tuition for any student from this county with a B grade point average to the local community college. A friend’s child is planning on going to the community college for the first two years, get her associate’s and then use the automatic transfer to the local university to get her bachelor’s.

      Private colleges are not associated with any level of government and can have different focus points. Some are focused on specific subjects, some are religious affiliated, and some are profit focused. As private entities, they do not have to reveal their finances, so you have to dig in to make sure that they are stable. You can search the Chronicle of Higher Education and Inside Higher Ed to see if there is any dirt leaking about the one you are interested in currently. An article from Inside Higher Ed from Aug. 2, 2021 discusses that the overall decline in institutions of higher education for the last three years is 8.7%, but private for-profit 4-year institutions have declined by 31.3% and for-profit 2-year institutions have declined 29.1%. Nonprofit ones have declined at a much lower rate of 2.1% and 12.6% respectively. Don’t want to discourage you, but you do have to investigate so you don’t go from the uncertainty of journalism to the uncertainty of higher education.

    11. Unladen European Swallow*

      You didn’t outline what it is that you’d like TO DO. Do you want it to be related to news/journalism? You only vaguely mention that you’d like to “work with students.” I’m not sure what that means. Do you mean directly working with students or work that benefits students, even if you’re not directly servicing them.

      I agree with others to expect salaries in higher ed to be depressed compared to similar roles in businesses. A $70-80k salary would be considered quite high, depending on the size of your institution, the local cost of living, and whether or not there are other institutions in the area. I’ve seen plenty of Director level roles advertised with that as their salary. To hit six figures in a non-Director/Dean role, you’ll need to look at very well known, R1 universities on the coasts.

    12. Serious Pillowfight*

      Thank you for all the comments and advice, everyone! To clarify a few things: I figured six figures might be a reach working at a college. However, someone else I know left our industry and got a job editing one of an Ivy League’s publications and was offered almost $90K. Someone else left to work at that same Ivy League school and is making around that as some kind of events coordinator or marketing manager. That school likely isn’t an option for me as the commute would be too far for me.

      I am interested in any type of higher ed institution. Didn’t mean to leave out 4-year public schools! I have an MFA and am currently adjuncting as a writing teacher. I might have an opportunity to apply as an academic advisor but wasn’t sure what to expect as far as salary. I honestly don’t know if it would be like $30K a year or $60K or something else. At the moment I’m around $55K with BOTH my full-time job in news AND adjuncting, so if a full-time job at the college would be less than that, I’d need to keep looking since the goal is to leave news altogether. Ideally I’d love to teach full-time, but there aren’t many openings for that at my school.

      I was confused because the community colleges in my area pay adjuncts twice as much as my current private 4-year school pays, but it seems like the full-time jobs pay more at the private school than the community colleges.

      1. Serious Pillowfight*

        And my other fear with advising–will I have to deal with parents (assuming students sign the FERPA waiver)? Will my job be on the line if too many of my students happen to drop out or don’t do well in their classes? That’s what I meant by not wanting the pressure of getting spoken to or written up or whatever if my students don’t do something I can’t force them to do.

        1. Rainy*

          Advisors do sometimes end up with parents in on the call or calling in or contacting them separately. Not sure about academic advising’s performance metrics but that’s a question you could ask in an interview for sure.

          As for salaries in advising, I’ve seen as low as 28 and as high as 50 for academic advising, depending on institution, location, specific type of advising role etc. I’ve rarely seen anywhere paying more, although I’m sure it happens.

          1. JelloStapler*

            No we’re not on the hook for that, there is still SOME expected accountibility on the students side.

        2. Udel*

          I work in an advising adjacent part of higher Ed, international student advising. My understanding of academic advising is that you’re typically a resource for a lot of students. You’re not expected to make X% pass- because honestly, I’m not sure how that would work. You’re more there to make sure they have info that they need about graduation requirements and choosing a major. In most higher ed positions I doubt there would be retention requirements where you’re worried about losing your job. Job insecurity would more come from things like budget cuts (which have definitely been more prevalent in the pandemic).

          In my role and some other student facing roles I’ve held I’ve had some parent interactions. Usually we try to emphasize privacy stuff and that we really can’t tell them specifics. Some are pushier than others.

      2. Blinded By the Gaslight*

        I’ve worked for community colleges, a state university, and a private university. The community college paid more than the state university at that time and (adjusting for inflation) ALSO more than the private university for the same work.

        I enjoyed the community college the most: I connected best with that student population, and the other staff and faculty had real passion for the students – many of them working poor, or working adults trying to improve their lives. Other staff and faculty at the community college were also friendlier.

        At the state university (part of large, well-respected system) and the private university, many of the faculty and administrators were a bunch of high-falutin’ prima donnas who cared more about their pet projects and research than their classroom work. Definitely dig into the cultures of the places you apply – visit if you can, talk to staff (seriously, “mystery shop” departments) and observe whether people seem happy or not.

      3. Anonymous, colleagues who read here will recognize it*

        Ivies and other well-endowed private institutions will pay better.

        Academic advisors do not make 6 figures. Take a look at NACADA (national advising association). There are some academic advising groups on LinkedIn too. Pay will depend on the institution and sometimes the unit within the institution. Entry level academic advisors (which is what you would be, as your teaching experience is a plus but does NOT count as advising experience) at the large state uni where I am a top level advisor make somewhere in the 40s. You need at least five years experience to make more than that. If you move into a director position — those folks make around 80, some make more depending on the size of the unit and the wealth of the department it’s in.

        I make 60, that’s because I stepped down from the administrative track for family reasons some years ago. (My spouse is a tenured full prof at the same university, and earns in the 90s in a humanities field.)

        I’ve led several hiring committees for academic advising positions. Typically we get over 100 applications for every position. We interviewed five people the last one I did, four of them were stellar (one was a gigantic blowhole, noped that one). Entry level position, we hired someone who was a step above that *because we could*.

        Sorry if that’s discouraging — I do think you want to go into it well-informed. I personally think that candidates with a different background, like yours, who also have college-level experience are a real asset. Many advising programs do not though. Do some info interviews so that you can write a good resume and a compelling cover letter — that’s the way to cut through the barrier of “masters degree in higher ed admin, counselor education, or related fields”. And have some actual advising experience — you might volunteer to do that at your current school, see what kind of program they have for faculty to advise say first year students or first gen students.

    13. Blinded By the Gaslight*

      Consider looking at Executive Assistant or Department Administrative Assistant jobs – basically advanced-level secretary. You’ll make a great salary, and you likely won’t be taking the job home with you. I spent 20 years working in academia, from student employee all the way up to a department manager supervising a team of staff and students. I made $60K as a manager at a private university, and the stress of that job RUINED me (it’s been almost 2 years since I left, and I’m still recovering).

      Now I’m basically a secretary, and I not only make $10K more than I did as a manager, but this job never follows me home even though I have more work than I know what to do with. I’m so mad at myself for wasting most of my adult working life trying to build a life in academia and afford to live and not have a heart attack, when all this damn time I could have been a well-paid, relaxed administrative assistant.

      Pro tip: if the college refuses to show or explain their pay bands or salary ranges, but insists that they’re comparable to the market, ABORT MISSION. The private college I worked for kept people squeezed in the middle of extremely low-paying salary ranges, offered paltry merit increases of less than 3% (you were LUCKY if you even got three, most people were getting 1.5%), and they had NO COLAs. Also, private colleges often aren’t unionized, so they have even less incentive to pay people appropriately.

      1. Serious Pillowfight*

        Thank you! I have a tentative in at a community college nearby. They offered me a class as an adjunct but it was canceled due to low enrollment. I reached back out recently to try to make sure I’m still on their radar for spring but haven’t heard back. It’s only been a few days, though. I also did apply to a full-time teaching job at that same community college but it’s been almost two months and I haven’t heard anything. The school is going through some major changes, so that could be why.

        1. Anona*

          The higher ed hiring timeline also takes foreverrrr. For context, we posted a position for our department in mid July, did phone interviews in August, in person interviews in September, and then the person we selected is starting in November. For all of the positions we’ve hired for in the past there have also typically been a ton of candidates. This time I think there were “only” 40 or so, which actually seemed low to me. Not sure how different it is for instructor positions.

          1. Blinded By the Gaslight*

            Totally agree. I never saw or experienced a recruitment in academia that took less than two months. Also, Serious P., do some research/digging on how adjuncts get paid and are treated at the institutions where you’re applying. Usually, adjuncts are not paid very well and don’t get very much support. That’s why faculty are always after FT and/or tenured positions, because adjuncting is hell. I have so many teacher friends who had to cobble together some type of livable wage by working adjunct jobs at multiple colleges, sometimes driving two-plus hours from one college to another for their classes. Their quality of life was non-existent until they landed FT contracts.

            Unless you have a bedrock passion for teaching college, there are easier ways to make your money in academia.

            1. pancakes*

              Yes. Adjuncts have been called “the fast food workers of the academic world.” There has been a lot of coverage of this in recent years, but evidently there needs to be more. I’ll link to an article in a separate reply.

      2. Anonymous, colleagues who read here will recognize it*

        Yes, good secretaries / admins are gold. We just lost one (who was willing to work for our stinking salary if we’d treated her better = reasonable amounts of work not the crap ton that was piled on her, professional development opportunities, allowed some flexibility in hours) to another dept on campus that’s offered her a third again as much as we do. In fact, she had several offers.

    14. JelloStapler*

      Higher Education can be very difficult to get that high unless you’re an Exec Director or Dean in a large successful university. To be honest, Higher Ed is also a low paying job fraught with issues, just different ones.

    15. Marketing Middle Manager*

      I work in the marketing department at a company that sells to colleges, and a lot of my colleagues are ex-journalists, so I have a perspective on many angles here. Straight talk: If you want to make more money, reduce your stress, work reasonable hours, and have better job security–do not go into higher education. As someone else said, it is also a low-paying industry fraught with issues–you will be jumping from the frying pan into the fire.

      Instead, I would highly recommend looking into marketing. We have ex-journalists working in content marketing, product marketing, and PR/communications, so try googling those job titles to see if they interest you. If you’re working in news but not a journalist, there are also more administrative positions, with titles like marketing coordinator/strategist/operations. If you work for a company/nonprofit where your audience is higher education, you will still feel a connection to the industry and can still feel a sense of mission. You can make $60K as an entry-level marketer in any of the fields I just listed–and you could probably come in higher than that depending on how much transferrable experience you have. It’s a very 9-5 job with few evening/weekend hours and very low stress. It’s a growing, exciting field with pretty solid job security (especially at an established, but still growing company). You can tell I love my job, but in particular I think it’s a great landing spot for ex-journalists and I always encourage people to take a look at it when they want to escape journalism.

  23. Fintech*

    Been back in the office 3 weeks. Other than constantly forgetting my badge, it’s been ok. Even though all my coworkers are remote across the USA.
    But the company is now telling different teams (not mine – yet) they have 1-2 weeks to decide if they will relocate to a ‘hub’ office in major eastern metro area or train their replacements in the next 2 years. Eventually no WFH for anyone. My site is small and the only reason it hasn’t been shut down is we own, not rent the property.
    Other than max out any PTO buckets which won’t pay out, use all medical/dental benefits I can now, strengthen resume and networking, and take advantage of all the internal recorded trainings to strengthen different skills, what should I be prepping and thinking of? My skills are in a specific software only provided by this company, so unless I can carve a position with a client who uses it, I will have to change what I do and possibly industries. If it matters, I’m 53, and carry insurance for me and spouse if that matters.
    Thanks in advance peeps, I’m not at a freak out point yet, but want to be prepped for when the day comes.

    1. Colette*

      I’m assuming you’re not going to move.

      – Money – figure out what expenses you can cut, and get rid of the stuff you don’t need. Focus on saving money where you can. Don’t necessarily cut expenses to the bone, but know what a bare bones budget would look like and what money you’d need.
      – Start talking to people you know. Ask what kinds of jobs could use your skills, ask about their companies and what a day in the life is like, ask for resume help. Let them know you expect to be looking soon.
      – Start checking the job postings, and see what companies are looking for.

    2. not a doctor*

      Figure out transferrable skills and start researching related software you could easily retrain on, e.g. if you currently work for SAP, look into Salesforce. Or, yes, look into jobs that handle the software on the client side. We have someone at my job who used to work for one of the major tools we use, and even though her role doesn’t have much to do with that tool, she’s been a HUGE help for us.

  24. Not Victoria*

    Suggested responses when people call you by the name of the only other person of your ethnicity at your workplace: Go!

    (This happened for years at a past workplace and I’m salty now that it’s come up again. I’ve let it slide so far, but I don’t think people realize that they’re even doing it so I’ve decided I’m going to start interjecting “MyName.” in as neutral a tone as I can muster.)

      1. HerdingCatsWouldBeEasier*

        What do you need (name of person in workplace who is the same race but looks most different from them)?

        1. Moira Rose*

          I can’t recommend this. Instead, maybe something like, “Oh, you’re thinking of Dawn in Accounting. I’m Sonya, from IT.”

      2. pancakes*

        I was trying to remember where I read a good editorial about this by a frustrated Asian woman, and finally found it was in the Washington Post a few years ago, by Michelle Ye Hee Lee, titled “She’s Asian and female. But she’s not me.” She found some satisfaction in putting a “NOT AMY” sign on her desk, but sadly even that didn’t reliably work!

    1. California Dreamin’*

      It hasn’t happened to me based on ethnicity, but gender (I’m a female in a male-dominated industry). I’ve handled it different ways at different points in my career and with different people (peers, grand boss, business partners, etc.).
      With peers, I just call them out. Usually, something like, there’s only two of us, it can’t be that hard to get our names wrong. I might interject humor and call them by another males names.
      Grand boss, just matter of fact. Oh, I’m actually California. NotVictoria works on this other project. Depending on level, I may leave the second part out.
      Business partners, I just say, actually I’m California.

      1. Albeira Dawn*

        Same thing would happen to me and the other white girl with a pixie cut in college. Usually from professors one of us had already had. My technique was usually to tilt my head really obviously, look confused, and say “Me? I’m Albeira.”

        Sometimes it was first-years, though, who had met one or both of us at orientation and didn’t know anyone yet. So then I’d go “Oh, nope, I’m Albeira, the basket-weaving major, Cordelia’s the scuba diver!” and smile so they wouldn’t be too embarrassed. But that’s without the underpinnings of racism.

    2. learnedthehardway*

      I would just correct the person. People call me by the wrong name all the time – even when I’ve emailed using my name, I get replies back to names-adjacent-to-mine.

      I would assume incompetence rather than bias.

      Some people are face-blind, as well – they may be doing the best they can.

      1. pancakes*

        Agree on just correcting the person, but I would think people with face blindness are likely to have tips and tricks to avoid calling people by the wrong name, such as not guessing at someone’s name.

        1. KoiFeeder*

          Yeah, if I don’t know someone’s name reliably, I do not guess at it.

          But also, the good old “I’m sorry, I’ve completely lost your name. It’s my fault, I’d forget my own name too if it wasn’t on my driver’s license.” has saved my bacon more than once. Also the occasional joke about tattooing my full name on my arm so I don’t forget it.

      2. Anonomatopoeia*

        Beyond general face-blindness, studies have shown that people have a harder time with cross-racial identification of faces. That’s not an excuse, but it is a reality.

        Incidentally, it’s one of the many reasons that eyewitnesses can be problematic in criminal cases.

    3. Storm in a teacup*

      In the past I’ve been quite passive about this but you know what? Since 2020 I’ve realised why should I put up with what is a micro aggression?
      So I’ve called it out a couple of times:
      Once by calling the person by the name of another colleague with the same accent as them. Everyone laughed but it didn’t stop it happening.
      Second time by jokingly saying ‘oh no that’s the other brown person not me’.
      It hasn’t happened since

    4. JimmyJab*

      I don’t know if you would feel comfortable doing this, but I had a coworker/friend who would say, “oh, you’re looking for the other one, [name], she sits over there.”

