open thread – October 29-30, 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.

{ 1,339 comments… read them below }

  1. Bb2*

    Ideas for jobs to look into?

    Degree in civil engineering, worked 5 years for an engineering consulting firm. Changed careers and have been Director of parks and recreation for a small town for 4 years now.

    I’ve been job hunting for 2 years but since I have no real career direction in mind I feel hopeless. Not willing to move so I’ve started to look into fully remote jobs but that is so vast.

      1. Bb2*

        I don’t want to go back into engineering as it didn’t really click with me. I like problem solving but don’t like paying attention to the finer details.

        Parks and Recreation job prospects are limited around here. I don’t really like the all consuming hours since you have events on weekends and nights.

        So yes something different.

    1. The Smiling Pug*

      Well, what exactly are you looking for with a new job? I’ve found that looking at remote jobs is a bit overwhelming. Have you tried narrowing down the WFH positions available by looking at what they require? I’ve found that helps sometimes.

    2. LDN Layabout*

      I would start by looking at your skills/interests/’loves & hates’ first. And I mean literally list them out somewhere. Once you have more of an idea of how you want to spend your working time, you can start looking for careers/jobs that would work for you.

      1. Bb2*

        I worked through What Color is Your Parachute after reading about it here. It did give me some perspective on my likes and dislikes but I still feel lost.

        I like problem solving, researching, coordinating, planning and consulting. I don’t like dealing with the public as I am introvert and hate conflict. I really value normal working hours, a supportive team atmosphere and someone above me giving me direction/guidance.

        1. Princess Trachea-Aurelia Belaroth*

          There’s another book called The Pathfinder that I’ve seen recommended.

          You might look into fulfillment jobs. (Fulfillment as in coordinating between warehousing, factories, and customers.) My sister does this for a company that manufactures and sells electronic components to business like vehicle and electronic manufacturers. There’s a bit of customer service, but it’s to companies and not the public, since individuals don’t generally need to regularly purchase hundreds of thousands of capacitors. They do have to deal with people in sales and in the factories and warehouses, but that’s also not the public, and they have their supervisors to back them up. Most of her work is checking inventory against customer orders to determine what needs to be manufactured, and apportioning inventory to customers and getting it shipped. There’s a bit of creative problem solving, within a framework of routine.

          I don’t know if that’s super well-suited, it’s just the closest thing I can think of from my close circle.

          1. Bb2*

            That was helpful and does sound like a job i would be interested in and could do. I’ll also check Pathfinder out. Thank you

        2. Kiwiapple*

          If you work with anyone, you are going to run into conflict at some point…it isn’t just the public.

            1. unpleased*

              What jobs were you doing with the public that contained so much conflict? What do you mean by “public”? And, for that matter, what do you mean by “conflict”? Are you talking about having to do some work to fill a need, or dealing with actual upset people? My point here, adding to what Kiwiapple is saying, is that you need to define what you mean by these terms. I wonder if your definition of conflict is actually so broad it might cause you to pass up options. As well, introvert or not, I wonder whether you might need help developing coping skills for dealing with conflict and that might help you feel like you have more options.

        3. CatLady*

          Sounds like either Project or Product Management might be something to look into. You’re solving problems with people instead of designs but it can be a lot of fun. I’m an ambi/slightly intro-vert and yeah, it takes some effort but its good effort for good life skills.

          1. Bb2*

            Thank you. I have thought about product or project management. It’s such a vast field that I really need to buckle down and hone in on what I want to be managing as when you Google ‘remote product management’ a billion jobs come up.

        4. Ann*

          Have you considered proposal management within engineering or related consulting firms? Someone with a technical background is really highly valued in this role.

        5. Nethwen*

          Based on this comment, I would strongly recommend NOT working at a public library, in any capacity, but especially front desk/public service/circulation/programming work.

          Reasons: dealing with the public – whose expectations vary and rarely match reality, conflict – internal and external, notorious for unclear/conflicting/unreasonable directions, notorious for unreasonable expectations of employees, weekend and evening hours, often atypical or unstable hours, really good chance that there won’t be a supportive team environment – at least on the institutional level.

          Of course, each workplace is unique and there are some good libraries to work at, but professional burnout and disillusionment is rampant, yet those unhappy people continue in the profession for decades.

          That doesn’t help you know what might interest you, but at least you can rule out one profession all together.

    3. Anon for this*

      It sounds to me like you could have a great skillset for something agriculture-ish. Shameless plug for my employer Cargill who hires a ton of engineers, and remote workers.

    4. Beehoppy*

      What discipline of civil engineering did you practice? Why did you leave the field? Would you have any interest in going back? There are lots of different paths you could take with that degree.

      1. Bb2*

        Structural engineering. I left because I don’t think I’m a good engineer or have the passion for it. I got great grades in school, I can do the work but I never understood the concepts behind what I was doing.

        Work colleagues would debate about how to solve a problem and I just wanted to be told what to do. Tell me what mathematical problem to solve or what to model but for me to figure it out on my own never really clicked.

        1. lost academic*

          Certain kinds of programming jobs might be a decent fit if you have that skillset. I was going to suggest environmental consulting but based on the follow up I’m replying to, I don’t think you’ll like it. A lot of prospective employers want to hire people with engineering backgrounds because they are going to be good and interested in problem solving somewhat independently so you’re going to really have to think outside the box if you want to avoid that. You might need to really entirely change fields and adjust expectations, particularly for salary.

          1. Generic Name*

            I agree. Above you said that you enjoy problem solving, but here you’ve said that you don’t like debating how to solve a problem and just want to be told what to do. Problem solving requires independence and creative thinking, so I’d re-evaluate if you really like problem solving.

            How do you feel about CAD or other drafting? If you just want normal hours and to do what you’re told, being a drafter seems like it could be a good fit. A/E firms, consulting firms, local governments all have drafters on staff.

            1. Bb2*

              Drafting is a good idea, I did do a little of that and enjoyed it. You are right that it fits the bill of being told what to do. Thanks!

              1. Mgr101*

                Don’t know if you learned any GIS as part of your past experience but that might be a good fit too and may have more growth potential than CAD.

            2. Bb2*

              You are also correct. I say I like problem solving but I should really say I don’t like technical/engineering problem solving as I am not confident in my engineering ability.

              Parks and Recreation gives me the ability to problem solve in less technical terms…..how to coordinate three events going on at once, determining how many volunteers are needed and anticipating what you will need them to do, broken xyz at park and how to fix it, staff member calls out sick so you have to rearrange to make it work, etc

              1. JustForThis*

                That sounds as if you might like logistics? (Full disclosure: I have no personal experience whatsoever in that field.)

                1. Bb2*

                  Thanks, someone else in the thread talked about logistics as well. Definitely something I will look into.

            3. Quinalla*

              Agreed on drafting, it might be right up your alley and already having experience in A/E you’d probably have no issue getting a job. So many firms are hiring right now (Work for an MEP firm myself).

          2. Bb2*

            I don’t have any skills in computer software/programming.

            I know I am burnt out in my current job so my mental state isn’t the best but all I really want in my next job is something that offers me a good work life balance and a job i don’t hate or feel inadequate at.

            Building a life outside of work that I enjoy is my priority so I am totally okay with adjusting my expectations and salary in my work life.

            1. NACSACJACK*

              Those can be acquired. My employer and others often hire others with a technical background and train them in programming. We actually recruited some of our internal customer service staff when automation and CoVid-19 reduced our workload. Think on it.

              1. Bb2*

                I am open to it. What job titles would I look for? I have seen people write on here before about companies hiring people with technical skills and training them but I don’t know where to start with that.

                I did turn down a job offer to be a client serve specialist with the recreation software system I use thinking it would be a good step to get into that industry. (The company was not well run and the pay was way to low for me to able to make it work)

                Is getting in on the customer support side what I should be looking for? Or can I jump in somewhere else?

              2. Bb2*

                I am open to it. What job titles would I be searching for? I have seen it written on here a couple times that companies do hire people with technical backgrounds and train them but I don’t know what I should be looking for to get into that field.

                Should I be looking to get in on the customer support side and hope to work my way up?

    5. Stephanie*

      What aspect of your past jobs did you like? Who did you like working with? Did you like more structure or little structure? I found this helpful when I was trying to figure out roles and companies. I imagine your background might lend itself well to project management. But perhaps ask what parts of a job you liked, you could tolerate, and you absolutely refuse to do.

    6. WomEngineer*

      What kind of work do you enjoy? If it’s the structures side, then aerospace, transportation, and construction are options. If it’s the people side, then perhaps city planning or even themed entertainment. Also consider startups, as your director-level experience could be something they’re looking for.

      If there are any community colleges or local universities (or others with online programs), you could look into a certificate program. That way you expand your skill set for a possible career change. Also you can take advantage of their career services and alumni network.

    7. Tex*

      Maybe hook up as a consultant with several landscaping firms? It would be civil engineering but also take into account your parks experience. The projects would be vastly more interesting than a regular civil job.

      1. Tex*

        And I mean not your average landscaping firm, but higher end boutiques that specialize in building parks and outdoors spaces. The kind of projects that get written about in architecture magazines. You might have to do some digging to find them.

        Also, high end pool designers (if you have a flair for design).

    8. Sangamo Girl*

      I’m construction industry adjacent and we hire tons of PEs to be project managers. Get some PM experience and then more options open up on other fields.