    5. Former Young Lady*

      On a first offense, I’ve been known to look over my shoulder, look back at the asker, and say, “Nope, she’s not here. My name is Blablabla. Anything I can help you with?”

      Upon a subsequent offense, there are choices, which vary in severity:

      – Address the person by name (to show that I’ve bothered to learn their name, and it wasn’t that hard), and remind them gently that I’m not Susan. “If you’re looking for her, she’s in the Teapot Department.”
      – Smile blankly, like I don’t recognize them either. “Oh, actually, I’m Blablabla. Remind me who you are?”
      – Use with an abundance of caution: “Huh? I thought YOU were Susan.”

      (Major caveat: I’m a white woman, and apparently a rather generic-looking one. I’ve been mistaken for other female colleagues, regardless of age, hair color, body type, and in at least one case, ethnicity, throughout my working life. I’ve even been arrested in a case of mistaken identity. I can only IMAGINE how much more of this nonsense you’ve had to put up with, and I am so sorry.)

      1. Cj*

        The thing is, your experience shows that it’s not always racial, so I don’t think the OP or anybody else this happens to can know that it absolutely is.

        Does it look like is? Sure.

        1. Former Young Lady*

          Kindly: I hope you won’t mistake my lived experience as some sort of “proof” that racism isn’t in play for NotVictoria.

          It’s a safe bet that, when it’s specifically happening to the only two Asians in a given workplace, race is a factor.

        2. Not Victoria*

          I’m going to pick on you here: Does it matter? What I said was that colleagues are mistaking me for another coworker of my race. This is a fact. I asked how to respond to them, not how I can read their minds and figure out whether their intentions are pure. If you don’t think it’s about race, feel free to suggest responses that don’t mention race. The person you are responding to suggested three.

    6. Napkin Thief*

      Ugh! Been through this so much. Depending on the rapport level/client vs coworker/number of offenses from that particular person/my personal bandwidth that day, I have used the following:

      “You mean Napkin Thief?”
      “Oh, I’m Napkin Thief. Maxine is a CSR.”
      “Oh no, I’m other one.”
      “We don’t look THAT much alike.”
      *Silence, head slightly tilted to the side, look of vague confusion OR incredulity* …if they don’t self-correct, “I’m Napkin Thief.”

      I think your idea is the best for non-confrontational correction. Good luck!

    7. Chilipepper attitude*

      Personally I’m pretty face blind so I have mixed up names like that. Here is the thing tho; after the first time I called someone the wrong name in a situation where race was a factor, I changed how I manage myself. I know I am face blind and that I use height, clothing, walk patterns, and yes, skin color, to help me. But I make darn sure that I know who the person is before I use their name and if I cannot pull their name up, I say so! I am very uncomfortable saying that I don’t recognize them or their name but I know that its my discomfort to feel and I don’t get to put it on others by misnaming them.

      I am not a POC so I don’t have specific advice. I am sorry that is happening.

    8. Not So NewReader*

      My ex-boss used to mix me up with another woman. The part that bothered us was how did he write evals????

      Anyway. I went with:

      “Today, I will be going by Not So New.” (said with a soft smile)

      “Not So New is my name today, I can try to be Other Person, but I don’t think it will go well.”

      “I’m Not So New, Other Person has much longer hair than I do.” (or other attribute such as “Other Person is the numbers expert”).

      For me the key was to say each time. Say it kindly, but SAY IT. People are very good at hiding embarrassment and it is okay if your mis-namer is a little embarrassed. It gives them incentive to get your name correct.

      It’s also helpful if you can get the Other Person on board with the idea of gentle corrections. This will help to shorten the time it takes to make a difference here.

    9. SnappinTerrapin*

      Speaking as one who has trouble with names and faces, it would be helpful if you correct me.

      Frankly, I will be even more embarrassed because of the reasonable perception of racial insensitivity, but it is important to me that I show you the respect of learning your name. Please don’t let me think I got it right when I didn’t.

      I try to overcome my weakness for names and faces, but letting me repeat the mistake is not good for our working relationship. I’ll own the embarrassment of my mistake and try harder.

      On a side note, I sometimes call the wrong name when I am thinking of the other person. That’s embarrassing, regardless of who is involved.

  25. Rey*

    I originally started with this office seven years ago in a secretary position, but have been promoted since then to focus on software stuff and I recently graduate with my master’s (which I was told I needed to be considered for future promotions). I was recently turned down for a promotion in favor of an external candidate who already does that role. I want to talk to my boss about if I have a future here, or if being turned down is a sign that I’ve progressed as far as I can here. In my view, if nothing changes, my application for future promotions will still have the same weakness (not having the exact experience in the role) so I still wouldn’t be competitive with other applicants. But I’m concerned that this opens the door to taking on higher level work without any change to my pay. Am I thinking about this right? How do you mentor employees to be prepared for future roles? What should I be asking my boss for at this juncture?

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      Does your employer have a track record of “promoting” people into higher level work without actually promoting them? If not, I’d ask your boss what you need to do in order to qualify for a promotion, and if they can help you get that experience.

    2. ferrina*

      I can’t tell if you have work experience in what you would have done in Promotion Role or not. It’s pretty common to get a Masters but still be turned down in favor of someone with experience. In that case, I’d look for opportunities to get experience- assisting on projects until you get good enough to lead them, etc. This is something you can ask your boss about, and they can help shuffle responsibilities and find opportunities. This is a common way to get experience- be available, volunteer and (of course) be wonderful to work with. Be friendly and ready to help.

      However, if 3-6 months go by (varies based on industry) and you aren’t being given even small opportunities to help, they may not be interested in having you get that experience. That’s a choice on their part not to invest in your development, and it definitely makes sense to start looking for a company that is willing to do that.

      You mentioned that you are worried about higher work level without change to pay, but that doesn’t sound like you’re currently in that situation (correct?). That’s more of when you are already doing 80% of Promotion Role- it sounds like you are still at the training phase. Get the training first, and if you later find that you are doing the higher work without higher pay, that’s the time to leave. It will be much, much easier to leave and find a higher paying job when you have the accomplishments of the job to point to (instead of asking to be given experience)

  26. Lots of Interviews but No Offer*

    When I started searching in the summer I got a lot of interviews immediately. I thought, between the job market becoming better for workers and my increased experience/skillset, this would be a much easier job search than my previous ones. But… no offer. Obviously not all of them ended up being perfect fits, but at least some of them seemed like great fits and the interviews went well. I’m pretty sure I’m not blowing the interviews. Has this been anyone else’s experience lately?

    My one “it might be my interviewing” doubt is that I’m applying for some higher level jobs, and I just suck at talking about leveraging and synergy and puffing my chest. I don’t undermine my experience and make sure to say “manage” or “lead” or whatever, but I don’t act like I’m Steve Jobs either, and I do think I’m competing with people who might be doing that.

    1. 867-5309*

      What do you mean by “higher level”?

      For example, are you a specialist looking to move into a manager role or manager looking to move into director?

      “Managing” and “lead” are good for the former but for the latter, it’s about strategy, big picture thinking, etc. That is more than managing or leading a project and the work.

    2. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      It may be helpful to quantify.

      How many interviews? A recent HBR study I saw said that it typically takes 7 interviews before getting an offer.

      It’s a slog, and they can’t always pick you, regardless of how great you are. And it sounds like they weren’t all good fits anyway.

      One thing you can do is do a video of yourself answering the standard questions. Take a look at how you present.

      (But probably you’re doing fine. Hang in there.)

    3. ferrina*

      Do practice interviews with someone you trust to give you honest feedback. It may be worth hiring a career coach to get feedback from (make sure you research and get a good career coach).

      That said….it sounds like you’re starting to get in your own head and “competing” with how you think others are. Do you really want to work for a boss that values “synergistically leveraging our core competencies?” Probably not. You be the best you that you can be, and let that be your distinguishing factor. There’s a lot of jargon about Personal Brands (bleh!), but this is where you can stand out with your authenticity and uncluttered communication. And there will be a company that values that.

    4. Former Young Lady*

      I’ve recently been on the other side of several interviews. I just watched my team’s top-ranked candidate get tanked by a powerful decision-maker who wasn’t involved in first-round interviews. We ADORED him. She’s never met him. She refuses to consider him. Sometimes, it’s no reflection on you at all.

      Another thing I’ve seen a lot, lately, is the search getting called off or postponed for some weird reason. Like, we were GOING to hire a new widget engineer, but she would have reported to someone who quit abruptly/got fired/died, so now we’re reviewing the whole team structure.

      Sounds like your resume and cover letter are working well for you, and it sounds like you’re building strong rapport with your interviewers. I think your instinct to sell yourself with a little more confidence is probably a sound one.

      I’ve left a lot of interviews thinking “that felt good” only to get radio silence or a form-letter rejection. Are you leaving any with the “YESSSS, these are my people! OMG please please like me back” feeling? Every time I’ve felt that way at the end of an interview, it’s been a more favorable sign. Your mileage may vary.

      Hang in there!

  27. Failed Manager*

    Hi I am looking to hire a career coach to get over a huge set back in my career. Does anyone have advice in what to look for in hiring a career coach?

    1. Erica*

      I have a few friends who have recently worked with career coaches, to varying degrees of success. The two lessons that seem universal across those experiences were (1) Ask around among friends, family, former coworkers, etc. to find someone who is the right fit; don’t rely on internet searches—and always interview prospective coaches and speak with their references; and (2) Know exactly what you want to get out of the coaching relationship. A career coach is very different from a therapist and even a life coach; if you don’t know what life direction you want to go in or need help unpacking past experiences, start with life coaching or therapy first. Once you’ve settled on an industry and career path and have clear career goals in mind, then work with a coach who is an expert (or at least familiar with norms and practices) in that specific industry.

      A close friend was trying to switch industries and knew exactly what he wanted (salary level, authority level, etc.), just not how to get there. His coach helped him target positions relevant to his expertise, suss out whether a position would be the right fit, refine his cover letter and resume to appeal to those in the new industry, and practice interviewing, which led to him getting a great job. Another friend knew that they wanted a fresh start and had some ideas, but didn’t have a firm pathway in mind; they ended up spending a lot of money but ultimately felt pushed in a direction aligned with the coaches’ expertise that didn’t quite fit with their eventual preference. Maybe that wouldn’t have happened with a different coach, but it’s a risk.

      Good luck!

    2. ferrina*

      Ask about what they specialize in and what their expertise is. Most career coaches are particularly strong in one industry or another, but have translatable skills to other industries.

      Ask for examples of client results. You can also ask “What type of client would benefit most from your coaching, and who would not be a match for you?”

      If it feels hokey or icky, walk away. Trust your gut.

    3. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      When looking for a coach, be clear about what your goal is.

      Are you looking for someone to help you find a new job? Or to coach you in your at-work behaviors/goals?

      And the minute it’s not more helpful than what you can find on your own, feel free to dump them.

      Find out their track record.

  28. Just Me*

    I’m working on my annual reviews for my team. How do I productively say that the person is a brown nosing know it all in a constructive way? An example is this: he’s anti-vax, we have a product that helps with COVID. He messaged the CEO about a blog post that he felt was too pro vaccine (NOTE: it wasn’t, and the CEO agreed and handled it accordingly). There are a lot of little ways he does this and he ends up making himself look like an ass. Sometimes I address it in the moment, sometimes I just let it slide. Basically he just always tries to be the smartest person in the room.

    He’s a great sales guy, so I don’t want to deflate him. I also know he’d like to move up, and this will prevent him from doing so. Any ideas for the wording on the review and how to address it?

    1. Colette*

      I’m not sure specifically what the issue is. Is it that:
      – he dismisses of the expertise and contributions of others
      – he challenges/doesn’t respect the authority of management

      Whatever the true issue is, I think you have to name the trend and provide specific examples.

      1. LadyByTheLake*

        Ooh, I really like these — they identify the problem so well without using labels like “know it all.”

        1. Colette*

          I think it’ll really help if you focus on the specific behaviours and not why he’s doing them (i.e. trying to be the smartest person in the room.)

    2. ThatGirl*

      What’s wrong with being pro vaccine? Jimminy Christmas. What a thing to complain about.

      Frankly, I think you should deflate him, he sounds insufferable.

        1. ThatGirl*

          So? There’s more to being a good employee than being a good salesperson. It’s possible he’s turning off as many people as he’s selling to, and I could be the world’s best copywriter, but if I’m difficult to work with and undermine authority constantly, there’s no reason to excuse it with “but she’s so good at writing!”

          And do you really think addressing his know-it-all insufferability will change his efficacy as a salesperson? I don’t see a connection.

    3. LadyByTheLake*

      Maybe something like: “I know that you want to move up, but you are doing some things that will prevent that. You are doing things that leave people with a bad impression. For example, when you did X, Y and Z that left a perception that you are a bit of a know it all, and I am sure that that is not the perception you want them to have.” Give him real examples, and emphasize how other people perceived what he did. Maybe focusing on other people’s perception (which honestly, is what he needs to be thinking about) might take some of the sting out. But make sure to also point out that part of the perception he’s leaving relates to him (1) getting involved in things where other people with more experience have already weighed in, (2) being wrong, (3) appearing to do it to curry favor. If there are real issues, he should still raise them, but maybe have him run them by you first.

      1. Chauncy Gardener*

        This for sure. And perhaps add that he doesn’t actually *need* to do these types of things. They hurt, not help build, his personal brand. His performance at his actual job is very good and he should continue to focus on that.

    4. learnedthehardway*

      I would use specific examples and tell the person why this was a problem, and how they should have handled it:

      eg. One of the developmental issues that has been observed by myself and senior management is that you do not recognize the limits of your knowledge/experience, and that you do not appear to recognize the experience and expertise of other people.

      For example, when you emailed the CEO, you inserted your personal views into a business matter that was well beyond your level and sphere of experience. Doing so sent a message that you do not recognize or respect other functions and senior leaders in the organization. The proper way to raise your concern would have been to speak with X in marketing or product development, make it clear that you were thinking as a consumer rather than assert expertise you don’t have, and let that person handle the situation. This may not have resulted in a change, but you have to trust that other people do have genuine expertise in their fields. As it is, you have brought negative attention to yourself, and will have to work to regain your credibility.

      I want you to understand that this is a developmental issue. You need to develop the self-confidence to recognize when you are NOT the expert, and to be comfortable with that. If you cannot learn to value and recognize other people’s expertise, and to know what the limits are to your own experience and expertise, then you will not be able to gain the trust or confidence of your coworkers and leaders. They will interpret your input as an attempt to make yourself look important, rather than as a credible contribution to business issues. This will undermine your ability to be taken seriously and to progress in your career.

      Going forward, I want you to stop and think before making statements that go beyond your sphere of experience. Consider whether someone else is more experienced or has the responsibility to respond. Think about how your statement will be perceived – is it appropriate to the situation, targeted to the right level of person, made for the good of the company (or made because you want to feel important).

      1. pancakes*

        I don’t think it’s necessary or wise to tell this guy to speak with people in marketing or product development if his job doesn’t involve marketing or product development. This is a salesperson who seems to need firm guidance about staying in his lane, not encouragement to select new ones for himself.

        1. Just Me*

          I think there is something to be taken from both your and the poster you responded to’s prospective. This is very helpful.

          THANK YOU!

    5. Not all who wander are lost*

      He may push back against criticism and just prepare accordingly. Search AAM and Captain Awkward archives for some great scripts to stay on message when people react badly. He may be fine, but best to prepare.

  29. hello*

    This is a long story I am posting on behalf of a friend who doesn’t want their employer viewing this on their work laptop.

    My friend had an art related side-business for many years pre covid. She mostly sells online – has a website where she directs potential customers to her Etsy account; works with some local mom n pop shops; is in process of creating her own retail site etc. Recently at a county/ state wide art show was someone who is definitely “higher up” than the local level. They were impressed with her work and wanted to talk more regarding a future business deal. For my friend the “next level” is a dream come true. She is realistic how hard it is to make a living as an artist and has carved out a nice side income for herself. For her she is thrilled with this and anything more is just gravy.

    My friend never uses licensed items in her work (Disney, Universal, Marvel/ DC, Sports teams, Movies, Musicians, Characters); it’s just too much red tape to get permission for a small side business. She is however she is inspired by these areas. By inspired let’s say it’s something like she likes how the black and red on spiderman’s costume look so she might use black and red colors in her next piece, never anything spiderman, spiderweb or associated sayings. Since she is looking to take her art up a notch, she wants to make sure she is not crossing any boundry related to someone elses work.

    Does anyone know of any books, articles, websites that goes more into and gives examples similar to above about copyright, trademarks, intellectual property? Something preferably in laymen’s terms?

    She has gone to government websites and read articles. She is even consulting a lawyer (who is a friend and speaking to her professionally but also as a casual favor to point her in the right direction and who to contact for her needs) soon with her questions but wants to be prepared for this meeting.

    Any suggestions?

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      What she’s doing right now is just fine. Really, she’s just inspired by the colors and is using them in her own art? Nothing resembling existing characters? I can’t imagine why she’d worry about using the same color combination as someone else’s intellectual property – there are so many red & black combos out there, and if Marvel/DC tried to sue her, they’d also have to sue Netflix, among others. Or is your example more simplistic than what she’s actually doing? Nolo dot com has some good references. Look under “legal articles.”

      1. hello*

        Will have her check out nolo. Thank you for the recommendation. I think her concern when you see certain pieces of art together in a group you can tell how she was inspired. Some people have even bought her work because it reminds them of a character, even though she just uses their colors etc. It’s hard to explain without showing it in person.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          Character design is where she really needs to be careful, as a visual artist. As long as she’s not re-creating characters, she’s probably fine. Honestly, even a spider on a black-and-red background would be fine. It might remind me of Spider Man, the same way a painting of a round door would remind me of Lord of the Rings, but being evocative is not a copyright violation.

          1. hello*

            Your Lord of the Rings/ round door example is what I am trying to find examples of. It is difficult to find a resource that will detail scenarios like that.

            1. ThatGirl*

              I’m not saying they’re all legally clear, but there are a LOT of Etsy stores that use designs based on existing IP – Disney is a big one, since they own so many popular characters. As long as she’s sticking to her own interpretations and designs that are inspired by existing things, I think she’s pretty safe.

              1. hello*

                Most of her research is finding that Etsy shops, while talented beyond belief, are a gray area. There are a lot of work arounds to not do anything illegal. If my friend is going to take things a level up she wants to do it right from the start.

                1. Law School*

                  Much of copyright law is a gray area, unfortunately. It’s incredibly fact-specific so it’s hard to offer a hard and fast rule across the board. The lawyer she’s consulting will probably tell her that.

                2. Rainy*

                  The problem is that, as I understand it, there’s not a lot of clear legal precedent on the question of “inspiration” vs “infringement”, and so basically the question is “does the entity I might be infringing want to litigate and find out?” We’ve been seeing some talk about this on book Twitter discussing the Bad Art Friend, and someone I follow who is both an author and a lawyer said that unfortunately the question isn’t “is there a clear case of infringement” but “does this person want to sue me and find out”.

              2. Rusty Shackelford*

                I definitely wouldn’t use Etsy as an example. Lots of copyright violations happening there. And Disney is fiercely protective of their IP. But, as an example… your friend can’t sell a painting of the Disney character Ariel (don’t assume she can just because people do). But she could sell a painting of a red-haired mermaid, as long as she didn’t try to make it look like Ariel. Or she could make her own art inspired by Andersen’s The Little Mermaid.

      2. Gipsy Danger*

        In Canada we have a group called CARFAC that offers a bunch of advice for visual artisits on copyright and legal issues around that – maybe there is something similar in the US? Search for visual artists groups and representation?

    2. Law School*

      My law school runs a clinic where small business owners can get advice of this type. I suggest looking for something similar at her local law school.

      1. hello*

        thats a good idea. i will mention it to her. from what her novice reads can find she is fine, in the clear, but she isn’t an expert lawyer.

    3. RagingADHD*

      She needs to look at the concepts of transformative vs derivative works. There is not really a bright line between them, and in close cases they are decided on a case by case basis. Seeing examples of how close an inspired work can come to the original without infringeing will help her understand.

      She is so very, very far over on the “good” side, she doesn’t need a bright line. She’s way over in the safe zone.

      What she’s doing is the equivalent of writing songs in the same key signature as a popular song, or writing a story about a guy named Kirk that has nothing to do with outer space or science fiction. It’s fine.

    4. Chilipepper attitude*

      Google: libguide copyright art
      Libguides are put together by librarians, usually at universities and by librarians who focus on copyright, and they will have resources that directly ask/answer the questions she has and because librarians are gathering the resources, they tend to be better than what you find in a google search.

  30. Magnus*

    How can I request that my salary be reevaluated in the most professional way possible?

    I feel I am not fairly compensated, especially given the huge increase in rent, food prices, and inflation over the past two years. I would like to ask that my salary be reevaluated, but I am not sure how to proceed with this. For reference, I work for a large multinational company that does raises once per year in a very structured manner (1% if you do not meet expectations, 2% if you meet expectations, 3% percent if you exceed expectations). It is very hard to actually make more money without getting promoted. I am afraid I will get a canned response of, “we only do raises at X time of the year.” I would like to stay here as I like the company and the work, but will probably start looking if I do not get a bump, as the job market is very good. Any advice?

    What is the best verbiage to use?
    What information should I present?
    Any general advice? I do not want to sour my relationship with my manager, we work well together


    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      Don’t ask for a raise based on the increased cost of living. If you’re being underpaid for what you do, compared to others in your market who do the same thing, that’s your rationale.

      1. Magnus*

        Totally. I would not mention that, of course. That’s just part of the context of why I feel underpaid.

    2. 867-5309*

      Rusty is spot on… Show your accomplishments; answer why YOU deserve the race. Not why you deserve it when compared to someone or something else.

    3. Chilly Delta Blues*

      You might suggest that your position or workload be reevaluated to ensure it’s appropriately categorized. A lot of times things get added “job duties or special projects” that leadership is not aware of or forgets because it’s not the same for everyone in that position.

      We do a workforce analysis about every 4 years here for that reason.

  31. Celeste*

    I’m an attorney who started a job as a contractor with the government in August. In terms of benefits, it’s a dream. I can’t work more than 8 hours a day, we’re all full-time remote for the indefinite future, and I have good insurance and a good salary. But the actual “job” has turned out to be a bit of a bait-and-switch, which I believe was unintentional on the part of the employer who placed me here. Even though I’m getting experience in a particular area of law, the position is a whole lot of data entry and data management, and very light on the actual practice of law.

    I am generally not a job-hopper and don’t want to abandon ship after three months despite all that, so I’m thinking about sticking it out for 2 years and then exploring positions that involve more substantive items. Does this sound like a solid plan? Does anyone have any advice about “spinning” my position so that it doesn’t seem like I was just copying and pasting Excel columns for two years (I’m not just doing that, but I’m afraid that it may come across that way if I’m not careful). Additionally, has anyone ever done this sort of thing intentionally, stepping into a slower-paced role from a faster-paced one? I suppose I’m reluctant to stay because of the lack of growth opportunities, but at the same time I can also see the case for “Hey, you’re making a good living at an easier job, why bother to leave?”

    1. House Tyrell*

      I would get out of there. You definitely don’t need to stay there for 2 years, especially if it’s mostly data entry and you’re a lawyer. If you try to leave now you can tell interviews the job changed dramatically from what you were hired to do and explain what you wrote here in your first paragraph. Employers will certainly understand, especially if they are also lawyers. “Job hopping” is more than just leaving one job after a few months.

      TBF, I’m not a lawyer but I would also assume that if you had been doing data entry for two years and then tried to take on a more law-intensive role after, some of your law skills wouldn’t be as sharp anymore. I work in graduate school education administration and graduate and professional schools are seeing their largest graduating classes yet right now so in 2-3 years the market will be even more flooded than it is now.

    2. LadyByTheLake*

      Lawyer here — I would not stick this out for two years — that is a long time and legal skills can get rusty. I would raise it now that you want to focus more on the practice of law — and they should want that too — paying a lawyer to do data entry is not a good use of resources. See if you can work with them to change the job mix, but if they can’t, don’t stay longer than a year. I’ve definitely stepped into slower paced roles from fast-paced ones — I know a lot of fellow lawyers who have. I think it is quite common — burn out is real. But most folks I know still want to have something engaging to do, something that makes them use the brain muscles.

    3. ferrina*

      Are there ways that you can use your legal skills outside your job? Organizations that you can volunteer with and do pro bono work?

      Also- are you happy? If you are happy, I’d make more of a case to stay for a bit and keep your legal skills sharp in other ways. This year has been a doozy. If you’re not happy, then you have the luxury of taking your time on the job search and being really picky.

      1. Celeste*

        That’s a really good question, and right now the answer is yes. I have a lot of health problems and on top of that I have ADHD, so I don’t even have the stamina for a large amount of the legal jobs that are out there. Right now I’m fortunate enough so that I’ve been able to take all my doctor’s appointments without dipping into my small bucket of leave because this office is so flexible. And since I’m only doing 40 hours a week, I do have the flexibility to possibly do some pro bono.

  32. OlympiasEpiriot*

    Well, I’ve been at a new job for a year and this week, I learned that this department has a Missing Stair who has been thoroughly enabled by the entire department.

    I also made a real error in communication with them. I will be visiting them at their site in person to apologize (I need to visit the site anyhow and apologies are always better f2f, I think). I own the poor tone of my communication; but, I am alarmed that the technical aspect of what I was trying communicate — in a dynamic project situation, this is in the heavy construction field — is being downplayed by all supervisors of this person and that their reason for valuing this person so much is how dependable they are.

    Look, I appreciate dependability. But, that’s a low bar to value someone over when they’ve got technical holes, push back on logical requests from a project supervisor, and are extremely combative. Turning up where you’re supposed to and on time is a basic thing.

    Aaaaand, I’m thinking that I made a really bad decision when I chose this offer instead of the other I had in summer of 2020. I felt I was blessed by having a *choice*. They were really similar in terms of compensation package. The work was different (but both logical progressions). Absolutely having regrets now.

    I really wish my last firm didn’t have the management issues that *they* did. I definitely miss a lot of things about it.

    1. Jean*

      No advice, just commiseration. I also turned down a great offer almost exactly a year ago to stay with my current company, and I regret it a lot. Hang in there. I hope your situation gets better soon and that your apology is well received.

    2. ferrina*

      That’s so rough! It sounds like you’re doing the right thing- owning your own mistakes and knowing that their mistakes aren’t your mistakes. And they sound like a real (dependable) piece of work.

      If you’ve been there 1 year, you can start looking around now. As long as your previous job was a longer stay, a job that you were at for 1 year isn’t a resume red flag.
      Good luck!

    3. lily*

      Word to the wise: document the apology. After you have the conversation, follow up with an email like “it was great to see you, and thanks again for graciously accepting my apology for my tone the other day.”

      Sometimes Missing Stairs stick around because they’re amazing at blaming stuff on other people and manipulating management behind the scenes.

  33. Teapot Translator*

    I think this goes here because it’s about work and school. If I misjudged, my apologies.
    I would like to try my hand at writing a non-fiction book (in the same vein as the book about cod: pick a specific subject and see where it takes me). It would require a lot of research as well as writing. My background is in literature and translation. My plan is to start by myself to see if I am motivated enough to do the research and write. If that first step works and I want help, where should I turn? Should I get a masters? If so would it be in history or in creative writing? Or should I try to join associations? Writing groups? I’m not asking for specific programs or groups because I’m not in the US and I don’t think I’ll write the book in English. Thank you.

    1. fueled by coffee*

      I would not get a masters (in the subject of the book or an MFA) unless it will help you professionally beyond writing this book — otherwise, it will just put you into debt, and writing/publishing doesn’t require grad school!

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        Agreed! I have found workshops very useful, though. It helps keep you motivated & work through any difficulties in your writing.

      2. Teapot Translator*

        Thank you!
        If I could do it part time, I wouldn’t go into debt, so that’s why I was wondering if it might be useful.

    2. WellRed*

      I think you need to research whether there’s a market for the book and who would be a likely publisher.

      1. Teapot Translator*

        True! So first research the subject and try to write. If that works, then research the publishing market while continuing to write and research.
        I figure if it doesn’t pan out on whatever front, it might help me in my main career (translation) by working on my writing style a bit.

    3. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      Also think about creating a Twitter (or whatever social media platform makes sense) account focused primarily on your topic. Post what you find, especially if you can be engaging and steady. Follow people who are in that world. You’ll be more likely to find obscure bits and treasures if you’re out there with a big sign on your chest about what you’re looking for … and from the response, you can get a sense of whether it’s a topic of interest to others. (And you may attract publishers etc., if you get super lucky.)

      Check out Surprised Eel Historian’s account on Twitter. Amazing how many followers he has as a person who literally posts about eels in history.

    4. sagewhiz*

      Yes, start by yourself! Interest and stick-to-it-ivness are all that’s needed at this stage. Do NOT invest tons of $$$ on an MFA, set some of it aside to attend good writers’ conferences, in person when they’re safely available, online until then.

      Writing groups can be helpful, but focus strictly on non-fiction writers groups. Both LinkedIn and FB can be helpful there.

      Most helpful, though, is understanding the traditional process of publishing non-fiction titles. Since you’re skilled with English, I strongly recommend you get your hands on Michael Larsen’s book, How to Write a Book Proposal. It came out years ago and is still considered “the source” as to the step-by-step process. Non-fiction manuscripts are always sold through the proposal, not the finished ms. But, by understanding what a proposal is and putting it together, you end up creating a basic outline for the manuscript that makes the writing go more smoothly. Keep in mind, the writing may deviate from what you’ve put in the proposal, and that’s just fine! A proposal is to a book what a business plan is to a start-up—guidance, not engraved in stone.

      Good luck!

      1. Eco-Logical*

        The thing about non-fiction is it’s generally commissioned off proposals and outlines, unlike fiction which you get an agent for off the back of a finished manuscript. Additionally, an awful lot of non-fiction relies on you having some kind a of a platform or expertise in that subject, which can be used to leverage sales, and to back up the idea that you’re the right person to write the book.

        So I’d put together a proposal for the book, and research non-fiction agents. Watch out for predatory vanity publishers – the rule is the money should flow to the author, you should not be spending it!

        If, however, you just want to write it, and you don’t care about publication or are happy to self publish (and all the other jobs successful self publishing entails!), then you can just write it. You don’t need any kind of degree. You can just do it. Finding a group of people who are also writers who will act as your cheerleaders/beta readers/place to bounce ideas off is invaluable, and I’d recommend the Absolute Write forums as a way to find people like that if you can’t (or don’t want to!) go to in person groups locally. It can take a while to find your people, so you may need to try a few!

        1. Teapot Translator*

          I want to try it out. I have no idea if I have the patience for the research and the writing, so publishing seems far off to me. And I’m not an expert in the field.
          Thanks for the forum rec!

        2. Farragut*

          ! This !