    9. Anonymous Koala*

      Hi fellow engineer! Does your local county/city/state environmental or planning office have jobs near you? They might be a good fit for your skill set. Otherwise are you willing to travel? Consulting might be a fit as well. I also second the PM experience and certification – it’s incredible useful in many technical fields and it’s not that time consuming/expensive to get.

      Also, if you feel like you would enjoy engineering but struggle with figuring out what strategy to approach problems with, I would also suggest talking to senior engineers in your field about this and maybe auditing some entry level grad engineering classes to gain experience. MIT open source courseware has some good online lectures that are free to the public. You could also volunteer with engineers without borders or habitat for humanity – lots of experienced engineers there and opportunities to problem solve with your peers. Learning how to solve a problem from scratch vs building a model is a completely different skill set that’s (unfortunately) not taught in some engineering programs, but you can absolutely learn it with practice.

      1. Bb2*

        Thank you. I do have local county/town government that have jobs. You are right about how I can still learn with practice and guidance. I do wonder if I left the field too soon and if I just toughed it out if it would have clicked.

        PM certification is something I have thought about, I might as well do it. I like learning and at least it will make me feel like I am moving forward with something.

        1. Sleeping Late Every Day*

          I worked very briefly (only left because another place offered me my dream job) in a local government assessor’s office. We cubicle workers just did property history checking, mostly straightforward but with some interesting research involved on some. But there was also a drafting team who worked on the technical end with property planning, I think for zoning and utility compliance in rehabs and new structures. That kind of sounds up your alley.

    10. AP.*

      With experience in local/state government as well s with civil engineering, the Department of Transportation comes to mind.

    11. Reg eng*

      What about the water sector? City, county or state level regulatory work might be up your alley since you already have some public sector experience. Think public health! Personally it’s a rewarding career for me.

      (My bachelor degree is in civil and my PE is environmental so it works for me)- I’m wondering if you could find something at the city, county or state level that would use your degree but not be design oriented.

      My job is fully remote, but I do have to interface with folks in person a few times a year. Regulatory so the engineering background helps but I don’t need to design anything.

    12. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      What about policy/lobbying? Bring your expertise to someone else’s table. Seems like a considerable of that would be research and stuff you could prepare remotely.

    13. Zona the Great*

      I work for a state agency where I am a program manager overseeing funding coming in as a federal formula outlay which is used for local agency projects around the state. I work with engineers but I am not one or use any engineering skills except knowing how to read plans. I am fully remote as is most others like me in my state. Similar jobs exist in Park and Rec, Trails, Arts and Culture. Your experience and skills lend themselves directly to this type of work. Very rewarding. No street-level work.

      1. Bb2*

        Thank you, this sounds like something that really combines my work experience I have so far and something that I might enjoy. What are some typical job titles that I would search for?

        1. Sandman*

          Local MPOs could have positions that would be similar to this, too. Your engineering background would be helpful but (depending) not necessarily central to the job.

          1. Zona the Great*

            Yes exactly! MPOs and COGs are good places to look for these jobs. These are federally required planning agencies so jobs are typically very secure. Some states have a good centralized agency who represents all the COGs and MPOs where you can look in one place for jobs. My state isn’t like this so you’d need to do a search for all your state’s COGs and MPOs (some agencies are both the COG and the MPO). In my state, these jobs are typically called Program Manager or Program Administration. Perhaps Planning and Development is another keyword to use.

            I look for most of my jobs through Governmentjobs dot com. Some states don’t participate in that site but most do.

    14. Nesprin*

      I’m going to suggest temping, especially if you can find an engineering specialist temp agency. At this point, I’d suggest trying out a mess of different jobs/industries/environments and seeing what clicks.

    15. Hlao-roo*

      I don’t have any specific jobs/careers to look into, but I do have an idea for a process:

      When you talk to family/friends/acquaintances (or scroll through Ask a Manager comments), take note when someone mentions a job that you think sounds interesting. Then, go to indeed (or any other big job page) and plug in “job title” and your location. Browse the listings and apply to any that catch your eye. You can also do a more in-depth hunt if any career paths seem like an especially good match.

      It’s kind of a scatter-shot approach, but should expose you to wide range of jobs that are out there.

      1. Bb2*

        Thank you, this is something I have been doing occasionally and has really helped. I’ll keep doing it more consciously.

    16. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I wonder if there’s anyone out there designing playgrounds because a civil engineer with Parks and Rec experience would seem like a perfect match.

      1. pancakes*

        There are, but they’re landscape architects. I don’t know if all of them are, but my friend who does it went to grad school for landscape architecture.

      2. ScruffyInternHerder*

        Splash pads. The PE (civil/structural) in my family designs a TON of splash pad infrastructure.

    17. Civilian*

      US Army Corps of Engineers! They have all kinds of roles for engineers, all over the country, some remote working options (telework at minimum). I’m not an engineer but I have worked for them over 20 years and love it. Good luck!

    18. Random HR Lady*

      I work for a transportation department for state government. We are always looking for civil engineers and there are lots of job we have that aren’t being engineers but prefer the degree.

    19. this is ka*

      I work as a project manager for construction projects. I work for a large business entity rather than a general contractor, so there is more organization-driven planning and organization. I don’t have an engineering degree, but many of my PM colleagues do. It sounds like a potential fit for you as well.

  2. Should i apply?*

    Help! Introvert told I need to develop relationships with our stakeholders (department leads of other departments). Best advice?

    I had a discussion about getting a promotion with my manager yesterday (which honestly was stressful in itself). We went over the job description for the next level, and my manager agreed that I was already demonstrated that I could do the technical work, but I needed to show that I could “consistently” drive internal decisions with stakeholders.

    I have done this on occasion, but its not something I already consistently do because at my current level I am not expected to, and it isn’t usually needed. (Does anyone else find it frustrating that to get a promotion you have to show you are already doing the work on the next level but you don’t have the authority of being on that level?)

    He thinks in order to be able to do this I need to develop closer relationships with the stakeholders. While I can see the advantage of that, I don’t know where to start. These aren’t people that I normally interact with. We are still mostly working from home (and some of them are on another continent). They are all super busy, as in scheduling a meeting is a nightmare, and besides the “develop a relationship” I don’t currently have any reason to contact them.

    So for those of you are good at developing work relationships, especially people higher up than you, that you don’t interact with much, what are your tips?

    1. dresscode*

      That’s tricky, but what about a remote lunch date? I used to have those once a month with someone at my level in a different department. No agenda was set, just a quick chat to talk about work or not work. might be kind of weird at first, but maybe you could have your boss give you a soft opening, or join the first one to make it more comfortable?

    2. ATX*

      This is a strange recommendation – usually developing relationships with other people involves working on a project with them or working on a project that produces a product they will see and/or something that benefits them.

      If neither of those things are happening, it’s weird to assume that you can just reach out to a bunch of randos that you have zero contact with. I’m very outgoing and an extrovert, and even that would feel uncomfortable for me. I would never reach out to someone just for shiz and giggles.

      I would push back and ask what your manager means by that and get a little more information. Perhaps they weren’t clear or they know something you don’t. Either way, I’m a big fan of asking for clarification or being upfront if you’re not comfortable with something.

      1. Should i apply?*

        That is pretty much what he is telling me to do, and when I have expressed that I struggle with that. His suggestion was “find someone to coach you”

        1. Reba*

          like, such as… your boss maybe? for goodness sake.

          In seriousness, in my workplace it would be totally fine to reach out to these people (or the person that handles their schedule) and introduce or reintroduce yourself, say that your boss is encouraging you to talk with higher-ups to learn more about the big picture of the business, and ask for a 30 minute virtual coffee break.

          It sounds like your workplace is a bit more hierarchical, and moreover that you don’t know these other department heads. Could you ask your boss to do the introducing emails or just like, slightly facilitate this in some way like giving the stakeholders a heads-up that you will be reaching out?

          This is awkward and a bit frustrating but imo has no bearing on introversion. I don’t know if it will help you to set that aspect of the situation aside.

        2. ATX*

          Replying to below and to you – your boss won’t be your mentor (assuming what’s what they’re referring to). Does your company have a mentor program? Perhaps your boss could reach out to someone and have a recommendation.

        3. CatLady*

          Does your organization have a mentorship program? If so, I suggest enrolling ASAP.
          If not, are one of those stakeholders someone you’ve interacted before and you admire? If so then screw-up your courage and write a cold email: Hi, My name is Should i apply and I’m the xxxx on yyyy team. I am looking to advance my career and it was suggested that I find a mentor. I respect the work you did on zzzz and I was wondering if you would be open to a mentor-mentee relationship? If not, could you recommend someone who might be?
          In a mentorship you have to be willing to be a bit vulnerable and it can be hard to do that with the boss. If this person has never been a mentor before but is open to the idea, I suggest researching what the relationship should be like and be ready to drive it as needed.

        4. Ugh, really?*

          I’m going to read between the lines here. Is it possible he’s an extraverted conservative white male? It sounds like he may be part of a corporate “bro” culture of good ol’ boys who promote people like themselves. If you want to get ahead, you’re expected to be part of the tribe or fraternity, talk like they talk, do what they do, and so on. Depending on the group, you might be expected to know football, golf, drink beer, etc. Do you want to be part of that group? (I don’t.)

          1. Down to the minute*

            Not sure why you automatically decided the boss must be a “conservative.” I feel like I can make a pretty good guess, though.

            1. Three Flowers*

              Conservative can mean things other than political leanings… A corporate old boys’ club is definitely a conservative work culture, in that it has not managed to accept much change since women started working outside of the telephone exchange.