          Everything up above.

          There are some smaller independent publishers that are reputable and don’t require an agent. These often are highly specialized in niche fields. Separating them from the vanity presses and scammers that call themselves “indie” can be tough.

  34. Neosmom*

    HOORAY! After all this time experiencing pandemic issues, my employer finally allowed me to order a plexiglass barrier for my 2nd floor lobby workstation. It arrived, looks great, does the needed job, and I feel better sitting in a lobby where visitors and co-workers alike forget to wear their masks in a mask-mandate city.

  35. HerdingCatsWouldBeEasier*

    Has anyone else been following the ‘Bad Art Friend’ story and all the fallout? I would be super curious to hear Alison’s take on the issues involved, since it turns out that at points in the saga the two women had a teacher/student and a coworker relationship, in addition to the issue of plagiarizing writing from a friend-acquaintance.

    I have to admit, as someone who was always the odd person out growing up, this whole mess plays into my adult nightmares: the fear that my coworkers are just tolerating my existence and secretly wish I’d get hit by a bus.

    1. Moira Rose*

      I tried to post a link but I think the spam collector swept it up. Try searching Twitter for “Dorland” and “Larson” from @moorehn. Her threads on this have been my North Star.

    2. pancakes*

      I haven’t been following it closely, but I read Artnet’s weekly legal column, and last week that was the focus. Some interesting links within. I’ll link to it in a separate reply.

      It sounds like you would really benefit from talking with a professional about your nightmares.

    3. Soup of the Day*

      The details in the Gawker article that this thread is discussing honestly changed my mind about the whole issue! I went from feeling that Dawn was insufferable and Sonya, while admittedly being pretty crappy about it, was understandably talking smack about a person who kind of deserved it. But now I feel like Sonya was looking for reasons to be malicious and gossipy.

      I still think that Dawn does not look great for her plagiarism crusade, and I don’t think that Sonya was in the wrong legally or artistically (once she removed the verbatim parts of the letter), but I am feeling slightly closer to Team Dawn after reading these clarifications. Someone can be a bit insufferable, but that doesn’t mean they deserve ridicule if there is an option to simply not engage. It was a mean thing to do.

      But I also want to push back on my own reaction there! Writers have no obligation to be nice in the pursuit of their art. I guess they just have to be prepared for the subjects of their work to be upset when it comes out.

      1. CTT*

        “Someone can be a bit insufferable, but that doesn’t mean they deserve ridicule if there is an option to simply not engage. It was a mean thing to do.”

        That’s really where I come down. This is awful of me, but I know a few people like Dawn who I have stayed friends with on social media because they overshare in that same way and I find it cringey but fascinating. But the energy involved in making fun of her over multiple emails takes it to a new level. And what’s so weird to me is that they spent all this time talking about her but Sonya wasn’t prepared at all for Dawn’s reaction.

      2. pancakes*

        I don’t agree that copying the letter verbatim was ok since she eventually removed it. The right time to make an ethical decision not to plagiarize is prior to publication, not after getting caught.

        1. Soup of the Day*

          No, I agree that the story in its initial form did contain plagiarized content. But it sounded like by the time she had submitted it to the festival, she had already changed those lines of the story (from my understanding).

          I think the way she went about it was crappy – gaslighting Dawn while making the changes on the side – but I don’t think it was fair for Dawn to make so many demands of an independent festival over the changed version of the story. Dawn can’t claim that the story is using her “material,” so to speak, if Sonya changed the wording of the letter completely. I’m not sure if it counts as plagiarism at that point, although she would have been in a much better situation if she’d just removed the letter altogether, or changed it to something less recognizable.

          1. pancakes*

            It’s hard to predict, and like I said I haven’t been following it super closely, but I think Sonya grievously injured her plagiarism defenses with the text message acknowledging that she copied the letter. “I’ve tried to change it but I can’t seem to—that letter was just too damn good.”

  36. Ferret*

    For anyone who wants to see a trash fire that got snuffed out before it could really get going search “skip the interview”

    Interviews are terrible! So instead let’s have candidates launch a crowdfunding campaign where they solicit funds from their colleagues in order to get the job

    1. LimeRoos*

      That is bonkers and thank you so much for sharing. I will be reading through some of the reddit threads during lunch :-D

  37. Wondering*

    In general in my industry as you advance you can either be in an individual contributor role or a manager role. I’ve always thought that I wanted to be a manager since I like managing projects, working with and mentoring people. In the past few years though I’ve realized that the jobs/projects I like best are ones where I’m sort of a subject matter expert, and working with a large team.

    For example, at one place I was the Lead Llama Hut Designer. I was working with the Llama Caretakers team to build a farm, and since hut designing is the most complicated part of building a Llama Farm, I became the default leader of the team. I did hands on work, but I also did a lot of project management and managed the other teams. It was a stressful job because of time constraints, but I definitely loved my position. I liked being able to work with other teams, hear their problems, and design technical solutions. It felt good to be a technical resource for other members of the team I did a good job at this too – the team was calmer and well-run compared to other similar farm building teams, and others remarked on this in various ways. For example, I know that people of various levels of technical ability felt comfortable working with and bringing up problems to me.

    I’ve seen people post here about being in crisis management or taking roles as a changemaker. That’s kind of the dynamic I like, but on a longer term basis. So do I really want to be an individual contributor? I always thought no because I would hate to be working by myself, and tbh, I love meetings. But I’m not sure if the work I like to do is exactly on the manager track either.

    1. AnotherAlison*

      Maybe I’m reading too much into it from the building and design references, but it sounds like you would like to be a project engineer, still doing technical stuff (unlike the PM) but also managing and coordinating multi-disciplinary solutions. When I think of individual contributor as a career path in the actual design and build world, I think about the 30 year experience person who knows everything about Llama Huts but can only consult with project teams on that because they are way too expensive to staff on a project. That does not sound like what you want. The standard path in my world would move you through the engineer and lower level individual contributor role to the PM role (or expert I.C. on the other track), and then you stay there a while taking on more complex projects, managing other PMs, or moving into other management roles. Sounds like you may rather stop 1 step before that and stay technical, on project teams, and doing some management. I think there is always a need for that role, but it’s kind of picking a specific point to stop moving directly up the ladder. I think there would be ways to grow with special projects, like developing a new tool or system or process, or coming in to rescue another lead whose project is on life support, but you always have to be aware of your place on the payscale vs. your title.

      1. Wondering*

        This is very helpful, thanks. If it came down to not doing technical stuff vs. not moving up the ladder, I would lose the technical stuff. You’re right that I don’t want to be the 30 year experience person.

  38. How to Proceed When Totally Checked Out*

    I have completely given up on my job, and I’m looking for a new one. Rationally, I know that at my current job I should proceed as if I won’t find a new one-advocate for myself, try to improve things, etc. But I’m just done. The organization has shown time and time again that it is unwilling to make the changes necessary for me to be successful in my role. (Basically, my role is to coach the struggling org through continuous improvement, but I have no actual authority and among those who do have authority, the willingness to make the changes necessary to improve is just not there.)

    I DREAD every check-in with my boss because, I just don’t care. I’m not willing to subject myself to conflict anymore in terms of saying “Director X needs to do Y but won’t” “Manager G lacks these basic competencies” etc. But I also can’t really say “things are going well” because they aren’t.

    Sometimes I just want to be honest with him-tell him to expect my departure because I find success in my role impossible. But I doubt that would benefit me in any way.

    1. ferrina*

      Find whatever way you need to keep on. I found it helped to adopt an amused resignation, and my bosses actually loved it (as long as it wasn’t directed at them). “Well, Project X is still delayed because we’re waiting on Y from Tobias, so, you know, the usual.” Said in a cheerful tone with a casual shrug.

      Telling them “expect my departure” won’t help (as you know). You don’t know how long the search will take, and you don’t want to get forced out before then. Besides, if you’ve been clearly and consistently communicating the issues and how they are impacting you (which I get the sense that you have been), then you leaving is a foreseeable conclusion that your boss should already be very aware of.

      In the meantime, do whatever you need to do to get by. Make a bingo board on your phone of goofy stuff that you might deal with today, and if you get a bingo, you get an ice cream sundae. Take notes as though you were going to screenwrite a sitcom/tragedy about the real life scenarios you are currently in. Whatever keeps you sane. Good luck!

    2. The New Wanderer*

      At my previous job I raised an issue multiple times that had a clearly identified source and straightforward but significant corrective path, and was just dismissed over and over again. It was handled nicely, always with leadership saying “it’s great that you’re raising this issue that we all know is an issue” so it didn’t wear me down that much. But it was still so disappointing to see this big conflict looming in the distance and no one with the authority was willing to do anything about it proactively. In fact, that clearly identified source got promoted (ugh).

      Since the change implementation part isn’t happening, it sounds like your main role is to identify the problems and recommend solutions. You’re essentially trying to help but you can’t make them change. Can you lean into that without necessarily caring what they do with the information (aka the “amused resignation” from ferrina’s advice? I don’t know what form the conflict is taking in the check-ins but assuming it’s not attacking you/your methods and is more general disinterest or pushback on what you’re saying, would it help if you just gave noncommittal responses and dropped the rope?

      You: “Director X needs to do Y but won’t”
      Boss: “Well that’s not going to change/it’s not really a problem/whatever dismissive comment”
      You: “I hear you.”

      You: “Manager G lacks these basic competencies”
      Boss: “No they don’t/there’s no budget for training/but G is a nice person/other unhelpful comment”
      You: “Okay”

      And save the honesty for your hopefully imminent departure. Good luck!

  39. feath*

    Halfway through my two week notice at my job and I keep feeling regrets about quitting for a new position elsewhere. Like, why couldn’t I just push through these “hard times” at my current place and see things get better? Is that some sort of failure that’ll carry through into this next job showing that I’m like…not capable?

    1. I'm just here for the cats!*

      That’s rough. I think you need to give yourself a break. It sounds like your job is hard. Needing to move to something else is not a failure. Its actually you listening to yourself and knowing what you can and cannot do.

      Not knowing about your work, I wonder if you have a bad boss or toxic work situation. Take a look at your workplace. Is anyone giving you a hard time about leaving? Does everyone have the thought of just muddle throuh

    2. Colette*

      You’re not responsible for pushing through hard times at your employer. It’s OK to move on.

      Hopefully once you stat the new job, these feelings will go away. If not, I’d suggest a session or two with a counsellor.

    3. James*

      It’s normal breakup concerns. They’ll fade in time. You’re looking at the past with rose-colored glasses; once you have more distance you’ll see it more clearly.

      Remember, this is stressful. Even if it’s for the best, it’s stressful. You need to give yourself room to feel that stress.

      And remember, it’s not a question of just “pushing through hard times”; it’s a question of doing what’s right for yourself. A job is a two-way street; if it’s not working out for one of you, you walk away.

      I’d also examine what your soon-to-be-former coworkers are saying. How much are they contributing to this feeling? Are they supportive, or are they doing things (even subtle ones) to say you’re leaving because you’re not good enough? If they’re the ones making you question your decision, you made the right one.

      1. feath*

        Direct coworkers don’t know yet, I’ll be telling them on Monday (HR’s been slow on telling me what protocols are…). Boss has been same as always, very neutral response when I told him too.

        1. ferrina*

          Thirding this! Feelings of panic and “But I can still go back!” are so, so normal. Push through them. You can do this!!

    4. A Beth*

      I’m two weeks ahead of you, and I was feeling the same concerns two weeks ago. Now I’ve got a week at the new job under my belt and I remember why I was so motivated to search and so excited to accept this job. It’s not going to be perfect but it’s going to help me grow personally and professionally.

      I also left OldJob because of “hard times” but once I realized that a lot of the hard parts predated covid I felt less bad about moving on. My boss & grandboss were aware of the problems and couldn’t fix them (no judgment! they weren’t easy fixes!) and it didn’t make sense for me to stay under the circumstances. I bet the same is true for you.

    5. Girasol*

      If you decided that you should really push through the hard times at your current job and declined the new job offer instead, you’d probably be just as sure that you’d done something wrong. You’re just at that second-guessing stage when nothing feels right. It will pass.

    6. SeaTurtleJamboree*

      I had this same thing when I changed jobs almost exactly a year ago. The feeling stuck around for a couple months but, as I started feeling more and more competent at my new position and more comfortable with my new team (I stayed within my organization), it started to go away. And now, a year on, the stories of how terrible the old job is have made me feel even better about leaving. Stick with the change, it doesn’t make you a failure. It’s a job- you don’t have to put up with the bad.

    7. Chilipepper attitude*

      I am about to give notice and it is more bittersweet than I expected (I so want to get out of here!). But I keep thinking, oh, I won’t be around to see how that goes. I am really surprised by my reaction. I think it is normal.

    8. Not So NewReader*

      Giving notice is a huge pressure relief. All of the sudden things don’t seem as bad or whatever. There is a reason why you took the new job, even if that reason is muddy right now that reason still exists.

      There is also a piece of “the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t know.” If we held on to this too tightly we never would have left kindergarten.

      And of course going to a new place can be daunting.

      My best thought is spend time preparing for the new place. What do you need to do? Sometimes I like new clothes. Other times I want to beef up what I know about Excel for example. Or you could just decide, “I know I will be tired the first week at the new place, so I am going to load my freezer with heat-and-eat meals to help myself.”

      For me, I had those thoughts of pushing through hard times myself. What happened in the end is that I pushed through a lot of crap. Subsequent employers thought I was a great worker. What I had actually done was push myself through some very hard situations and I kept minimizing how hard it was. The times that I thought I should tough it out, were actually indeed times to leave. I think it takes working for other companies to get a sense of how big the problems were at a previous place.

      Ya know how we have to set boundaries with friends and family? This is more of that boundary stuff- start thinking about what you are willing to do and what you are not willing to do at work. If you have boundaries it will help you through times like this.
      My boundaries include:
      No ladders
      No covering for people’s mistakes/lies
      No working off the clock (or beyond the time frame set for a salaried job)

      These are just some basic examples, so you can start your list of what you will not tolerate. Articulating these limits is worth the work it takes to find and name them.

  40. I'm just here for the cats!*

    Does anyone have any suggestions for things to do at work when you are completely bored (besides reading AAM!)
    I work at the front desk and need to greet students and answer phones. there are other tasks that I complete throughout the day. Lately I am between projects and I am absolutely bored.

    Keep in mind I cannot be listening to a podcast or class that would require headphones. any suggestions?

    1. Taura*

      Can you read ebooks or similar? Or if writing things down is not out of the ordinary, write your own short stories/articles/fanfic? I think your options are more confined if you need to “look busy” than they are if you just need to be readily available.

      1. Eleanor Shellstrop*

        THIS. Ebooks that were available through my local library website were my lifesavers when I was a receptionist! The websites usually looked “work-ish” enough that it wouldn’t throw up any red flags to someone walking by and I still managed to look reasonably busy.

    2. Gracely*

      Do you like writing? Even if you can’t do it on a computer, you could try handwriting in a notebook.
      Would knitting or crocheting be a possibility? I know sometimes it isn’t because people think it looks like you’re not working, but if you can, that’s a good way to occupy yourself when you’re stuck to a desk.

    3. The Rural Juror*

      I also cannot put in headphones a lot of the time, but I’ve been able to login to Duolingo and go through Spanish lessons while skipping the part where I need to listen or speak back to the program. Every once in a while I’ll slip in an earbud for a second and listen to the pronunciation, but mostly I’ve been learning by reading. I may have to repeat a few lessons because I should be listening, but I can go back and do them again (they’re very short!). My reading comprehension has definitely improved.

    4. Mary*

      My suggestion would be to get AirPods Pro, have one earbud in, and conceal that as needed. Unless you have some sort of logistical issue, like already wearing a headset that covers both ears.