              1. Down to the minute*

                Nah. I think she hit two spots on the AAM commenter bingo card — bashing men and bashing people who don’t agree with them politically.

    3. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

      I have found the key to developing interpersonal relationships is to learn what each person’s currency is, meaning what is important to them that they will want so that they see me as a valuable asset to them? If you can identify this with the individual stakeholders you can begin to develop those relationships with them.

      1. Chilly Delta Blues*

        This could be a good way in. For my job the currency is photos. I’m in a field office but work with our HQ staff a lot, they see official photos of our work but the nature of my job means I have access to more everyday photos and stories of what’s happening good/bad/ and sometimes “you can’t make this stuff up”. I’ve learned a casual “this happened today and I thought you’d enjoy it (photo attached) goes a long way with relationship building while not requiring extra commitment on anyone’s part.

    4. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      Is there any way that you can make yourself be the go-to informational resource for those stakeholders? If your manager is regularly interacting with them, can you get them to delegate some of that coordination and information-response work to you?

      Also, are there any working groups or other staff-to-staff contacts that you can get on? Those are a good way to get noticed and to start to build peer relationships that can turn into higher-level contacts.

      The goal of both of these things to be for Stakeholders A and B to tell their staffs “hey, find out what’s going on in OP’s department with the annual teapot certification program.”, and for those staffs to naturally want to contact you instead of bothering your boss.

      1. Should i apply?*

        Thats pretty much already happening. I have no problems interacting with my people at my level and am considered a SME in my area, but I am trying to move from technical expert to more a strategy based role.

        My manager is telling me that I need to develop relationships directly with the managers, so that when needed I can get their inputs directly, or tell them they can’t get what they are asking for without them freaking out.

        1. Getting ahead*

          As you’re working with the people at your level, can you start asking them for more insight into the why behind what they’re asking (where that’s appropriate). For example, if you run a report for them, and they want different data next month, start digging into how that department needs are changing, and they may connect you with their management organically.

          Alternatively, talk to your boss about setting up routine check ins – quarterly, twice a year, whatever cadence makes sense for your group – with those managers to start anticipating what changes might be coming down the pipeline – or inform them of what’s coming down yours. If your manager is already having meetings like this, pick one or two groups, and ask if you can lead the discussion on what’s relevant in your area for those groups.

        2. relationships in buckets*

          I have no problems interacting with my people at my level and am considered a SME in my area, but I am trying to move from technical expert to more a strategy based role.

          I think that tells you your answer. Do some brainstorming with some of your peers about some strategic issue that needs solving and then start having investigative meetings with stakeholders.

          Think like this: We have a current pastry distribution process and would like to change it. So I’m talking to all the stakeholders about their relationships with pastry, their experience with our process, and what they’d like to see.

          Then, when you have a lot of suggestions, you’ll also have a lot of relationships. And, you’ve got a good start on fact-finding for an actual strategic plan.

          Two birds.

    5. Anon for this*

      Get involved in ‘engagement’ activities with your company – like the Women’s Network or the LGBT alliance if you have them. Most of theses groups love to have allies involved even if you don’t actually fit the demographic of the group. Even just a community giving group if your company has one. These roles often give direct access to people in power at your org.

    6. gsa*

      I’m married to an introvert. In order to get around that, she began attending industry events, got on the city appearance commission, and other various organizations where she could “practice” meeting and greeting/making small talk.

      She still an introvert, but if she hast to be an extrovert she can flip a switch.

      I don’t know how long it took her to get there, but I know she started about 10 years ago.

      1. Should i apply?*

        I am not shy and I don’t have problems with small talk. I have problems with reaching out to people for “no particular reason”. I can’t get over the feeling that I am bugging super busy people for no reason other than “develop a relationship”

    7. Combinatorialist*

      So you have to kind of do this organically but a few things I have found to be super helpful in developing work relationships with people higher than you:
      – ask them for advice (like advice you actually want, not asking for the sake of asking)
      – discuss with them what they see as the biggest challenges of their department that your department could help with
      – offer new perspectives that are harder to see when you are in the weeds of the “way things are done”
      – when working with them, work to give them what they need instead of sticking to what they say they want. Approach things as “what is the best I can give them to address their real pain points” and not just “what do I need to do to meet the requirements”.
      – know what you can uniquely (or less commonly) offer them. What makes your perspective valuable and how can you show that? Believing this might be the hardest part.

      Some of this is hard and requires skill (you need to make sure you really really understand what their pain points are, for example). However, keeping these things in mind have helped me build those relationships. This leads to my regular project leads giving me opportunities to be the technical lead on their projects (either officially or unofficially) which in turn is leading to being promoted to the project lead level.

      (Also, yes, we promote the same way of having to show you are doing a level up without the authority. It is frustrating, and we have the additional frustration of having no way of recognizing people who are exceptional at their level. Our “exceeds expectations” is “doing work a level up” and there is no “being totally awesome at your level.” Which is super annoying).

    8. CharChar*

      A) Completely with you on the frustration part around promotions – especially when your managers have full confidence in you being able to do the part, just need that experience before you can get the promotion…
      B) While everybody is super busy, in my experience everybody has 15min at some point in their calendar to help others develop and to talk about themselves (read: people like to share how awesome they are). Be honest here, that you’re actively developing to a certain role and that one of the steps you’re taking is to learn about the other roles/stakeholders as much as possible as you expect to be working with them frequently. You expect that this knowledge will form a much better working relationship in the future, 15min now may save hours in the future. Go in with an open mind and no assumptions, as I often find that I knew 20% of what they did and those conversations are a great way to fill in the other 80%.

      That 15min conversation is also for you to ask:
      ‘hey next time you’re deciding on x topic, could you share your thought process with me?’
      ‘When you decided on y, I would like to know what were some of the pro/cons of that approach vs z’

      “Driving internal decisions” as a skill to me is often about understanding all the restrictions stakeholders have and finding solutions for them before they think about problems.

      I know this is ouuuuut of your comfort zone, but that is ok – this gets easier. And in my experience, developing this relationship building skill is necessary in most careers.
      PS. Also always ask for a book recommendation, great thing to follow up with them after you’ve read the book :)

    9. SlimeKnight*

      When I started where I am now, the organization was going through a lot of changes. I made myself an expert on a new program they had implemented, so that even people in other departments were reaching out to me for help. This allowed me to build a lot of relationships across the organization, when before I was siloed. So if there is any area that cuts across your company where you are/could be a Subject Matter Expert, I would start there. For example, you could offer to provide training.

    10. Gnome*

      For clients, that’s tricky, as you know. If there are folks (e.g. your boss) who interact with them more regularly or handle those contacts, I suggest you ask to be included to ‘listen in’ on calls (plan on not saying much, maybe just an introduction, at least at first) or to attend representing the technical staff (in case there are questions). They will at least get to see your name and/or face… And if the main contact goes out on leave or something, you are primed to be a backup contact since you know what is going on.

    11. A*

      Hi, fellow introvert here. I think I’m good at developing relationships at work (I was recently promoted and I think this is one of the reasons). First off, I grew into it as opposed of making the most of something that comes naturally to me. I find it helpful to detach my work persona from my non-work self and see it as a skill that I needed to learn and develop. As to practicalities, I am a senior manager myself and have been managing an introvert who wanted to get more experience in leading and management. I don’t think you can develop closer relationships with someone you don’t work with in the first place without your manager’s help. The way I did this was having this person shadow me at some senior meetings, then I gradually handed some work and related meetings over to him and he started to liaise with more senior people on his own. These were some of the people I have the closest relationships with so I knew they’d be nice to him. If I were you, I’d ask my line manager to give me some different/additional projects where you have to work with these people and take it from there.

    12. AP.*

      Are there status meetings which the stakeholders participate but you’re not invited to join? Ask your boss to start inviting you along. Maybe you can act as their deputy when they are unavailable and/or present on behalf of your department.

    13. RagingADHD*

      The best advice I got about building relationships with senior stakeholders for helping to seed future decisions is to solicit their input on what type of future projects might best serve their needs, so that their input is baked into the work from its initial concept. Basically a needs assessment for what could be done, instead of doing one for a project that’s already starting.

      So the approach on that would be something along the lines of “we are doing some long-range planning, and wanted to learn about your department’s needs so we can look for initiatives that would serve you better.” If you were in-person that would be accompanied by taking the person to coffee or lunch, so I’m not sure how to adapt it for remote work.

      Good department heads will be thinking long term instead of short-term, so this objectively is worth their time. Whether they will actually make the time is a crapshoot and you might have to try something else. But it’s a legit approach that can work.

    14. Rosie*

      Are there any of them you’ve clicked with at all? I’m in a similar boat where to move up it’s really my interpersonal skills that need to be worked on (particularly client relations) and I mentioned to our director of sales, who I’ve only met a couple times but had a good rapport with in those moments, that I’m interested in this position but these are my weaknesses and he has started coaching me on that front. I was surprised by how eager he was to coach actually because to me it felt like intruding on his time but it really was as simple as just bringing it up!

    15. Cheezmouser*

      Fellow introvert here. I ran into the same problem and got the same non-advice about 8 years ago. I’ve since climbed up the ranks and have great working relationships with heads of other departments. Here’s what I suggest:

      1. If you don’t have a reason to work with higher ups from other teams, create one. Pick one team to start with. Which other team does your team naturally have a lot of projects with? Which cross-team relationships does your manager currently own but might be willing to delegate? Which teams don’t currently have a liaison on your team but should? Think about what relationship or area of responsibility you want to eventually take over.

      2. If you want a more strategic role, start talking and asking about strategy with your manager. What’s a problem that everyone grumbles about but no one has the bandwidth to tackle? Bring some ideas for solutions to your manager and see if you could tackle it. The key is that it must be a cross-team problem that would require you to work with (or at least get lots of input from) the higher ups on the team you want to build relationships with. (Make sure you suggest a project that is high-level enough for the other team’s lead to be involved with, but not so high that it would be inappropriate for the project to be assigned to you.) Once you have your manager’s blessing to lead a project/initiative, that’ll naturally give you an opening to interact with that team’s lead. You can ask your manager to make the introduction for you: “Great! I’d love to set up automatic inventory alerts for when our stock gets low. Could you send an email to the head of Inventory to let him know I’ll be working with him on this project and copy me? I can take it from there.” Or you could introduce yourself: “Hi Fergus, Bob has asked me to set up automatic inventory alerts for when our stock gets low. I’d like to learn more about what kind of alert system your team has right now and get your input on the best way to move forward. Are you available to meet next week?”

      3. Once you’re doing the project, make sure to keep the higher ups informed. You’ll most likely start the project by getting input from the higher ups, but then you’ll probably be working solo or with staff on your same level to do the actual execution. Make sure you close the loop with the higher ups! If you send a monthly/quarterly status report to the project team, copy the higher ups as an FYI. Or copy them when you send celebratory emails to your teammates for achieving milestones (“Hey team! Congrats on our first successful beta test of the alert system today.”) This is important for visibility, both for the project status and for you as the project leader.

      4. Repeat steps 1-3 a few times with that same team. Once you get a few of these projects under your belt and have built a track record of being able to work with that team, talk to your manager about formally taking on the relationship with that team as part of your job responsibilities. (“I’ve really enjoyed working with Inventory on projects X, Y, and Z. I’m wondering if there’s opportunity for me to take over owning the relationship with Inventory for our team. Is this something we could discuss?”)

      Congratulations, you now have responsibilities that require you to regularly interact with the higher ups on another team. Rinse, lather, repeat for more teams as desired. Once you gain 1-2 of these new, higher-level responsibilities, I’d say it’s time to discuss a promotion.

    16. kt*

      Make up a project. Find something that you could drive value on, and start talking to people about it.

    17. learnedthehardway*

      Honestly, I’ve found the best thing to drive relationships is to listen to people and show that you’re thinking about what they’re telling you. Find a way to provide some value to what they are doing.

      Also – ask your manager if there are any issues that your department could help out the other departments with. Or, tell your manager that you’re going to reach out on the basis of doing process improvement in your own department to see how other departments feel about the service they get from your department (if relevant). Use that as a basis for reaching out – in fact, then you could say your dept manager suggested you reach out. You might hear some feedback that would form the basis for a process improvement project.

    18. David*

      This might not be relevant in your case, but if the opportunity comes up, asking someone for help on something in their area of expertise can be a pretty effective way to build or maintain a professional relationship. There have been times when I would ask a coworker to help me with something that I probably could have done myself, not only because they can do it more quickly but also because it gives me a good excuse to open communication with them. (It helps that my company is very non-hierarchical, with a cultural expectation that anyone in the company can reach out to anyone else – no need to channel communication through managers or anything like that)

    19. Jamie*

      I am actually one of those people who is really good at that. So my recommendations would be to make it to their advantage if at all possible and use their work as a stepping stone. So for example, in my job I asked a department supervisor for 30minutes of screen sharing meeting to have her give me an overview of her system. So she literally shared her screen, and told me what systems she uses and what they mean and what she does with those screens. My reason for this is that we all need to work together- all departments are interrelated, and the more I know about her systems the better I can proactively help to NOT effect her, and if anything help improve. I guess I should say I’m an accountant. I did this with pretty much all the different department managers (Leins, a/p, a/r, disbursements). This first meeting gave THEM the control of topics- and I learned what was most important to them. After that 30 minute meeting I looked at stuff
      Myself, and with some of the managers I scheduled follow ups with specific questions I had. This did tremendously well for me in the aspect you need. I will also say I am surrounded by introverts – my boss is an introvert and that’s why he hired me to do this sort of thing for him (im female in case that matters). So the burden of these relationships is usually on me since most of my
      Coworkers are introverted. I also work with worldwide people – and people above me in the chain.

      1. Jamie*

        Honestly after those first initial meetings – for me it naturally flowed. Some of those stakeholders now cc me in emails or include me in meetings for THEIR stuff since they know I know more about the big picture and tend to be able to help.
        Since I listened and respected their perspective in the beginning – even though I’m below them in the hierarchy – they even respect me saying no to their requests.

  3. W*

    Interviewing at 2 places right now. If I try to time it right and get offers around the same time, can I play the offers off each other and negotiate for more money?

    Place A is more desirable but their salary range ($50-60k) was already given in the job post. They also asked for salary expectations and I gave the upper half of that range, $55-60k. Place B offers more, $60k+.

    Place B is the sure bet. If Place B offers $60k+, can I go to Place A to ask if they can offer some more since I have another offer or will that look badly on me?

    It’s not a big difference and I’ll still choose Place A, but I just want to know if I can do more to maximize my salary.

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      It can be difficult to get the offers to be around the same time, but if you get an offer from A and not yet an offer from B, you can tell B that you have another offer and so ask where they are in their hiring process, which may rush them to make an offer, or they may say “We can’t really rush this.”

      That said, with the numbers you’re talking about, you don’t necessarily have to leverage another job offer in order to negotiate for more. If A offers you $55k, you can still ask for $60k or even $62k.

      1. W*

        Thanks for sharing! So you think that if A offers me 55k, I can still ask for the max, 60k, or more? Wouldn’t they just say the range we’re offering is 50 to 60k, so no more? And would asking for beyond the limit make them decide on another candidate?

        1. Anonymous Educator*

          Yes, you should 100% ask for the max. Any place that offers you 55k and rescinds the offer if you ask for 60k is not a place you want to work for. That’s a major red flag. They could hold fast at 55k, but they shouldn’t rescind the offer.

        2. DCQ*

          If a company has posted their range, that probably really is their range and it could cause issues to offer above it (think: equity issues with other staff at that level). That said, if it’s only $5000 you could asks for something like a signing bonus to make up the difference.

          1. IndyDem*

            Actually, I wouldn’t ask for a signing bonus. That is a one time payout – and isn’t factored into future % raises, which lower it’s value over time.

        3. Yup*

          For sure, you should be able to ask for the 60K without any problem. It’s what they advertised, and what you said in the interview. You could justify wanting more than 55K based on the fact that another employer offering 60K+ is interested in you. Asking for more than 60K would be tricky, in my view, as it could come across negatively. What would be reasonable, would be to ask for 60K plus something else, possibly related to benefits or a salary review sooner than a full year, e.g. 60K now, with a review and adjustment in 6 months, or something like that.

    2. W*

      Also, I gave my salary expectations in the cover letter as requested, not the negotiation stage.

      Would I still be able to negotiate salary later if they already made their salary range transparent in the job post and I already gave my salary expectations in the cover letter?

      1. Combinatorialist*

        If they have done you the courtesy of being upfront about their range, it is a bit disingenuous to try and then go above it (just like it would be if they decided to try and go under it). If the job turns out to be significantly more involved (like surprise 25% travel) or higher level than the posting, that’s one thing. But I would say you need a real reason to ask for more than the range you have already told them they are fine with. And I wouldn’t say another offer is that real of a reason

        1. Elizabeth Proctor*

          If their benefits aren’t good, that would be another reason to try to go above the range you had already specified.

    3. Beehoppy*

      If they have already posted their salary range, you are unlikely to get much more than the high end, and you would have to be prepared for the (small) chance that they withdraw the offer if you go back with a request for more than you originally said you were looking for.

    4. Parenthesis Dude*

      You can always try to get more, especially in this market. You may want to say you looked at benefits and you need a bit more money to make up for your losses. If their range is 50-60k, they probably won’t have too much wiggle room, but may decide to go over if they really like you.

    5. Haven’t picked a user name yet*

      Like others since they were transparent I wouldn’t push back on the salary for no reason. If you feel it is significantly under market then you should have bowed out earlier. I do think there are a few scenarios for asking for the max or more:

      1) the job responsibilities as you learned through the process are more significant or require additional expertise than previously understood, as such you are looking at a higher base.

      2) the benefits are going to shift a significant amount of money back on you.

      I don’t think you should leverage another job offer alone, it feels a bit icky, and as a hiring manager I might be put off, however if you came with reasons why you would like to discuss a higher range because of good reasons that would be different.

    6. learnedthehardway*

      Be careful with this – it can get to looking like all you’re doing is playing off the companies, and that you’re not interested in the role. ONLY do it one time – if you tell A that B has offered X, and then A matches, don’t try again with A if/when B matches A’s offer.

      Better yet, go in to your negotiations with an idea of what you want to get, and negotiate the whole package. Just because B might offer more money, it doesn’t mean their offer is overall better. A might offer you a better bonus structure, benefits or vacation, and might be a better company overall.

      1. Joie De Vivre*

        Yes, be careful. I’ve seen this sort of situation play out 2 different ways – at the same company. One manager raised the offered salary for a candidate, another manager pulled the offer for a different candidate.