    5. Ferret*

      For a while at my last job I had zero work and used to do zooniverse projects during the day which I found fairly satisfying – you can help identify wildlife for an ecology project, or transcribing old weather records that are being used to monitor climate change and it doesn’t look dodgy if someone happens to get a glimpse of your screen!

    6. Former Young Lady*

      During a major lull last winter, I spent some time every day on Seterra memorizing the location of each country in Africa.

      Now that I mention it, it’s probably time to start brushing up on my geography again.

      1. Eleanor Shellstrop*

        I love this. When I was in college and worked at the front desk of the registrar’s office during the summer, I memorized every country in the world using that huge Sporcle quiz. Always useful to brush up on geography!

    7. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

      Libraries have lots of free books and you can get the overdrive app for your phone or read in a web browser. So maybe read a book? Could be learning, could be literary fiction, could be terrible brain candy fiction. Pick your pleasure.

    8. I'm just here for the cats!*

      Thanks all for such lovely suggestions.

      I don’t know why I didn’t think of writing. NANOWRIMO (national novel writing month is November) is just around the corner so maybe I will bring in one of my many unused moleskin journals and use some time to write, or at least plot and outline!

      I don’t feel comfortable reading on my kindle, as it may look unprofessional (I don’t think the people in my department would care but we get lots of people from other areas on campus who might have something to say. Academic politics!)
      We are getting some books soon for our department, so I might check some of those out during slow times.

      I might try and work on some excel stuff. If you’ve got suggestions for places to go to learn excel that is very simple language It would be appreciated!


    9. Teapot Wrangler*

      Futurelearn or other online courses – just use the transcript function if you can’t watch videos etc.
      Read books on project gutenberg
      Overdrive or similar online services for e-books via your local library

  41. No Tribble At All*

    Y’all, if you interview someone and decide not to go with them, PLEASE let that person know. Found out that I didn’t get a job I interviewed for…. when I saw it re-posted on Linkedin. I did 4 hours of interview with 4 different people; the whole company is only 23 people, so that’s a pretty large percent of them, but not ONE of them thought I was worth the time to send a 30 second email “sorry, we’re looking for someone with more experience in X, thanks for applying!” I don’t know what I did wrong.

    A small, petty part of me wants to re-apply for the re-posted job, but the rest of me knows it’s time to move on. And you know what? I wouldn’t send that job opening to anyone else I know.

    I was so sad, because 2/3 of the company founders are women, and that’s so rare for a tech company!

    1. Elenna*

      For what it’s worth, ghosting like this is pretty common. It definitely sucks and it’s awful and interviewers shouldn’t do it, but it’s common enough that you’ll probably see it multiple times. Doesn’t mean you did anything wrong.

    2. I'm just here for the cats!*

      That really sucks! I’m sorry they did this to you. But it might not have been on purpose. Being that there were some many people involved that they all thought that the other person reached out.

    3. Elizabeth West*

      Ugh, this sucks. And no, it does not make it better if they send out a rejection email five months later.

      I hope you get a very excellent job and right after you start, the ghost company reaches out so you can say, “Sorry, I already accepted a fantastic offer!”

  42. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

    Last week I had a nightmare where my boss was pressured to fired me because someone took a picture of me riding my bike on the sidewalk instead of the cobblestone street and tagged the company on social media.
    Has anyone faced something similar? I laughed it off, but I know is normal nowadays.

    1. Doctor is In*

      It is hard to throw off bad dreams! I am a physician and had a nightmare about all my patients having metastatic cancer.

      1. Dr. Nurse*

        I’m a nurse, and I have nightmares that I have patients on multiple floors of the hospital and can’t give them their antibiotics on time.

        1. You get a pen and you get a pen*

          Your nightmares are now going to fuel MY nightmares this weekend!! And I am not even in the healthcare industry!!!!

    2. Elizabeth West*

      I had a dream one time when working at OldExjob where Owner made us work all night and it was cold in the office so I put a blanket over myself and slept in my desk chair for a few hours. When I woke up in the dream, Owner was standing there in his white shirt and tie with his hair all sticking up and said, “Rise and shine! Time to go to work!”

      I told a work friend and they were like, “Don’t give him any ideas!”

    3. Chaordic One*

      Although most of the employees at my job have been working from home for over a year now, there are constant rumors that we are about to be called back to the office at any time. My employer has been on a bit of hiring spree lately though, and there are also rumors that if they called everyone back there wouldn’t be anywhere to put them all.

      I had a dream where we are all called back to work and there wasn’t room for everyone inside the building, so they set up our desks and and phones and computers in rows outside of the building on the lawn surrounding front part of the building, but facing the building with our backs to the street. I was answering the phone and speaking with a customer when all of a sudden, a gigantic SUV spun out-of-control from the street and crashed into the rows of desks behind me. And then I woke up with a start!

    4. theguvnah*

      “i know is normal nowadays”

      No it is not. Getting fired for something like that is not normal and you sound like you’re exaggerating real issues – like harming people and being actively discriminatory online affecting your employment – to make a point.

  43. BlueDijon*

    I’m wondering how y’all would respond to these types of comments. Basically, any time my manager and I talk about how stressed we are and I mention how burned out we all are (my hair is literally shedding due to stress, and I have been telling her I am burnt out for 12 months at this point), her response is “well, as bad as we have it, it’s as bad or worse elsewhere.” I have tried to push back a bit saying, well, that can’t be the case because I know people who are actually happy in their jobs (paraphrasing) but she basically just dismisses it.

    To me, this is just giving up on being able to make any changes, and just accepting misery. I am planning on looking for a new job once our busy period slows down, and don’t really think it’s worth it to be trying to change her mind, but also don’t want to just agree because that’s just so… claustrophobic of a thought is the best way I have to describe it.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      “I’m not entering the Pain Olympics. Sure, someone always has it worse. But that doesn’t mean this isn’t bad. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to change things.”

      1. irene adler*

        Nice one!
        This response calls out the very thing the boss is trying to deflect: she doesn’t want to DO anything to improve the situation. She might not like that though.

    2. Princess Flying Hedgehog*

      Yes, someone else has it worse, but that does not change the fact that your stress is causing you *noticeable physical harm.* However, your boss sucks and doesn’t want to hear it, because then your boss would actually have to do something.
      Don’t wait for the busy period to slow down to start job search. Your boss does not care how much this job is hurting you.
      Stop engaging in this kind of talk with your boss, because it’s not helping you. If your boss starts the talk, go “grey rock” as much as you can — respond as neutrally and as boring and flat as you can, and then change the subject as quickly as you can. Don’t vent to your boss, since your boss is dismissive, and make it unsatisfying for your boss to vent to you.

    3. The Smiling Pug*

      Yikes. I’m sorry that your manager responds that way. Personally, I wouldn’t wait until after the busy season to start job searching.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          “I can’t believe you’re leaving me during the busy season! That’s just awful!”

          “Well, a lot of people have it worse, so…”

          1. BlueDijon*

            Lol at this and the Pain Olympics.

            Yeah I would try to leave earlier but I know I would like them to give me a reference, and I’m currently in higher ed (but hoping to leave!) which is an industry of people who tend to Take Things Personally, so I’m just gonna stick it out for a few months. But these responses have been really helpful in terms of fading out of engaging in these conversations, which I appreciate.

            I mean we’re swamped, so I’m just gonna have no time for any non-work questions and comments I guess…

            1. Seeking Second Childhood*

              It takes time to get your ducks in a row before you start sending out the resume. There’s prep you could start sooner–gather lists of successes for resume bulletpoints from your email archive, for example. Good luck!

    4. Zona the Great*

      To me this is a sign to immediately start looking and you can pretty much bet the next job will be much better. Any time I’ve had people say everything sucks everywhere, it’s them.

      1. banoffee pie*

        ‘It’s as bad or worse elsewhere’. That is such bull. She just said that off the top of her head; I’m sure there are plenty of places that are better!

    5. Not So NewReader*

      Probably not the best choice of words on her part, but really, what can she do about all the problems? Even if the problems are fixable, it would probably take months to implement the new plans.

      I have been on the receiving end with stressed people. I said, “This is what we have until something better comes along.” Meaning that we all job hunt from time to time. They understood my meaning because of additional context that I am not including here.

      I am not clear on how getting her to see that people are actually happy at their jobs else where is any kind of a win for you and your cohorts. Not trying to be a wise-guy here. Even if she agrees with you what have you gained? Why do you need her to see that it’s better else where? What would be a better answer from her?

      She is basically telling you that she has no power/authority/resources to fix all that is wrong here.

      I had a boss who believed our h3ll hole was normal. We act in alignment with our beliefs. She never looked for other work. After a bit she confided that she sincerely believed she could not hold down a job anywhere else. (That actually made sense with the attitude she was using. No one else would hire that attitude.)

      I was the opposite. I felt there was something better out there. Of course she put me down for my optimism- as that was part of her luggage she carried through life.

      The bottom line is I had to ask myself, “Why am I working so hard to save her, when she does not want to be rescued?” I realized I was The One with the insight to know to look for better and I needed to act on that insight.

      My strongly worded advice (because I have BTDT) is to stop making up reasons not to job hunt and start your job hunt this weekend. It does not matter that they are busy. It does not matter that everyone is tired. None of these things are yours to personally solve. It is up to you to put your own oxygen mask on first. And you can do this. You can find something better. You deserve it.

      1. BlueDijon*

        Thank you! Yeah I get that, and empathize, and totally agree that it may not be what I want to do to get her to agree – I just don’t know how to respond without agreeing myself! I really like how you put that – part of her luggage she was carrying through life, that is very helpful reframing.

        I appreciate your perspective – and I hadn’t really been categorizing the pre-applying work of the job search as the job search, but as you and others have pointed out that’s absolutely part of it. Thank you!!

  44. Gracie*

    I had final interview a couple of weeks ago. I didn’t get the job, because the department head thought my qualifications didn’t exactly match what they were looking for.

    Last week they called me and asked me to put together a presentation explaining my niche degree and how it could support another department. They don’t have a specific position/title for the job, so it seems like they’ll create a position specifically for this.

    They gave an overview of what they want out of the position. Frankly, it sounds right up my alley. It’ll allow me to use the skills I gained from college, unlike my current job.

    The problem is that the position sounds like a huge step up in responsibility, and I’m not sure if I’m competent enough for it. I’ve only been in the workforce for 3 years, and only as team member, not team lead or manager.

    I’ll go to the interview, because for me it’s an opportunity to practice. But if they offer me the job, what questions should I be asking before deciding to take it or not? And what other things should I take into consideration?

    1. JB*

      You can ask them directly about the things you’re concerned about. Ex. ‘It sounds like this position will involve managing a team. As you know, I don’t have any supervisory experience; what kind of support would be available to me as a new manager?’

      You should be able to get a good sense from their answer whether they’re prepared to train you on the parts that you don’t know, or if they’re really looking for someone they can just leave to their own devices.

    2. Designer*

      I would ask about an actual list of job requirements. And if you feel like you would be in over your head, the expectations about getting that position into full working order (do they expect it to take 1 month, 3 months, more?) and possible training for what you might be lacking if they do want to make this position for you. Will the salary match the workload, and as it’s a new position, what options are there for advancement. Do they see this growing into it’s own department where eventually you’ll be higher people under you?

      I hope that helps!

    3. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

      Ask a lot of questions about their goals and expectations for the new position and what resources they will provide to make the position successful. I’ve found that sometimes when a company creates a completely new position, they haven’t really thought through the nuts and bolts — someone just has an idea that this would be…vaguely good to have. I’m not trying to burst your bubble, but they’re sort of making you an unpaid consultant on why their business needs this; and there’s no guarantee that they’ll hire you even if they ultimately create the position.

    4. Peter*

      Firstly, congratulations, this sounds like you have a great opportunity to create a role that suits you.

      Given your concern, remember this is a new role so there’s a way to get it set up so that you’re not being asked to step completely into a new manager position if you’re not ready. The point is that someone should be managing you and that person should be able to guide you into the initial requirements.

      Based on what I understand from your comment, I’d expect a new role with someone with 3 years experience to start by reporting to the other department head, but if you’re successful and the company grows eventually you might have your own department and people working directly for you.

      My concern would be balancing the workload so I suggest asking how you make sure that your new boss will help you grow the role into a useful and productive one without you getting overwhelmed by being expected to work miracles.

  45. Skeeder Jones*

    Let’s talk acronyms! I always get a laugh out of some of the team/process/system acronyms at my work. Here’s a few: NIRDS (National Integration Regulatory and Data Services
    the BIG Team (Business Integration and Governance)
    TIGR (I actually don’t remember what this one stands for though there’s a lot of repetition here and I think Integration, Governance and Regulatory are the IGR)
    and this morning I had an email talking about “PLOT” (Policy and Legislative Oversight and Tracking)

    What are some of yours?

    1. Daffodilly*

      I always laugh when people use POS for “point of sale” because it meant something VERY different when I first learned it!

    2. Taura*

      MISO – I forget what it stands for, but apparently it’s pronounced “my-soh” and my first thought is always “mee-soh! Mmm, soup!”
      MAGE – Model and Graphics Editor. They leaned into this one, the program icon is a little wizard casting a spell.

    3. James*

      We have two, both COC. It’s either constituent/contaminant of concern (depending on how bad we want it to sound), or chain of custody. Very confusing when you get an email saying “I need the COCs for this project”!

    4. Ali G*

      The one that always gets a double take out of me is BLM. No, not what you are thinking: Bureau of Land Management lol.
      The last few years have been interesting. I’ll come home from work with my version of BLM on the brain and then the news is talking about BLM and I am like what happened at the BLM??? Oh wait, BLM not THE BLM.

      1. Chaordic One*

        As someone who has lived in rural parts of the country, this one always gets to me too, and I have to deliberately stop and think about the context in which they are speaking. There are lots of opinions, both pro and con, about both BLMs.

    5. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

      There is a tech school in my region called UTI — Universal Technical Institute.

    6. Well*

      We have a new one: BS. It stands for brand spotlight but every time some mentions “we have the Llama company BS” it makes me chuckle.

    7. Lady_Lessa*

      One of my favorites is ACS which could be “American Chemical Society” or “American Cancer Society”.

    8. CTT*

      I’m a finance attorney and often have to deal with Deposit Account Control Agreements, or DACAs. The immigration debates of the last decade have been weird for me (if only because banks get equally passionate about their DACAs as people do about immigration).

    9. Hotdog not dog*

      Our branch managers are all referred to as BM. I will give credit for accuracy in many cases.

    10. Hlao-roo*

      I had an internship with the federal government a while ago, and that’s where I saw these great acronyms:

      BASH: Bird Aircraft Strike Hazard
      MEOW: Maximum Envelopes Of Water
      MOM: Maximum Of MEOWs

    11. ReallyAnonymous*

      My org just launched a new short-term disability plan, which they insist on calling the STD Plan.

    12. KoiFeeder*

      My undergrad had Student Services, which handled accommodations and other disability services.

      Given that they were not the greatest, that acronym got mileage. It got worse after they changed the acronym and started penalizing people for continuing to call it student services, though- by the time I graduated, there were folks who would refer to having to submit that semester’s accommodation paperwork as “going down to Spiegelgrund for the assessment.”

    13. stornry*

      when we were developing our supervisory training, I lobbied to have it call the Basics of Supervision Series — BOSS training — but they didn’t go for it.

    14. Caboose*

      There’s a way of compressing all the data and information from one database to move it into another, and it’s a BACPAC file.

    15. Flower necklace*

      I teach at the high school level, in a state where the end-of-year tests are called SOLs. SOL was a term that my mom used when I was growing up. It didn’t have anything to do with standardized testing when she said it.