    7. Chidi has a stomach ache*

      FWIW, this is what my husband (in engineering) did: he ended up with two offers given within a week. Company A came in first, then B. A had a higher salary, so he told company B that he already had an offer for X, could they match? They did, then he went to Company A and said, “I just got a second offer for X” and while they didn’t up the salary they did give a sign-on bonus. And he’s at A, now (and honestly, was probably not going to go to B at all, even if they’d initially offered a higher salary). I am also told that is very common in his field. The big companies expect that they might compete over candidates, and he is also right in the middle of the salary range for his title, so there was wiggle room to be had.

  4. Sunshine*

    Today is my fifth day in a new job. TIL that before he was Asian Jim Halpert or Louis Huang, Randall Park made a living being a jerk in sexual harassment training videos. I would have negotiated more if I knew they were springing for famous people!

    How are all the other recent job changers doing in your new roles?

      1. JustaTech*

        Gad, I watched so many of those as a kid because my dad was a management consultant and needed to review the training videos on the weekends (and we only had one TV).

        The one with John Cleese was the only one that was not excruciating to be in the room with, and I actually learned some stuff about communication in management.

        I’ve realized recently that I haven’t had any HR training videos in forever. I would remind them of this, but the last set of harassment videos was *so bad* that I really don’t want to have to watch them again.

    1. A Beth*

      I’m finishing up week 3 at a new job & new institution. So far so good? I guess at this point I’m a mid-career person, so I feel like there’s less of a grace period to mull things over; normally I would waffle over things more but now it’s just like I have to jump right in because it’s not new work to me, just new people. So amidst the hours of trainings and policy reviews I have a clear sense of my top priorities and the timelines for most of them. I don’t know where my impostor syndrome went but I’m glad it seems to have disappeared with this change!

    2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      Same company, new role.

      First week was phenomenal. I hit the ground running and was able to show how the organizational knowledge was going to overwhelm my growing pains.
      Second week was a mixed bag. Some growing pains. I’ve been out of my desired role/department for 18 years, and what I know how to do and how I know how to do it is betraying my age.
      Third week went well. Productive, high morale, hybrid role started looking like we envisioned it.
      This week has been a catastrophe. Systems outages, sleep deprivation, deadline roulette.

      Sum it all up, though, and I feel challenged, capable, and still happy with this brave new world.

      1. A Beth*

        At least the catastrophes weren’t your fault, right? All you can do is work with what ya got. Hope next week is on the upswing again!

        1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          At least the catastrophes weren’t your fault, right?

          I haven’t caused any of the catastrophes. My new co-supervisor thinks I could have handled one of them better, i.e. made better use of the downtime during it, but there’s a good case for what I did from the point of view of the client team (where I am coming from) instead of the point of view of the team he’s always been on.

          I’ve also eliminated three tickets before they were even opened, so I think I’m still head of the game.

    3. Marie Elizabeth*

      Just passed 90 days. Not at all like I thought. I didn’t get training on anything and was just put into doing my job. It’s been stressful, to say the least. I’m learning a lot but would have like to slowly be introduced to the problems and not just have them dumped into my lap in the first week. People still aren’t taking me seriously or letting me into meetings I need to be in. Wasn’t told I was going to do payroll so that was a shock. I’m not sure this is where I want to be right now but I also don’t want to look like a job hopper. It’s tough!

      1. A Beth*

        Wow, that is tough! Normally I’d say stick it out for a year but maybe if you can find something else now this can just be a blip and you can just leave it off the resume?

    4. The Tin Man*

      The news about Randall Park is amazing and I love it and I found at least one of the videos online. Marvelous.

    5. NACSACJACK*

      Upskilling is rough – first they say, take the training, then when it takes me 7 days to finish it, no more training until our work break at the end of 10 weeks. No time to train during the day during those ten days. Why do employers expect you to train off the clock when you’re not a consultant.

    6. anonymous73*

      I lost my job about a year ago today, and finally started a new one at the beginning of August (so almost 3 months in). The job I was hired to do takes me about 4 hours total to complete each week. It’s so frustrating. I’ve spoken to my manager and she’s been nudging the customer to utilize me in my role more but nothing yet so I feel like I’m once again stuck in a dead end job that won’t allow me to advance or learn anything new (it’s a govt contract). But my manager is awesome and put me on a other project that should keep me busy so there’s that. I just feel like I go from one job to another that never really offers much to grow because I’m so desperate to find ANY job to either leave a bad one or be employed.

    7. Xenia*

      Just got hired for my first full time professional job. The company just announced an 8% across the board increase to salaries for anyone under director level, completely separate from normal performance/rank/seniority salary increases, and they’re including the new hires. This may be the unexpected dream job

  5. Green Goose*

    Does anyone have a project management book or workshop/course under $200 they can recommend? Please recommend ones you’ve personally taken/read and found useful. TIA!

    1. Escaped a Work Cult*

      PMI website has a beginner’s course for free available! You can sign up for an account without paying for membership to access it. There’s also LinkedIn learning, which occasionally offers free courses about project management.

    2. DCQ*

      I mean, you can’t go wrong with Alison’s book — Managing to Change the World. I seriously keep it next to me at all times.

    3. DianeWantsToTravel*

      One of my employees has been taking various Project Management courses via Udemy; he said they are comprehensive and affordable.

    4. Hay You!*

      I have used the “Global Standard: A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge, PMBOK Guide, Sixth Edition. It includes the standard for project management, 2017. Also have the Agile Practice Guide book. Both copyrighted 2017, and I don’t know how much has changed in the standards for the profession since then. I was in a multi-month leadership program and we were groomed to become certified project managers and pass the PMI test. We also got college credit out of this, so I assume this is a college textbook. It was interesting and followable. And I have these books for sale, if you are interested. But again, I don’t know how current 2017 is in this field.

    5. Girasol*

      I found the PMBOK – PMI’s guide to project management – a hard slog but worthwhile. Better is the very readable PMP Exam Prep guide by Rita Mulcahy. It’s clear and easy to read but remarkably comprehensive. Don’t be put off by the title “Exam Prep.” It’s a good everyday handbook for a project manager.

      1. I got the dirty twirls, Schmidty!*

        Seconding the PMP Exam Prep Guide! I used this for the exam prep and it was the best resource, and not bad at $99 (when I bought it early this year, at least). I also used the Agile Practice Guide as an additional resource, that’s less of a cost than the exam guide. I’m keeping both as resources as I continue to manage projects now that I have the certification.

    6. Ista*

      I’ve been working my way through some of the LinkedIn Learning (pka Lynda.com) courses as a refresher. I like them a lot more than I thought I might—the variety of instructors is nice and gives you different takes on the same things. LinkedIn Learning is often available for free through public libraries, too!

    7. 30+ years of PM*

      Depends on what types of projects you are managing. I work in software development program / project management and use the resources available from Construx: https://www.construx.com/resources/topics/
      It gives a lot of good information about different types of project management through the lens of software development.

      I also suggest learning about managing constraints – Time – Scope – Cost
      The best project managers work with the key stakeholders to balance these out to provide the top priorities (Scope) within the required time / cost (cause time / cost are often the hardest to persuade management to increase)

    8. anonymous73*

      I used PM Prepcast 2 years ago to prepare for my PMP certification. They have 3 different options depending on what you need. The basic plan is $279 (so a bit more) but if you’re looking to get certified, it was a big help. And if you’re going this route, pay the additional money for the simulator exams – they helped me a ton to pass on the first try.

    9. The cat's pajamas*

      I really like Kimberly Wiefling’s “Scrappy Project Management: The 12 Predictable and Avoidable Pitfalls that Every Project Faces”. It’s an older book, I found mine at a thrift store, might be available online.

      This is a short, quick, to the point book for starting out and basic concepts I run smaller projects, not big construction PMBOK requiring level ones.

  6. Moth*

    I’m going to be telling my work shortly that I’m pregnant and will be needing time off in a few months. Does anyone have any advice for what sorts of things to ask about specifically, so that I’m not overlooking things I’ll need or want to know about? My company provides 12 weeks of paid parental leave which can be used anytime during the first year, though I plan to use most (all) of it up front.

    Also, I tend to be a pretty private person, so I think this will come as a surprise to a lot of people, especially since I never speak of a relationship or anything (which is accurate — this is something I’ve chosen to do on my own). So I do expect a few questions around that from some people. Most will be well meaning and just curious, though a few will have definite opinions. I’m okay handling the second group, but any suggestions for responses to well-meaning people who ask questions that I really don’t want to get into at work (Oh, is your partner excited? I didn’t know you were in a relationship! Etc.) would be greatly appreciated! I view the details as belonging to my child and not everyone else’s story to know before them.

    1. dresscode*

      Ask how your sick leave works. That’s the thing that gets you. Most places make you use it before you can use other leave funds, but kids are notorious for getting sick. So just at the time you need it banked up, it’s all been used. It’s kind of a racket.

      1. WulfInTheForest*

        This 100%, new parents are often screwed because they used all their sick leave for 6 weeks off with FMLA, and then your kid gets sick two weeks after starting daycare and you have no sick leave to use.

        1. Little beans*

          100%. I had always heard that kids frequently get sick at daycare, but it is so true especially at the beginning. My kid was probably sick every other week the first few months – It gets better, I’m assuming that their immune systems develop over time. Also, the daycares are much stricter these days about keeping your kid home with any symptoms.

          Because of Covid and remote work, I was able to work a lot of days from home, less effectively than when he’s in daycare but without having to use a sick day every time.