    16. SnappinTerrapin*

      IRMA: Immediately Recognizable Military Acronym.

      That was popular at MCB Quantico back in the 70s.

    17. Bagpuss*

      I think they have since changed but there was a period when those convicted of relatively minor crimes here might get a Community Rehabilitation And Punishment order from the courts…

    18. small town*

      I’m in healthcare. We have a local TV station who’s call sign is HSV. Which to me means herpes simplex virus.
      Thanks for this thread!

    19. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I can’t give the actual acronym because it’s a product name. Suffice it to say it is PERFECT product name…in English. But they are selling it internationally without a name change. And translated for our most common non English customers, the acronym sounds NSFW!

  46. Daffodilly*

    Setting up a permanent WFH setup, and I want a docking station or USB hub for my Windows laptop. Looking around and they all have *really* short cords between the laptop and the hub/docking station. Like 6 inches. And they are built into the device so you can’t swap for a longer one.
    Anyone have a recommendation for one that has an HDMI port, at least 6 USB data ports, and an SD card slot and has a cable at least 12-18 inches long?

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      Depending on the connector port — the USB-C hub I use for my MacBook has only a 6″ cord, and I just put a three-foot USB extension cable between it and the laptop. It doesn’t have any trouble carrying through, and I use mine for power, HDMI and several USB devices.

    2. Brett*

      I assume you are talking only about hubs and not docking stations, since docking stations normally physically attach to the laptop anyway. The problem with hubs is they they are normally powered off the USB port and have serious power issues in the first place. The longer the cable, the more power issues they have; so you probably won’t find any with long cables.

      That’s a long way of saying that you will have to buy a powered hub for a long cord, like this:
      (But that one doesn’t have HDMI, and I am not sure you will find one both with HDMI and a long cord.)

    3. Brett*

      My other response has not posted yet, but quick research indicates that you are either going to have to go the powered KVM route ($100+) or the powered USB-C route, assuming you have USB-C ports on your windows laptop. Just using a USB extender with a standard non-USB-C hub is probably going to lead to power issues that will give you screen blinking and an early death of the hub.

      1. Daffodilly*

        Powered is fine. Willing to spend up to about $200 for a good one.
        The ones I’ve looked at with short cords ARE powered USB-C connected.

  47. Albeira Dawn*

    Does anyone write about their field on the side? I think I’d like to start pitching articles about my fairly technical field to trade magazines and other publications, and I’d be curious to hear any advice or experiences.

    1. Well*

      I’m an editor in a niche industry. Introduce yourself via email, to those publications. We write our articles in house but are always looking for columnists and guest commentary. Other pubs may very well accept articles. If you need to build name recognition you could also pitch yourself as an SME willing to comment on the record for articles.

  48. Justin*

    So on the ongoing “returning to office, adjusting to ADHD diagnosis” tip:

    Office continues to be mostly dull, which is allowing me to really feel out what does and doesn’t work for me. As I learn more about myself and my brain (and the comparison to how I have always felt in office spaces), I’m taking really concrete steps to make what is still not an ideal job situation for me into the best I can.

    I already mentioned that I asked to move desks (it’s still an open office nonsense thing, which, boo), and that has really helped address the excessive visual stimuli I had always had – I was facing a hallway which made it so I basically had to look at/greet everyone who entered the office. All day long. Every time someone went to the pantry or the bathroom. It was not good for my focus.

    I also bought over the ear headphones, so hearing whispers or conversations didn’t distract me. I also have ordered some earplugs that are supposed to be good for neurodivergent folks and just… turn down the volume on the background noise, so we’ll see about that.

    But my newest thing is realizing that, since it’s getting colder (eventually), I was about to pull my button-downs out of the closet, and I realized that I mostly hate them. I’ve been wearing simple, brightly-colored long-sleeved shirt/sweaters with simple and brightly-colored slacks (I like colors). And getting collars and tucking in really causes tactile issues for me. I worry how it sits, I pull the shirts in and out, and basically I just end up fussing with my clothes all day, and I didn’t even realize this until I didn’t have to do it for a long time.

    So I ordered some new simple long-sleeved shirts, which I’ll also plan to wear for an academic presentation I’m giving in person soon. Yeah, some folks may think I’m “dressed down” (I’m not, but some folks are conservative), but I’m working really hard on trying to create a work environment that is as comfortable as possible until I can get into a job where I can really bring my whole self to work without having to put so much effort in (and where collars aren’t the norm).

    I will keep a few for a funeral/wedding/etc. situation. But this process of discovering how to really support myself has been fascinating and revelatory. I wish it hadn’t taken me this long because I’d’ve been a better worker all these years had I known. But I’ve got however many decades left and it’s good to know what I need.

    1. ecnaseener*

      That’s great! Keep focusing on what works well for your brain even if it’s different from what the average person prefers. (You will find that this changes over time, as you get used to different environments and as your symptoms wax and wane from other factors in your life. Stay open.)

    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      HI Justin, There’s something more common in women’s wear than men’s — look at false collars. They have the unfortunate common name of “dickeys’. Basically it’s the bit that is visible under a v-neck, often with a connector to hold it in place. Might let you LOOK like you’re wearing the monkey suit under your sweater without the distraction.
      Formal wear has a detachable cuffs, but they seem to need shirt sleeves to hold them, so you’d have to figure out if it’s possible to retrofit a long-sleeved tshirt.

  49. ScroogeMcDuck*

    How do you get rid of/ deal with forced socialisation at work? I love most aspects of my job, but I’m having trouble with a new social requirement that has come up. My small team of remote individual contributors has monthly get-to-know you mandatory virtual lunches. These started as professional development meetings, but now that we’re running out of topics, these lunches have turned into a social hour, with questions about family life and hobbies, habits and backgrounds. I truly hate these meetings. I don’t want to talk about my personal life with my teammates, and I don’t want to discuss recipes or babies or any of the 37474 icebreaker topics people come up with. I’m pleasant and polite with all my coworkers and I have genuine, warm relationships with some of them, but I really hate this kind of forced socialisation with people I don’t really know – it disrupts my concentration and ramps up my social anxiety. My question is: is there a way to push back on these mandatory lunches without being rude? Or, if there isn’t a way to push back, does anyone have any advice on making the experience more tolerable?

    1. banoffee pie*

      I’m not sure how to push back, but if you decide to go, you can sometimes get off with talking very little about your life/ personal stuff. This is a bit sneaky but you could try to get one of the ‘talkers’ going and just let them get on with it, say hmmm every now and then etc. Or say a little about yourself and then ‘what about you?’ I’m sure you know that old chestnut. If it’s virtual you can tune out a bit and they may not even notice. You can plead camera problems at times, etc. I’ve noticed people without social anxiety aren’t neccessarily any better with people, they just don’t even notice when they’re pissing everybody off, so that’s something to remember too :)

    2. RagingADHD*

      If you’ve run out of learning topics, I think it’s appropriate to ask the organizer / point person about that.

      “Hey, the lunch and learn meetings were helpful but we don’t seem to have any learning topics anymore. There’s only so much personal bonding one can do remotely, after all. Does it still make sense to have these meetings be mandatory if we’re just chatting?”

    3. Wordybird*

      We have mandatory social lunches at my job since we’re all remote. We are a small team, and there are at least 2 coworkers who only share when directly asked to do so but they are generally smiling/laughing and seem to be engaged when others are talking so maybe you could try that? You could also write down a couple of things ahead of time that are fairly generic — spent time with family, read a book, etc. — if you’re forced to share that don’t really share anything all that personal with the group but seems like it.

      In the past, we have attempted to volun-tell someone that they are the lunch coordinator and need to come up with topics/questions to discuss. We’ve had mixed results with this technique.

    4. WellRed*

      If they are monthly I think it may behoove you to attend but not overthink your sharing participation. Let others blather in while you half listen. If you can dodge every other month or so with a vague reason, go for it.

    5. Anony*

      Could you propose additional professional development-related topics to address that would be enriching? Or another activity related to work so that it doesn’t have to get as personal. Watch a TED talk and discuss it over lunch, discuss a news article related to your field, something along those lines? I think you could say to your supervisor that you felt the professional development opportunities were more engaging than just chatting and if they could bring that back.

    6. Soft skills are vital skills*

      Working with other human beings is an important workplace skill that affects your ability to create work product. Learn to give bland and polite answers to social questions (e.g. “Oh, Thanksgiving was great! So much pie, mmm” or “Just took it easy this weekend, nice to have some time to relax”) if sharing about your personal life makes you uncomfortable.

  50. JB*

    Can I get some stim toy or stim jewelry recommendations?

    I’m autistic. When I get heavily focused on my work, my hands stim whether I want them to or not. I recently started a new job that I love, but it involves a LOT of heavy focus and it’s becoming a problem – I’m basically beating up my hands. (Twisting my fingers, pinching my skin, repeatedly cracking my knuckles, etc.) I step away for a break after an hour of work and my hands hurt.

    Here’s what I think I need:
    -Manual manipulation (not a chewable toy)
    -Won’t make noise (I work in the office, and everyone here is VERY quiet, I don’t want to break anyone else’s focus)
    -Professional-looking (not brightly colored)
    -Durable – based on what I’m doing to my hands I expect it will see a lot of ‘abuse’, I’d rather spend more on something that will take a long time to wear out.

    I’ve never had an actual fidget toy before and I really don’t know where to look, all of my searches are bringing up either brightly colored children’s toys or fidget putty. I do enjoy putty but I feel like it would get gross very quickly so I don’t think that’s what I want.

    I’m open to the idea of a fidget ring, but I have no idea where to buy a good one, if there are better or worse options, etc. I’m just kind of vaguely aware that they exist. Any help, suggestions, personal experiences?

    1. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

      I have a gray Faber-Castell kneadable eraser (so it’s actually useful for work sometimes) but I use it more as a fidget putty. It doesn’t get gross to me.

      1. JB*

        Now that’s an idea…I think I may already have a kneadable Faber-Castell at home. I might start by hunting that up. Thank you!

    2. ecnaseener*

      I got a cheap spinner ring on Amazon, under $10, and I love it. (Actually, I’ve bought similar ones several times because I keep losing them after taking them off in public bathrooms…) I like the “rainbow” ones but if you want plain silver or something they make those too. Blue Palm Jewelry is one brand that has them available. I haven’t seen that any brand is better than another.

    3. not a doctor*

      I bought a fidget necklace on Etsy that I love (and don’t use enough, although that’s mostly because I’m WFH). It’s a big hoop on a chain with a little bead at the bottom that I can spin between my fingers or move around on the hoop.

    4. You get a pen and you get a pen*

      I have a bunch of soft, squeezable stress balls on my desk. They make no sounds and take a beating.

      1. JB*

        My track record with stress balls is not great, unfortunately. The soft ones I often end up tearing apart (like ripping pieces out of them) because I guess the squeeze is not substantial enough for me; I love the harder ones that are filled with beads, but every one that I’ve had in the past I’ve managed to rupture within a day or so.

    5. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

      I was kneading blu-tac until I realized how gross that was making my fingers and desk (blue bits everywhere) and it was driving my husband crazy because I loved to see how big of a popping sound I could make. Then we went on vacation and I found a tiny tin of Thinking Putty and havent looked back. I know you mentioned being concerned about putty above, but this one doesn’t get gross or pick up nastiness off the desk like crumbs, or make my fingers sticky or ew. And it still crackles a little bit, but not too loud. Yesterday I think it was worked a good three hours while I was doing some deep thinking – popped it back in its tin and it was fresh as a daisy today.

      The putty is subtle and I can play with it under the desk or to the side of the screen – I have to do something with my hands while I think and that includes in meetings (before this it was doodling) so its a bit easier to roll a snake or make a cube while talking and people can’t see what I am actually up to.

    6. Fidgeter*

      I often use one of those basic fidget cubes – I found one that’s printed in wood grain with black buttons/knobs. Most of the sides don’t make noise, and most of them have held up for a long time. I hadn’t heard of a fidget ring before, but I fidget with my regular jewelry: a silver ring I’ve had since high school, and a necklace I modified a bit to make more sturdy.

      I also found out that doodling on my notepad helps me a lot, it looks like I’m taking notes in meetings (and I am! I doodle between writing), and it doesn’t need extra items, because I basically always have a pen and paper. Also, rubber bands are great for me, stretching them and looping them over a bunch of fingers to pull on (not cutting off circulation), and I can use one or both hands.

      I’m interested to see what other people use as a fidget.

    7. braindump*

      I have an infinity cube – it has the potential to be loud, but my patterns of moving it have become such a habit that I can do it quietly and nobody knows I use it at work. They come in many colors including plain black.

    8. I heart Paul Buchman*

      It might not be the right motion for you but I like fiddling with a variety of bulldog clips. I squeeze them open and closed. The big ones take a little force and they are office supplies so not unprofessional on your desk.

      1. JB*

        Ahh I do do this now, but it’s part of the problem; I usually end up clipping them onto my fingers, etc.

        I think part of the issue is that I am less of a ‘movement’ stimmer and more of a ‘pressure/sensation’ stimmer.

    9. Quandong*

      You might find a few things to try from Stimtastic dot co
      I’ve bought spinning rings and different fidgets from there and have been really happy with them.

      If you want to try a very durable putty, search for the type used for hand therapy. The texture is a little slippery compared with blue tac. The soft or medium-soft would be best to try first (firm theraputty is for intense therapy, very tiring to use for fidgeting).

    10. the cat's ass*

      greek worry beads! I have a set on a chain and they are silent except for a little clicking sound that only i can hear.

  51. Designer*

    What are people’s thoughts about companies that offer a huge pay range? I’m new to freelancing, and trying to network with more companies, but a lot of companies don’t seem to know what they want to pay for a freelancer. I’m seeing postings of $15 – $30, which if was salary would be close to $30K – 60K, which is a huge difference. Most salary positions keep the range around $10K.

    Are these companies just trying to get the cheapest out there, but want more qualified people to apply? Are they even worth applying to if I’m on the higher end of the pay range? Most of the job descriptions seem to apply to the higher end (wanting 3-5 years experience, rather than entry level jobs). Or are they not sure what they are looking for, and just trying to see who will apply?

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I tend to think that the huge pay range telegraphs they do not know what they want. And I tend to believe that they very seldom, okay never, pay the upper end of the range.

      1. WellRed*

        Agreed. I’d also say it’s probably more helpful NOT to translate unit into FT salary terms as I think that’s sort of apples and oranges.

        1. WellRed*

          To be more helpful: I agree they may not know what the hell they want but at $15 they are looking for someone to write, at $30 they are looking for an subject matter expert who can also write. Where do you fit on that spectrum?

    2. Analytical Tree Hugger*

      I’m not a freelancer, nor am I in HR, so I’m just a random internet stranger with a hypothesis:

      Are these companies posting for a particular project? Or are they building an internal database of freelancers they can draw on for a range of projects? As in, some of their simpler projects would be for someone at the $15 end of the range and for a more ambitious project, the company would interview/ask for proposals from someone who they think is at the $30 side.

  52. Firm Believer*

    My best employee has still not received a vaccination and clearly has no intention too. This means she can’t travel (not that we’re doing much of that right now), can’t come back to the office which we are planning to do part time and can’t attend work functions and dinners as she lives in a city that requires proof of vaccination to eat out etc…I’m at a loss. I want to talk to her about it but I’m not sure how. I’m certainly not going to convince her at this point if the news hasn’t. How are others navigating this. If she was a low performer it would be a lot easier but she is fantastic at her job.

    1. Mary*

      I would take a hard look at whether the things you’re describing are essential functions of the job, or would pose an undue hardship on the business if the worker was unable to fulfill them. If they are…then she’s not your best employee anymore. If you have a conversation with her then I would frame everything in terms of the position. “This position requires that the person in it do X Y Z” and “We really need you to A but you have B and C restrictions,” etc.