        2. Chilly Delta Blues*

          Plus there are a lot of doctor appointments for baby those first 6 months. Between well baby checks and then sick visits when he started daycare, I used up a ton of sick leave even after my official maternity leave ended at nine weeks.

      2. Clisby*

        Do most employers these days let you take sick leave for a sick child? When I had paid sick leave, we weren’t allowed to take it for anyone other than ourselves.. I’m sure there were people who lied about it, though.

        1. fhqwhgads*

          I’m pretty sure where I live, by law, you have to allow employees to use sick leave for caring for a sick immediate family member, or yourself, or medical appointment.

      3. Moths*

        Thanks for this point. I’ll check on that. I believe our parental leave policy doesn’t require you to use up other leave funds first, but I do want to make sure there’s not going to be any surprises on the sick leave front when I do need to use it.

    2. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      I’d suggest leaning to the flexible when imagining what you might need. Childbirth is a totally natural and yet so variable process, physically and emotionally, and the learning curve for babies as they try to negotiate the whole breathing air/regulating one’s body thing is equally up for grabs.

      You MIGHT be able to do an hour or two of check-in meetings during some of your time off, you might not. You might discover you will want to spread out your leave differently, or whatever.

      Definitely come up with some thoughts about how you are handling both routine childcare and non-routine childcare … what if baby gets sick? what if babysitter gets sick? what if someone’s covid-exposed? Make sure you’ve thought through a couple of back up plans, and include strategies for WFH or in-the-office.

      As far as the “what’s the gossip” pieces of the puzzle. I am an only parent by choice, and I found that it was handy to provide language to an ally so that she could feed people my preferred explanation — “This is a welcome child.” I was lucky that this appeared to have solved most of the prying. A chipper “I’m doing this on my own” can help too — the trick being that you control the emotional temperature of the conversation by overdoing it a bit on your side to innoculate yourself a bit from the “oh you poor dear, whatever shall you do” crowd. (And remember, no one is entitled to information about how baby ingredients were obtained and/or delivered into your body parts, so any of that conversation can be shut down with a shocked stare and a bit of awkward silence.)

      Enjoy the adventure!

      1. WulfInTheForest*

        Why would they do check in meetings when they are out on Maternity leave? When you’re out and off the clock, you shouldn’t be working.

        1. PollyQ*

          In fact, I believe that legally, they’re not allowed to ask you to work in any way beyond maybe answering the question, “Where’s the Fergus Inc. file?” or “What’s the password to the Wakeen account?”

      2. WulfInTheForest*

        Try to get your work set up for pumping beforehand, if you plan on breastfeeding. I came in after being on Maternity leave for 6 weeks, only to find out that there was nowhere for me to pump milk. There was no space designated so I ended up having to commandeer my boss’s office. HR was no help and bungled the whole thing for months.

        So try to get that plan in place with your Boss/HR/whoever handles that BEFORE you take your leave.

      3. Moths*

        I like the idea of making sure I’m setting the tone on things. If I show that I’m happy and this is something to be excited about, hopefully that will be a model for others in how they should respond. And I love your comment about no one being entitled to info about how baby ingredients were obtained and delivered into my body parts! I may need to save that line for a few people!

    3. Purple Cat*

      Think ahead of time on what details you WANT to share and which details you want to keep private and practice in your head ahead of time so you know where to cut people off.
      A bright cheery “Single Mom by Choice, Thanks” and moving on to the next work topic should serve you well.
      In terms of work, check your health insurance for what’s covered or not so you’re not surprised, and is your work covering your insurance premiums while you’re out? A chunk of my leave was unpaid, so I had to write a check back to my company to cover the premiums.
      Coverage plans – who do they bring in, and when and how does transition planning work.

      Congratulations!!

      1. Not A Manager*

        Agree. If you don’t want to share that information, you’ll need to practice more slippery replies. “Is your partner excited?” – “EVERYONE is excited!” “I didn’t know you had a partner.” – “I try not to talk about personal stuff too much at work.” “Is your partner taking leave as well?” “So many things are up in the air at the moment.”

        This is kind of exhausting, so I’d pick a few generic, non-responsive phrases and stick with them.

    4. PrairieEffingDawn*

      One thing you’ll want to consider is whether to start your leave early or wait until the baby comes. If you have a job where you’re on your feet a lot you might be grateful for a week or two to rest before labor. But I know a lot of people with desk jobs leave early with the intent of relaxing but in hindsight they wish they’d had the distraction of work to keep them busy.

      Also, I just learned of a college classmate who’s having a baby on her own and my first thought was, that is BAD ASS and so awesome! So maybe if you assume most people will have that same reaction, fielding the questions will be a little less difficult. Good luck!!

      1. Purple Cat*

        To slightly counter the “starting leave early” point. With my first, I was 2 weeks late! I know they don’t typically let women go that late now (although my son is only 14, it feels like ancient times in terms of medicine). So if I had taken a week before my due date I would have been sitting around waiting for 3 weeks. Torture. So, yes, of course if your job is physically taxing and you need a break consider it, but also think through if you really want to be sitting around just waiting for a baby for weeks on end.

        1. Observer*

          I know they don’t typically let women go that late now

          Two weeks is still pretty standard. Some doctors do get pushy, but not all.

        2. PrairieEffingDawn*

          Yeah I’m actually not advocating for early leave at all! For that exact reason. Just a consideration if the job is physically taxing.

        3. Clisby*

          My daughter was 15 days late. It had nothing to do with my doctor not “letting” me go that late – it wasn’t his decision to make, just like it isn’t a doctor’s decision to make now. 2 weeks past a due date is pretty common.

          1. allathian*

            My son was born at 41+5 weeks, a Saturday. I had an induction booked for the following Monday, although I’m glad I didn’t have to resort to that.

            We have long maternity leave, so I took a month off before my due date, and it ended up being 6 weeks. I was too tired to do much more than rest, and my brain was in a constant fog, so I was really happy that I didn’t have to work.

            That said, the opposite is also true. OP, it would be a good idea to plan how you’ll deal with things if you end up giving birth very early. Some birth parents do return to work at least part time if their babies have to spend months in NICU.

      2. Cheezmouser*

        On the other hand, you could also deliver early. Due dates are just guestimates based on when you had your last period. There’s simply no way to tell when you’ll actually deliver, unless you have a scheduled C section.

        I had requested maternity leave to start 2 weeks before my due date for both of my pregnancies. First kid arrived 9 days early so I had a week off. Second kid was 12 days early so I had 2 business days + the weekend.

        If you’re able to take 1-2 weeks off before your due date, I recommend it. You won’t be sitting around doing nothing. I used the time to do last-minute prep that I hadn’t had time to do while working full-time: pack a hospital bag, make post-partum ice pads, cook a month’s worth of freezer meals, see my family and friends, etc. I’m SO glad I did all that before the baby arrived.

      3. Moths*

        These are really good points from everyone on both the positive and negative side of taking time off of work beforehand. I had planned to work right up until I need to go to the hospital (I have a desk job), but I can see some advantage to taking some time off to prep things. Maybe if nothing else, I’ll schedule a few long weekends for the weeks leading up to my due date and try to make sure I have as much as possible prepared and ready to go in those extra days.

    5. JimmyJab*

      If you know of other coworkers who have gone through this they could be an excellent help. I know this is how my colleagues have approached it (at least I witnessed it when we were in the office pre-pandemic).

    6. Ashley*

      Flexible work schedule / wfh depending on the type of job you have. Also, your COVID risk assessment will likely be changing in the coming weeks if you are doing in person work now so be prepared to discuss that.
      For co-workers sometimes it is best to tell one or two people who you know better then others to spread the word and squash the busybodies.

    7. WulfInTheForest*

      Try to get your work set up for pumping beforehand, if you plan on breastfeeding. I came in after being on Maternity leave for 6 weeks, only to find out that there was nowhere for me to pump milk. There was no space designated so I ended up having to commandeer my boss’s office. HR was no help and bungled the whole thing for months.

      So try to get that plan in place with your Boss/HR/whoever handles that BEFORE you take your leave.

      1. Sometimes supervisor*

        Yes to this! The number of companies which still think ‘the toilets will be fine’ is shocking. It’s probably also worth a frank discussion of how much time pumping can take up and the fact that ‘putting it off for a couple of hours’ or ‘just skipping a session’ is not really an option (well, not a comfortable option anyway).

      2. Moths*

        Despite my workplace not being perfect, this is one area that I do appreciate knowing they already have in line. They’ve got a nice locked room set up for pumping. However, I think that I’ll talk with HR and just make sure that there will be no problem with me pumping in my own private office (if I lock the door). I can’t imagine there would be, but you never know…

      3. Alligater*

        Adding in to the pumping – it can be helpful to go ahead and block a pumping schedule out on your calendar right when you get back, just to hold the time so people don’t load you up with meetings at bad times. Best wishes to you and your little one!

    8. Observer*

      Even if everything goes perfectly, it’s quite possible that you could go into labor 2 weeks or so before your due date. So, try not to schedule anything that would be extremely difficult or complicated to hand over in that time frame.

      Also, if you have the flexibility, try to avoid scheduling things that would keep you on our feet or that would limit your access to food and (especially) drink in the last trimester.