      1. Firm Believer*

        They aren’t necessarily an issue now but as the pandemic lightens they will be. Part of me wants to ask her why she’s choosing not to get vaccinated but I don’t want to be inappropriate. And right now I don’t want her leaving the company.

    2. Princess Flying Hedgehog*

      If she can’t do certain things, does that put an extra burden on other employees? If it does, that’s the problem that needs to be addressed. If not … how fantastic is she at her job? You may be able to accommodate her working remotely for now. What happens once travel is more of a thing, but she still can’t travel? In this case, the conversation may need to be we can make this work for *now,* but at some point, she’ll need to make a choice to get vaccinated or be let go.

      1. Firm Believer*

        It doesn’t really put an extra burden on them no. What I’m more concerned about is her missing out on managing her team, building relationships and meeting with clients. But yes, I think letting her know it’s not a good thing is a good direction.

    3. Anonosaurus*

      I disagree that you have no chance of convincing her. If you can explain the specific consequences of her decision for her job, she may have a different take. But that means you need to clarify those consequences for yourself first. It’s unclear to me whether you are able to allow her to continue working in a role which mandates certain tasks she can no longer undertake? What is the legal position in your jurisdiction as regards vaccine mandates and grounds for dismissal? I’m not suggesting you threaten to fire her as a way of pressuring her to be vaxed but you both need to be clear on where her decision leaves her in terms of ability to perform job duties. The fact she is a high performer means this sucks more than if she was useless, but to me it doesn’t change the basic calculus.

      1. Firm Believer*

        I think I need to suck it up and have the conversation. I’m pretty confident I wouldn’t need to fire her. If she new her job would be impacted she could very easily go some place else.

    4. AvonLady Barksdale*

      That’s tough. How critical is travel to her role and the team?

      I have a colleague who refuses to be vaccinated and plans to work from home forever. For now that’s fine, but when travel resumes for us, I and others will need her to attend client meetings that in some cases will have to be done in person. I won’t travel with an unvaccinated person and our company won’t allow it at this point. I imagine my colleague will, at some point, lose her job over it. Does your employee know it’s a sticking point?

      Honestly in this situation I would loop in HR and discuss how to approach vaccination policy with someone whose role requires travel. My company has guidelines– maybe yours does too?

      1. Firm Believer*

        It’s not critical right now but it could be in the future. She’s aware that I take the vaccine seriously and I’m sure she’s wondering what’s going to happen to her but she also knows how much I value her. I don’t want others to resent her for continuing full time WFH when they are coming to the office. We are in the process of determining guidelines. Before I expected non vaccinated people to wear masks and return like everyone else but now I’m leaning towards that you must be vaccinated in order to return.

    5. Mockingjay*

      Before talking to your employee, does your company have a vaccine policy – any guidance at all?

      If not, have a discussion with management: “how do we handle unvaxxed employees whose duties include travel and work functions in areas that require vaccination and/or manage a team in person?” This needs to be determined at a corporate level before you talk to her.

      It’s not the company’s or your role to convince her to get vaccinated. What you need to solve is whether her unvaccinated status affects her ability to do her job or parts of her job, or risks the health/safety of other employees, and if so, what steps must be taken: reassigned, required to vax, remote work, PIP, fired, etc.

      1. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

        This. If you don’t have a vaccine policy, before you speak to her about it, you should definitely address this as a policy lapse with the Powers That Be in your company. Once a policy is in place for everyone, then you address it with individual employees that are out of compliance. To me, this particular scenario is similar to having an unwritten dress code that you think is obvious, but one employee isn’t “catching on” and you want to have a conversation about their flip-flops as a safety hazard.

    6. allathian*

      Does her city require proof of vaccination, or are there alternatives available, such as regular testing?

    7. Haha Lala*

      It’s not your job to convince her to get vaccinated, but you can spell out her options. I wouldn’t assume she’d be automatically excluded from other events, but she made need to regularly get tested or wear a mask all the time in order to participate. Lots of restaurants in my city require either proof of vaccination or a recent negative test in order to enter, and it may be the same around you. That might rule her out for spur of the moment dinners, but she’d be able to plan ahead for an important client meetings or scheduled functions.

      You might want to approach this from a mindset that she has a medical exemption. If she had a legitimate doctor’s recommendation to not get vaccinated, what would you and your company do? There are several ‘reasonable accommodations’ that could be made for certain aspects of the job. Don’t make it about wanting her to get vaccinated, instead spell out the specific company policies/city mandates, what’s expected of her, and where she will run into issues.

      And if she refuses to wear a mask or get tested when needed, in violation of clear policies, then I agree- she’s not your best employee and she’s no longer a good fit for the position.

    8. Kotow*

      It’s really not your job to convince her to get it, and if she hasn’t gotten it at this point there’s probably a reason. I’d actually say it’s not even really your business as to what that reason is unless she tells you for medical accommodation purposes. If you’re going to have a conversation with her at this point, I’d focus on what the work-related issues are, and, assuming that the current requirements continue to remain in effect indefinitely, what problems that would ultimately create. But frankly, if her work is functionally unaffected at the moment, then I don’t know whether a conversation about hypothetical job limitations under hypothetical future restrictions is productive at this point.

  53. no dogs on the moon*

    tough week this week! had two interviews i thought went great at a company i’d love to work at, and haven’t heard back in a bit – i followed up a couple days ago but am starting to worry i’m gonna get ghosted (which i have been by other jobs, and it happens, but it always hurts more when it seems like the process is really pleasant and communicative for a few months). if i didn’t get it i hope i at least get a rejection!

    also getting increasingly frustrated at my current role… i can’t do any of the development stuff i want because i’m being stonewalled by a different team (for no good reason) and earlier this year asked for the first raise i’d be getting in my several years here after doing great work and taking on a number of new tasks. it’s been a few months so i followed up again yesterday to see if it was something i’d done preventing an answer so i could improve… no, they just “need to get focused on it.” uh………. ???

    all that is part of why i’ve been trying to find a new job for a year, but i’m in a niche field and am concerned i’ve run out of remote options so i gotta start looking into changing fields. trying to keep my chin up!

    1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

      In terms of tamping down your valid frustration with being roadblocked (such an annoying situation), could you reframe their non-reason in your head to something amusing and silly?

      For example, “Ohhhh, right, they’re dealing with an infestation of knitting heffalumps right now. Poor dept, having to spend so much time unwinding yards of scarves and dealing with wool bobbles puffs everywhere, makes it hard for them to do anything. Bless their hearts, I hope they manage to dig out of that okay.”

  54. BeadsNotBees*

    Success Story! I have worked in the private Education field my entire career (both teaching and administration- currently in upper administration and oversee multiple programs). Like a lot of my peers, I have unfortunately been feeling super burned out in this new COVID-era and have long dreamed of doing something else. I always figured switching industries was going to be difficult and/or impossible, but after reading AAM and comments here for a few years, I decided to polish up my resume and really pinpoint skills that would pass as “transferable” outside of education (I have a BS Accounting and of course lots of experience in management and operations).

    Well, I’m happy to say that after only a few weeks (!!!) of searching, I have successfully landed a management role at an accounting software company! I will be moving from a Senior Management role to a Middle Management role while still increasing my pay, so I’m excited to have a little less responsibility without taking a salary cut (which I thought was a real possibility making a move to a brand new field). My new bosses were actually thrilled to see my experience in the education sector, and really saw value in some of the soft skills, conflict management methods, and high stakes decisions involved in my former position! I’m feeling a little sad about leaving some of my colleagues and children, but am so excited to really push myself and try something new.

    I know there are a lot of AAM peers in education that are feeling at the end of their rope (even here in today’s thread) so I wanted to share my story to show that it is possible!

  55. runrabbitrun*

    Does anyone have suggestions for good job boards? This is my first real job search after stumbling into my current role almost by accident (applied for a higher position that I was qualified for but they called me and offered a better role over the phone within a day or two of my application, and I’d only been searching for a few days — talk about a lucky break!). I’ve been slogging through Indeed, Monster, LinkedIN, USAJobs, etc. casually but the sheer number of entries is overwhelming to me, even with filters in place.

    I have a BA and am currently a government analyst with some minor supervisory/QA experience, so think editing, executive correspondence, developing training materials, etc., but I’m definitely willing to change directions for the right job. Any tips on where I should be looking are much appreciated!

    1. annakarina1*

      Those are the big ones, but organizations that are specific to your industry usually have job postings listed, which is really helpful. You can look for local organizations that are for your general field, like if it was for a Montana Lawyers Association or Chicago Librarians Association or anything similar.

      I’m in library/archives, and there are local organizations like Metro Library Council and Archivists Round Table that put up job postings for library/archives jobs, they are usually helpful outside of Indeed (though Indeed is helpful for finding archivist jobs that aren’t just at libraries or museums or non-profits) and LinkedIn.

      1. runrabbitrun*

        I would love to go back to school for a degree in library science! I’ve been interested in both that and archive studies/positions, but those usually require a degree (which is totally understandable), so I can only dream about them now. You’re doing my dream work!

        Anyway, back to the topic…thanks for the tip! I will see what I can scrounge up locally, but my best bet is probably hunting around the nearest major city, so I’ll see what I can find.

    2. AnotherLibrarian*

      Government jobs are usually posted on government job boards (every state has one and usually larger cities do, too), so you can always start with those. In my field, there’s regional organizations, state organizations and also national organizations that have job boards. I would try to find a job board specific to your field and go from there.

  56. Dolla dolla bill*

    Advice for a faculty member about to ask for a raise? I have had tenure for several years. Recently I realized that all of my tenured colleagues in my department–all but one of whom are junior to me–are paid more than I am (significantly more). I’ve assembled a chart comparing my scholarly output to my colleagues. What else should I do, in preparation to talking to my department chair and dean? Thanks for any advice!

    1. Gracely*

      You may also want to compare your course loads/hours, and your service work. How valued each of those are in comparison with scholarly output is going to depend on your institution’s focus (are you more of a teaching university or a research university). If there’s a diversity issue (like if you’re a member of a minority group and they aren’t), you should mention that.

      Also, have you brought in any money through grants/etc.? Or, if your colleagues have and you haven’t, be prepared to answer about that.

    2. NotMy(Fancy)RealName*

      I’m going to ask the ugly question – what are the demographics? Are your colleagues all white men and you are not?

      1. Dolla dolla bill*

        The demographics are a little tricky… there’s plenty of diversity, not all white males, but I’m the only queer one.

    3. BRR*

      Assuming you’re part of a union, check what the collective bargaining agreement says regarding raises.

  57. lily*

    New manager here. Inherited a team 6 months ago and one of my reports has serious issues with communication and organization that were documented before I got there. I’ve spent a lot of time coaching him and creating structure for him, but he still keeps making big mistakes. The worst part is, he doesn’t seem to care or think it’s a problem. He made an objectively pretty big screwup this past week, I tried to talk with him about how we were going to fix it, and he kept arguing with me how it really wasn’t that big of a deal and all the other teams it impacted were overreacting. Talked to HR and he’s going on a formal PIP, but I’m not optimistic he will change.

    The process has been really emotionally draining for me. I have spent so much time trying to help him succeed here, staying calm in meetings, and now I’m feeling so guilty for potentially having to fire him. Does anyone have advice on not expending so much emotional energy on a difficult employee?

    1. BlueDijon*

      Oh goodness, I remember being in a similar position 2 years ago. What helped me when trying to coach someone who was either not engaging or not being able to meet that level was to see it as beneficial for me as well as them, and flip what my emotional energy was going to – that I was learning how to handle these situations, and so that emotional energy was going towards both me and them. It helped me still try to do my best to help them, but also maintain some perspective because a) I had not had that experience before and b) it helped to make it feel like even if the end outcome was not what I wanted, it wasn’t necessarily a ‘failure.’

      1. lily*

        Thank you! This is a really good way to reframe it. This is definitely a learning experience for me!

      1. lily*

        Very true. But this is more of a Dunning-Kruger situation where, he seems to think he’s doing great. And I, his last boss, and everyone else he works with is just overreacting or putting unrealistic expectations on him.

        He has only been with our company 2 years and I’ve received nothing but negative feedback about him from others — but he has the confidence (arrogance) of someone who has been there 20 years and is BFF’s with the CEO’s son.

        1. Mental Lentil*

          Sadly, he should have been managed out by now. TWO years with this unrealistic view of himself?

          He’s not going to change. He doesn’t think he is the problem. He thinks everybody else is the problem.

          Honestly, he may just quit when he goes on a PIP, or he may take it so lightly that you have no choice but to show him the door.

        2. PollyQ*

          The broader idea, that you can’t be responsible for someone else’s attitude, still applies. Ultimately, it’s not your job to make him see reason. It’s your job to get him to do his work and behave professionally. If you’ve coached and warned and PIP’d, then that’s all you are responsible for. And I don’t know how your company handles PIPs, but given that he’s been nothing but a problem for 2 years, I’d make it as short as you can.

      2. The New Wanderer*

        Exactly! You want him to be better, but he apparently doesn’t. You can’t make him put in the effort, all you can do is be clear (via PIP) what he needs to do and it’s up to him to use the support structure you created or not.

        I like what BlueDijon said too, about seeing this as a growth opportunity for you. It still sucks but it’s not a wasted effort on your part at all.

    2. Oreo*

      That sounds really hard and I am sorry it’s been so draining. At the end of the day, this is your employee’s job and he needs to care. Hopefully the PIP will either show him he’s got one more chance to correct himself or that’s that. This is on him to put in the work to show improvements and be a better team player. My partner recently went through and it was really hard on him but after a lot of coaching and a PIP, it was pretty much certain that this person wasn’t a good fit, wasn’t going to make the improvements and had to be let go. It was rough on him but ultimately he did all he could to support this employee.

    3. Lizy*

      Alison’s had some letters about this and I love her suggestions on “Here’s what I need to see”. Like, just flat refuse to argue with him. He made a screwup, and so you say
      “You did X, and it really affected…”
      “No it didn’t – they’re overreacting.”
      “I’m not going to talk about whether or not they’re overreacting, or how big of a screwup you think it is or is not. That’s not up to you to decide. What I need to see from you moving forward is Y. Can you agree to do that?”

      obviously a lot easier said than done, and I personally have never done it, but I like talking a big story about what sounds like a really foul-proof plan. ;)

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Heavy on the part about “that’s not up to you to decide”.

          You can expand this part if you wish: “The company and the bosses tell us what is important and what is not important, we do not make those decisions on our own. If we fail to follow up on things that the company and the bosses tell us are important there are consequences up to and including termination. So this misconception that you need to work on is that we do not decide what is and is not important. The company/bosses say something needs to be done in a certain manner The Only Correct Answer is, “Okay will do.” You can talk about insubordination and what types of things are seen as being insubordinate.

          Now you know, from here forward, to watch out for people who argue with your instructions. You can say things such as, “This is what is necessary, it’s not up for debate.” You can ask if they have everything they need to do Thing, if that makes sense in the setting. Or you can ask if they will do this from here on.

  58. OkapiFeels*

    Public librarian here. Got compared to a Nazi yesterday for asking a guy to turn down his music. Complete with the patron doing a Nazi salute. (And this from a dude with a laptop sticker with the flag of a Spanish white nationalist group.)

    We didn’t even kick him out.

    I don’t know if I want….advice? I’m just….kind of struggling with justifying being in my job, if this is how I am treated. I don’t know. Any insight or advice appreciated.

    1. Gracely*

      The public can often suck. And it doesn’t sound like that guy in particular was going to handle any criticism well, no matter who it came from or what it was about. His response wasn’t about you, it was 1000% about him.

      But usually for every sucky patron like that, there are some really good patrons who look up to librarians and appreciate them. Remind yourself that you’re there for them.

    2. AnotherLibrarian*

      I am sorry this happened. I imagine it was awful. In my decade of experience in working with the public in libraries, I have been called all sorts of absurd things including a nazi and a communist, been told my job was government theft (because taxes paid for the library), and been yelled at by a man who wore a wolf-skin vest, incoherently in Russian, while holding a knife. (We called the campus police on that one. It was a scene, let me tell you. They were great, knew the guy’s name, and skillfully defused the situation.) I don’t even work in public libraries anymore and those friends have stories that make my wolf-skin vest dude look like a boring Tuesday.

      It sucks every time. There are others who might argue you should have kicked him out, but I don’t tend to be one of them. It has always seemed to me the higher good of public libraries is to provide access to people. Even awful people who I wish weren’t there. Assuming the patron did as you asked (ie: turned down their music, stopped speaking loudly to themselves, or left if they were clearly intoxicated), I wouldn’t escalate or kick them out either. I would just say, “Okay, they did as I asked and now I can go back to ignoring them.”

      If you feel genuinely unsafe (our campus did ban the wolf-skin vest dude for six months), then I think speaking to your director is a good idea. Another trick I have used is to ask another staff member to come over with me. Not to approach the patron (that could escalate things, because it would look intimidating), but just to be there in case something happened. We had a nicely positioned large dictionary for just such occasions that the person could “browse”. I was always grateful for that back up. I hope this helped and I am sorry this happened to you.

    3. librarianmom*

      You have every right to work in a safe environment and be able to do your job without abuse. Your library needs procedures to deal with difficult patrons which is supported by your administration and board of trustees. An acceptable behavior policy needs to be adopted by your trustees and posted in the building and on your web site. An important aspect is documentation. There should be a form to fill out every time you have problems. A paper trail is the foundation to being able to ban people via no trespass notices served by the police.

      This should never be on a sole librarian’s shoulders. If you feel a lack of support you should ban together and insist on a safe work environment.

    4. StudentA*

      Something is very wrong with him. It’s a freaking library. By definition it’s supposed to be quiet. He’s pretty much daring someone to tell him to turn down his music. You were being generous by not telling him to turn it OFF.

      Mind the messenger. He sounds like a lunatic. Still, I’m sorry that happened to you.

    5. Decidedly Me*

      People suck. My team was compared to Nazis recently, too, because we were unable to offer service as their use case was against industry regulations.

      Thankfully, those folks are few and far between (I think that was the very first Nazi comparison…).

    6. irene adler*

      That is appalling!
      As a regular library patron (pre-pandemic), thank you for preserving the quiet.
      Anything other than a “You bet. I’ll do as you ask right now. Sorry for the disturbance.” should be met with ejecting the patron from the library. This is behavior you should not have to endure.

    7. lily*

      I’m so sorry you had to deal with that. What a jerk. IMO, to some extent, any job that involves a lot of interaction with the general public will mean having a lot of bizarre and negative interactions – it will be exasperating at least 20-50% of the time. People are nuts. So maybe you can reframe it to ask yourself, “is the other 50-80% of my job worth the price of having these negative interactions?” Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t.

      Also, hopefully you have coworkers you can commiserate with? Nothing takes the sting out of dealing with horrible customers like venting and laughing about it with people who get it, coming up with secret nicknames for them…10 years later and I can still remember the customers we called “Senor Oatmeal,” and “The Stomper.”

    8. Hotdog not dog*

      No advice, but all the love for public librarians! Growing up, my next door neighbor was the librarian. She would let me know any time a new book she thought I’d like came in, and she even let me exceed the “maximum allowable” number of books to check out on my card (kids under 12 could only have 3 books at once). I felt so grown up and trustworthy! I still love libraries, and have yet to meet a librarian I didn’t like.

    9. RagingADHD*

      Libraries exist to help combat the scourge of ignorance. It is a real fight-not always pretty, and not easily won.

      I’m sorry you took such a nasty hit.

    10. Tiabeanie*

      Tbh in that situation I’d have likely “gone with it” and said “Nazi supporters tend to listen to authority. Turn it down.”

    11. Lizzie (with the deaf cat)*

      Hi OkapiFeels, There’s a probably apocryphal story of a bartender who ejects a quiet, polite customer who is wearing a jacket covered in nazi paraphernalia. Another customer asks why the quiet, polite customer was ejected and the bartender basically says the man is showing who he really is, and if he is allowed to stay then next week he will be there with two friends, also wearing nazi regalia, and so on until one day the bartender realises he is now running a nazi bar.

      I think your experience in the library raises a lot of interesting questions. What behaviours do you nip in the bud? If I was an elderly Jewish lady, how would I feel about using your library again, if I saw the customer insulting a staff member in this way and there being no repercussions?

      The library is a public space, certainly, but there are still limits on what behaviour is appropriate there. If the customer had spoken to another patron like that, would he have been asked to leave?

      I think the crucial thing here is for you to have genuine backup from your employer, as this is an issue that can only increase over time. So it is not just how you personally were treated, but how your employer thinks you CAN be treated, which is the question.

      I hope there is a ‘mandatory incident report‘ form that you can complete, and that you can create a paper trail that can be used to create a safer environment for you and all of the people who want to use the library in safety.

      1. RagingADHD*

        A crucial difference here is that the proprietor of the bar gets to draw those lines for himself, while a library funded by public money (as most are) has very strict legal obligations about what types of speech they can ban people for.

        “What if another patron is offended” is not usually applicable to public places, because at least in the US, people do not have a legal right to be sheltered from hearing offensive things in public. The legal issues will be different in other countries, of course.

        But whatever the local laws, t’s certainly not a librarian’s individual call to make.

  59. Washi*

    I have been working at my job about 6 months and we’ve been trying to hire a couple more people in my same role for about that long. I just turned 30 and most of my coworkers are 50+. My boss, also 50+, has mentioned several times that she’d really like more age diversity on the team, meaning more younger people. Should I say anything about potential for age discrimination? I do feel a bit silly doing so because there’s a shortage of people with the right qualifications (job requires a specific Master’s) and I truly am 100% sure that she would never actually turn someone down due to age because we are so shorthanded and aren’t even getting serious applications! Plus I’m not sure what I would even say. But I do worry that she’s not aware 40+ is a protected category. Thoughts?

    1. Mary*

      When you’re in the same protected category, proving discrimination against that category is infinitely more difficult, and a defense that your employer would raise in a heartbeat if anyone sued over it. Still, if it comes up again I would casually say something like “Would it be possible for us to focus on X Y Z metric/degree/qualification instead, since age is a protected category? If we hire on age alone it might look like discrimination.” That way you’re doing it conversationally and with a tone that suggests she already knows that, rather than “HEY AREN’T YOU FORGETTING…”

      1. irene adler*

        This is a good tactic. I like it.

        Boss hasn’t actually taken any action to remove anyone from the hiring pool-right?

        So I would temper this with watching to see IF boss actually passes on resumes that appear to be from “seasoned” candidates in lieu of those who are younger – solely based on the perceived age the resume reflects.

        Just wondering, is the boss interested in other types of diversity- other than age?

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Because you are not getting serious applications, I think I’d let this one go.
      If you happen to know someone who is qualified then refer them to the opening.

  60. Going Anon For This One*

    So, there’s some drama in my workplace and I am struggling to navigate it. After a long stint, a faculty member, Fergus, is retiring. This is long coming and Fergus is well regarded, but super old fashioned and change resistant. Fergus has an assistant, Bob, who I supervise, but works about 30% with Fergus. While Bob has a PhD in a field related to Llama Grooming, say Llama History, Bob has no training in practical Llama Grooming beyond what he’s learned from Fergus. I have a more recent training in Llama Grooming, but not a PhD. I am interested in Fergus’ position as well. I have turned down being on the hiring committee, because I knew I wanted to apply for the position. Bob has informed me he plans to apply as well and his expressed that he thinks he is a shoe-in. I am not super comfortable competing against my own staff member for a job. Plus, even if I weren’t applying, I don’t think Bob would be a good replacement for Fergus, because the goal is to modernize our Llama Grooming and Bob has shown strong resistance to this. Whether I get the job or not, I will need to continue to supervise with Bob in some capacity. Is there a way to navigate this without it blowing up? Am I worried about nothing? Should I tell Bob I am also applying?

    1. Well*

      I think this situation is not uncommon. If you get the job be prepared for bob to look to make an exit ( or maybe he won’t) but there could be new mgt challenges with him.

    2. Anonymousaurus Rex*

      I definitely think you should tell Bob you are applying. It has less chance of totally blowing up if you are transparent. I think this is just one of those things where you have to see where the cards shake out. Make sure you make your opinions on the needed changes to modernize Llama Grooming known to the hiring committee. And I agree that if you get it, you might want to think about how that impact’s Bob’s morale in his current role. If you can, look for other opportunities where you can use his strengths and let him know where he is valued. Otherwise, yeah, he may be making an exit.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Will you have to act as a reference for Bob in his application?

      If yes, I would tell him as soon as possible. Tell him you have a conflict of interest so you cannot write a referral.

      Let others know what is going on here- take people with you. This could be HR, your own boss or other people.

  61. The Quitter*

    I put in my notice and was open that I didn’t have anything lined up – but was confident I would bounce into something quickly. It got fed up the chain to the CEO, who has asked me to stay until I line something up, whenever that may be. I know my work there is highly valued but the job has too many elements that don’t align with what it was sold to me as, no room for growth, questionable financial future, and the people I work with most frequently are just… awful and it wasn’t worth it. I know I can bounce into a similar position with growth potential for an easy $5-6k more. I don’t expect to take them up (but am open to hearing stories about people who reached the end of their rope and were able to knot it), but I’m trying to figure out what the actual value to the company would be to let me stay until “whenever I want” and have to scramble to find a replacement then? I’ve seen enough of the hiring to know they will not be looking throughout this time, and maybe not even for 6 months after I’m gone. (My guess is they hope I will change my mind, but it would require far more for me to stay than I think they would do.)

    1. Well*

      You gave notice with nothing lined up for a reason. Think about why that is and whether there is any benefit to YOU to stick around.

      1. Anonymous Hippo*

        Absolutely agree with this. Generally someone gives notice without a new job lined up because they are FED-UP. You don’t owe them the time. They probably hope you just give up an stay.

    2. You get a pen and you get a pen*

      The company is making this offer solely as a benefit to THEM, not you. By letting you stay, they don’t have any urgency in finding your replacement.

    3. RagingADHD*

      Since you don’t really want to stay and have nothing to lose, why not ask for what would make it worth staying, and see what happens?

    4. Analytical Tree Hugger*

      I think your question was something like, “Why would the company offer to let me stay?”

      It benefits the company because they get to hang onto your experience and work for longer, delaying the time when they need to invest resources into the process of interviewing, then training someone new.

  62. Not Parker Pyne*

    Anyone here has experience in hiring international faculty members? What are the basic things to consider? How do you approach the process?

    1. Gracely*

      Check with your HR department about that–often there are visa requirements/paperwork/etc. that need to be dealt with, and they should know more specifics.

      1. AnotherLibrarian*

        Yes, this. Visas… I could go on such a rant here. But yeah, super check out the Visa situation.

        1. You get a pen and you get a pen*

          just to chime in and second all this….H1B Visas have very stringent guidelines and can take a LONG time to work through the process.

    2. SnappinTerrapin*

      I’m not sure I understand the question.

      Do you already have one or more strong candidates who have applied, and who are better fits than the local applicants?

      Or are you looking for some expertise where the place they earned their degree/ have worked in the past strengthens their candidacy (e.g., teaching about the culture of that other country)?

      Or is there another reason that hiring someone from another country is particularly appealing?

    3. Chaordic One*

      I previously worked in a dubious nontraditional international school that offered courses and hired from all over the world. We hired many short-term international faculty members to work in the U.S. The key words here are “short-term.” They were usually hired on a contract basis to teach specific courses during a specified time frame. The big thing seemed to be that the school had program approval entered in the “Student and Exchange Visitor Information System” (SEVIS). Almost all of the faculty were then brought in on J-1 visas, which seemed comparatively easy to get and which are considered “non-immigrant” visas. The faculty were not allowed to stay in the U.S. for longer than 18 months. Of course, this was several years ago and things may have changed since then.

  63. SleepDeprived*

    I’m usually a high performer, someone who volunteers to help and acts as a resource. I have two young kids, and the youngest, an infant, has some medical stuff going on and is is not sleeping. We are working with his doctor, but they’ve warned me there’s no quick fix, and it could be a while before he’s sleeping longer stretches. Baby is sleeping 30-90 minutes, and then will be up for an hour, around the clock. At night, his crying wakes up the toddler, and then it’s a battle to get her down as well.

    My husband and I are taking shifts as best we can, but because I’m nursing, I end up taking the lions share. We are both exhausted. My husband works in on site and I think that helps keep him awake, but I work from home and as soon as I get back from daycare drop off, I just want to crawl into bed.

    My quality of work this past week has been poor. I’m working extremely slowly, constantly finding errors in my work that I have to go back and fix, and my colleagues keep bringing stuff back to me to be redone. Everyone makes mistakes, but not like this. I feel like I haven’t properly completed a task all week. I wish I could just take the week off, but after my maternity leave, I have very little time off remaining, and I don’t know how long this will last.

    How do I handle this with my colleagues? I didn’t want to say anything and sound like I’m making excuses, but I’m sure they’ve caught on that something is up. I’ve tried to put in extra hours to make up for my lack of productivity, but my quality of work is so low, I’m probably hurting more than helping. I don’t think it’s fair to say to my team “sorry, sick baby, I’m too tired to work for the next two weeks”, but that’s how I’m starting to feel. If you were my colleague, what would you want me to do?

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      I’d rather have 4 hours of good work out of you than 8 hours of bad work. If I were your colleague, I’d suggest you take the mornings off to catch up on sleep, and then work in the afternoon (and evening if possible, but it sounds like it’s not).

    2. Zona the Great*

      Oh my God. Hearing this makes me want to help you collapse into a pile of warm blankets. If you were my colleague, I’d care only about your mental health here. I would even encourage you to stay home later in the morning or maybe find a way to take a nap at work before you really begin your work day.

    3. Gracely*

      I would definitely prefer that you sleep instead of work extra hours. Even if you can only take a power nap here and there, that’s going to go a long way towards reducing your errors which will effectively increase your productivity.

      Like, seriously, when you get back from daycare hand off, set an alarm and get yourself an hour or two of sleep. Especially if you’re salaried, at this point, consider the nap part of what you need to do your work effectively.

    4. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      Putting in extra hours is not the way to push productivity here. YOU NEED A NAP.

      If you were my colleague, I’d want to be able to sit down with you, figure out which things can be farmed off to other members of the team for a couple of weeks, and make a plan for addressing your current “wobble” off the productivity path. Focus on the priority stuff and see what can be left behind. If you took a week off, how much of the work would get done and by whom? If you’re able to go half-speed, is that enough for a little while? (And maybe this is a chat-with-my-manager thing.)

      You’ve been a resource to others. Time for them to repay the favor.

    5. Bobina*

      If I was your colleague – I say take the time that you need (even unpaid if thats feasible for you financially!) – basically people are human and I’d want you to focus on yourself and your family.

      If you need to keep working, communicate things are going on (so it people arent wondering whats going on), work in whatever way suits you best (eg sleep all day and work at night? fine by me) and if you need help, ask for it! Extra proof-reading? Help pushing deadlines? If your team and manager are reasonable, I’d much rather the clear ask than getting sub-par work.