    9. NACSACJACK*

      For the well-meaning folks, I’d reply, “I’m pretty private about those things” or “I like to keep my private life private (or separate) from work life” and repeat if they further inquire. Most should get it on the first or second response. On the third inquiry, ask why they need to know and reply, “I dont share such details”

    10. Red*

      Your sitch is so similar to mine! Everyone’s approach is different and obvs you’ll know your place of work better then us on the internet, but here’s how I went about it. I let management know first because you don’t want your boss learning about it through the grapevine. I let my boss and HR know via email and outlined that I was obvs still committed to working, I had no intentions of leaving the workforce, and that I would help with finding a temp as necessary. We’ve been working in person this entire time but I wanted a written record. This was after the 1st trimester when I knew the pregnancy was stable. Now I know who the gossips and the tactless people in the office are. The tactless person knew I had been gaining weight and already commentated. I waited until the gossip and the tactless person were chit chatting and I made a show of stretching, they commented that I looked pregnant and I said that’s cause I am. This was a month after I let management know (after I knew the gender). Surprisingly, it didn’t get around the office and a couple days after that convo I made a FB announcement. I have some coworkers friended and one of them jumped up and was like “No way!” and I said yep and everyone gave congrats. They also were all very curious because none of them knew I was in a relationship, but that’s because I wasn’t. It’s my personality, so I gave a flippant answer (“I’m not saying it was aliens, but…”) and I stuck to it even after some people tried to push (“Come on you can tell me!” *stares unblinkingly* “Aliens.”).

      For everything else, all of the other questions I received, most were tactful. Some were curious what I was expecting to do regarding the actual birth (Are you going to take time off before? Are you going to get an epidural? Do you have a name?) and I answered to my level of comfort (No. No. I’ll share the name when I make the birth announcement.). I also thought I was going to face a lot of judgement on my single mom status but I found that no one said anything to my face if they had judgements and the only comments I got were in the vein of ‘you’re awesome!!’. To be fair though that’s probably partly age based. I think the younger you are the more likely they are to make critical comments to your face. I’m in my early 30s so.

      I ended up working until I gave birth. There were many ‘you’re still here?!’ and ‘should we have a mop on hand?’ comments the further I went past the due date. They were in jest though, and in fact one of my coworkers ended up being the one to take me to the hospital because labor started at work.

      Also be really clear of what you think you’ll need when you come back to work after the leave. For me flex time, flex time, flex time was the most important. You will not get much sleep those first few months and then you’ll have to get up and drive to work and then come home take care of the baby and yourself and still not get sleep. The ability to occasionally sleep in and be a bit late so I was refreshed enough to actually drive safe and do my job was essential. Also see if remote work is an opportunity. My other coworker had a kid the same week I did and she negotiated part time remote work for after she came back. Just whatever you think will work best for you, ask now and get the commitment in writing. Also if you’re planning on breastfeeding you’ll need to pump at the office to keep your milk up. Have them assess the office space now and determine where that will happen. You don’t want to come back to work and find out you’re in a dirty supply closet under the stairs. (And, if you didn’t know, your health insurance is required to provide you with one fully covered breast pump as a DME item. If you have mainstream insurance it will likely cover one of the hands free ones: the willow, the elvie, the freemie, or the momcozy. Those can be SUPER convenient because they’re fairly quiet and they fit in your bra under your shirt so there’s a bit less exposure/fiddling with them and your not stuck attached to an outlet.)

      Best of luck and I hope it’s an easy pregnancy and birth for you!

      1. Moths*

        I’m so glad to hear how well everything went for you! I’ve got a meeting set up with HR next week and then a meeting with my manager right afterwards, but I like the idea of an email as well. I think I’ll draft one up and then send it after my in-person meetings with them just as a summary of key points. So far only a couple of my good friends at work know and they’ve been sworn to secrecy, because I really wanted to make sure my manager was the first to know (or at least didn’t hear it through the grapevine from anyone else). These are some helpful lines as well that I didn’t think about practicing, but I’ll want to have down to make it easy to say. Especially about sharing the name (and gender for me) with the birth announcement. I might need to try the alien line as well ;)

    11. stornry*

      all of the above!
      One more thing, ask about adding Baby to your health insurance after they’re here. There may be a time window you don’t want to miss.

      1. Cheezmouser*

        +10000.

        Our company-provided insurance allows you to add a new baby only within 30 days of the birth. Otherwise you have to wait until benefits renewal time, usually at the end of the year. Trust me, you do NOT want to pay for all the Well Baby checkups and immunizations out of pocket. Find out the deadline and set a reminder for yourself, circle it on your fridge calendar, do whatever you need to do to make sure you hit the deadline in your sleep-deprived fugue state.

    12. Binky*

      I’m a single mom by choice, and when I announced I said something like, “I’ve always wanted to be a mom, and so when I reached my mid-30s without a partner, I decided to go for it on my own.” Everyone received that pretty well. I felt that covered the major points, breezily enough.

    13. Cat Tree*

      I’m single and had a child on my own using donor sperm. I spent a lot of time thinking about how to field questions about that and I just … never got any. You might be surprised at how non-intrusive your coworkers are.

      Also, since you can break up your leave I recommend saving a few days if can so you can have a staggered return to work. I cam back MWF for a few weeks and it was so great to essentially practice our evening routine while still having the next day as a buffer just in case. There’s really no sleeping in when you have a baby, but I could at least use that time to wash bottles and pump parts if I couldn’t do it the night before.

      1. Moths*

        I love seeing how many single parents by choice there are on here! Also, I really like the idea of staggering my return. I had thought about going back partial days or taking long weekends, but I like the MWF idea even better, with your point about giving time to practice routines and rest/catch up on things in between if needed.

    14. Moths*

      OP here — thanks everyone for all of the helpful advice! A lot of these things are points I hadn’t thought of before. I’ll go through and respond directly to a lot of the posts, but in general, I’ll say that I’m very lucky with where I work. Just in my department of about 80 people, there have been probably a half dozen people in the past year who have taken time off for parental leave (we offer paid leave to both primary and secondary parents and it’s a well-used benefit throughout the company). I also know there’s a locked nursing room in the building with comfortable chairs and fridges and only people approved by HR have access. However, it’s a pretty long walk from my office, so because I’m lucky to also have a private office with a door that locks, I may choose to just pump in my office. Also, I’m confident that my manager will be supportive, if very surprised. The timing isn’t great because I was hoping to have a timeline for a promotion locked down before announcing, but that just hasn’t happened and I’ve literally run out of clothes that can hide things!

      On the negative side, I’m in a state with a very high birthrate that’s very family-focused and I’ve heard from female coworkers that they’ve received comments from others when they were pregnant regarding how their children would really be better off if they would stay home with them. Those are the comments I’m comfortable responding to with stone-cold professionalism (and reporting to HR if needed). I know the idea of single parenthood by choice will be foreign to a lot of my well-meaning coworkers though and they’ll be confused/curious. I’m comfortable sharing that I’m a single parent by choice, but the methods through which things happened are something I consider no one else’s business :)

      I’m in the process now of trying to figure out just how overwhelming this all is going to be in a few months!

    15. Caitlin*

      Long time reader, first time commenter! I wanted to chime in here having just given birth back in February. Something that came up in my FMLA meeting with my HR rep that I hadn’t even considered was the option to start back part-time and ramp up to full-time at the end of my leave. I got 12 weeks total or 480 hours (6 weeks paid parental leave, the remaining 6 weeks covered by banked annual leave, I could only have used sick leave in that second 6 weeks if my OB said I needed more time to physically heal. I work for a public university that gives 4 weeks annual leave and 4 weeks sick leave annually, with the option of rolling up to 320 hours forward) . I took 10 weeks off fully, and then used my remaining 80 hours of leave intermittently over the next few weeks so I could start back slow and ease myself back into work and my daughter into the daycare schedule. I never would have thought of asking for something like that, so I’m super glad my HR rep brought it up as an option she had seen other parents use to ease the transition. It can be hard going from 12 weeks of being fully disconnected from work and trying to keep a small human alive right back into the full grind of work, so having that transition period was a lifesaver for my brain.

      1. anon for this*

        I would have loved to facilitate that for my employee recently, but HR said that all leave related to giving birth had to be taken in one chunk :( and cited state law to justify that they didn’t have to allow intermittent leave (some states legislate that intermittent or spread-out leave must be an option). So definitely ask.

    16. Charlottemousse*

      Congratulations! On your first questions, I would make sure to look up your state parental leave benefits, if any. For example, in California, we have paid family leave and paid short term disability leave that can be used during/after pregnancy, and that’s something I used in conjunction with my family leave from work once our baby was born. All to say, it’s helpful to know that before you go talk to your supervisor; for me, it helped to give me a sense of what time off I should ask for (we have a pretty flexible, but mostly unpaid, system at work, so it was up to me to ask for what I wanted). I ended up working until the Friday before my due date, and our son was born on time. In retrospect, that might have been a bit too much of a gamble. I’d recommend thinking about how to transition of your projects/work and coming up with a plan with your supervisor as you near your due date. Good luck!

    17. Jamie*

      For the gossipy conservative stuff. I would say after your boss knows, you could email parties to let them know if your upcoming time out so they can help alert you to anything you need to get ahead of planning work wise. Then they will likely email you all the personal questions and you can just not answer some of them. I had a hysterectomy recently and I had a coworker make a remark that hinted I shouldn’t do it since I’m young and what if a future husband wants more children – I simply didn’t answer and went on with the rest of the conversation. That was in person and rather awkward for me – so after that I emailed people and said “due to my upcoming surgery – blah blah planning work” and then I chose who I answered what to personal wise.

  7. Juju*

    I’m applying to a maternity cover position for a desired role at a Big 4 company I’d love to work for.

    Because it is a Big 4 in its field, what are the chances that this maternity leave cover will lead to future opportunities? Would they consider me if I perform well, or would it be seen as an annoyance?

    If I ask if this can lead to future opportunities in the interview, would that reflect badly on me? (They just want someone to fill the role.)

    1. londonedit*

      I don’t have experience with the sort of company you’re talking about but I do have experience of doing maternity cover contracts and also of getting a job within the same organisation as a result of one.

      I don’t think you should ask in the interview – they’ll be looking for someone who would be happy just to fill the role for the duration of the contract and it might set off alarm bells in their heads if they think you’re going to be disappointed with that or just using it to try to get a foot in the door. I think it’s the sort of thing where you’d want to get there and then suss out the situation and see how things work. In my case I found out that I got on really well with everyone and they were really pleased with my work, and when a job opened up on a different team, starting a couple of months after my contract ended, my boss made sure I knew about it. Basically I think treat the maternity role as a great opportunity to get in and see how they work, make some friends, network a bit and do a great job, and then at the very least you’ll leave with a great reputation that you can reference if you do then apply for a job there in the future. Definitely scope out whether there might be opportunities to move into something full-time after your contract, but don’t go in looking like you’re immediately wanting to move on – they’ll want someone to do a great job with the maternity cover and then they might consider you for other things if there are any available.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        Same – I came into my current organization on a four-month cover, and when the other person came back, my boss at the time was pleased enough with my work to keep me on for another couple months. I was … I won’t stay overqualified for the role, but differently qualified (including professional credentials), and better suited to other types of roles in the org, so when I told her I was going to start looking for roles that were more aligned with my actual credentials, she put me in touch with folks in that area of the org and I was hired on permanently, and have been promoted multiple times since then. (That’s actually how I ended up getting hired into both of the orgs I’ve worked at in my actual career — starting out as a temp that wasn’t intended as temp-to-hire, and impressing enough to be hired in permanently from there.)

      2. Juju*

        Thanks for sharing your insight! That was what I was thinking too. I want to show that I’m eager to work at the company but I don’t want to appear like I’m just trying to get a foot in the door.

    2. Lulubells*

      Absolutely tell them you are hoping it will lead to other opportunities. When I’ve interviewed this usually make applicants look better. My employer always tries to find perm jobs for good temps. A temp contract will also give you a chance to test out the company and make sure its as you thought.

    3. Purple Cat*

      I think you can mention it, maybe not ask it directly, but when you talk about the company and why you’re excited to work there, mention that you hope it might lead to future opportunities. The person interviewing you wouldn’t be able to say “yes, this will lead to an opportunity” because you might not work out if they hire you and there might not be opportunities available at the time your contract ends and they wouldn’t want it to seem like they strung you along. You could ask a generic question like “in the past, have people moved into full-time positions with the firm?”

    4. Nessun*

      I’m in Big 4 accounting and I hired a temp mat leave position into a full time hire when the mat leave ended. I appreciated the work of the temp, and discussed keeping her for the larger workload we had by the time the new mom came back to work. It was an excellent fit all around, and a super easy way to grow my team, so I appreciated being able to pull a temp to permanent hire. The temp did ask about opportunities in her interview, including permanent positions or further temp positions, and I appreciated that she was up front about wanting to move to permanent so we could examine her work from that perspective when she had reviews.

    5. Red*

      I’m not sure I’d ask in the interview but if you do get the job and after you get the feel for the boss/office I’d maybe casually bring it up.

      Now I don’t work for a big 4 accounting firm but at my company where I’m in the accounting department, I went on mat leave and when I came back they liked my temps work enough that they just hired her on to do other work we needed done in our dept.

  8. Anonymous Educator*

    Anyone else working in tech start out in the humanities or arts? How did you get to your current role?

    1. BellicoseEnthusiast*

      I did, and the answer is basically nepotism. I had a friend who hired me into an entry-level helpdesk support role at a university and that then eventually turned into a web development career. Even though I had a literature background, I was already kind of a nerd (built my own computers) that was into graphic design, so it wasn’t too far of a stretch.

      But I have hired for my old helpdesk role, and we have applicants with lit/art degrees and as long as they seem driven and not incompetent, we are willing to hire them. I don’t think most people (at least here) are picky about it for entry-level roles.

    2. mlem*

      I had a humanities degree followed by retail and temp/office work before I got into my tech job, but that was back in 1997 … and they outright told me they only really considered me (for an entry-level help-desk position) because of the university my degree came from. :/

    3. devtoo*

      Yep! I made the switch a few years ago after getting burned out in non-profits and then doing a web development bootcamp. My current role I got through reaching out to former coworkers in tech after a layoff last year, but my first tech job I got through applying to a ton of jobs in my area and making a really specific case in my cover letter as to why my previous career was relevant (communication skills, problem solving, etc.). My first tech job was at an agency that specifically had a lot of arts, humanity, and non-profit type clients, so they liked I was intrinsically excited about the content even tho they were hiring me to code.

    4. Ari*

      Yep. I have a theater MFA and now work as a product manager. Basically the answer in my case was to work at small companies where you can be a jack of all trades and learn on the job, and then leverage those skills into lateral moves to other orgs.

      1. Salesforce admin*

        This was my situation too. I took a tech-adjacent role at a non-profit (supporting a fundraising team, including data entry and gift processing) and then because I was competent at the CRM, I just kept taking on a larger and larger role, and eventually turned that into a career in technology. I don’t think a single person reporting to me has a degree in technology and most followed similar paths.

        The Salesforce nonprofit world is full of “accidental admins”, if you have any interest in that technology.

        1. Ama*

          This is a great path, as someone who works in nonprofit I can attest that orgs are often looking for database management and/or technical support roles and they are often willing to take a chance on someone with a non-traditional background since they can’t compete with for profit tech salaries.

      2. The Ginger Ginger*

        This is about what happened to me too. Started in an operations/account manager type role. I basically looked for opportunities to participate in additional projects, because a subject matter expert on process, tools, client use cases, etc. Worked my way up to training new ams, then writing and managing new processes, then moved into product ownership of those tools I was a SME for. Currently Director of Product of all those same products. Got that bump when the products were acquired by a new company.

        Definitely helps to start somewhere smaller, where you can wear a few hats, and start making your name as a problem solver/go to person and use that to leg your way into new opportunities. You need to be comfortable feeling like you’re doing a lot of stretching, so if that’s not your thing, this strategy would be pretty uncomfortable for you.

    5. not a doctor*

      Took some free coding & data classes, taught myself the rest, now I’m a data analyst at a place that likes non-traditional backgrounds.

    6. Margaery Tyrell*

      I have a tech-adjacent role (designer) and my degree was somewhat relevant (communications/advertising) but things that may help you:
      * Reach out to your network — a personal rec does put you at the front of the slush pile. At the very least you can pick your tech friends’ brains on what they prize in candidates/coworkers over others.
      * Have a friend look at your resume. I’ve learned different fields/industries really differentiate how they write resumes; it’s worth having a friend in the industry you’re trying to get into maybe point you in the right direction.
      * Early-stage startups/small companies might be willing to take a chance on someone with adjacent skills (but not experience), but of course be on the lookout for startup red flags.

      Hope that helps, and best of luck in your search!

      1. EngineeringFun*

        I agree with MT, I have two female friends that have made the switch. Both learned to code as part of a project for work and then were able to transition into tech using new skill. I’m in Boston where there is a lot of tech and biotech startups. If you get into one startup after a year you can transition again. We have lots of job hopping here.

    7. Warrant Officer Georgiana Breakspear-Goldfinch*

      My undergrad degree is in history. During college, I taught myself HTML and CSS, and my workstudy job was updating a bunch of university websites and did some open source work. On the strength of that, I got a junior front-end development job at an agency, and built from there.

    8. Beth*

      I got a Bachelkor of Theater degree in 1983, attended but did not complete an MFA in technical theatre, and worked in professional theatre for 15 years. Theatre degrees and experience teach you to deal with crazy personalities and unbendable deadlines.

      It paid crap, and I got tired of the crap conditions — being expected to work for the LUV of art, being treated as a replaceable dogsbody instead of a highly trained and experienced professional, being told “you can’t possibly be happy doing anything else!” and “You shouldn’t want to work for the money, just for teh ARTS!”

      I went back to school — community college — and studied business and computers. I now make a very, very good living doing tech and operations management for a small firm in the finance industry. And guess what? I AM happy.

      The background in theatre taught me strength, flexibility, problem-solving, teamwork, a killer work ethic, and how to cope with deadlines. Leaving an exploitational industry taught me to value myself. It was difficult getting my first job after the pivot, but I completely knocked it out of the park once I had my toe in the door, and it got a lot easier from there.

    9. Waiting on the bus*

      I did. I started out as a customer service agent for a company that offered online subscriptions. From there I went to customer service for a company that offered SEO software for companies.

      In both jobs I basically picked up what I could in terms of technical knowledge, how our CRM systems worked and became the go-to between customer service and the developers.

      And then I got lucky and the head of IT from my first company joined a new company in the legal tech sector and wanted me to join his team. So that’s where I’m now.

    10. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Is technical writing close enough to tech for what you are considering doing? I added a programming certificate, from college that designs it as a minor for people who already have a bachelor’s degree in another major.
      That helped me ‘prove’ my technical aptitude and experience to the screeners.

    11. TechGirlSupervisor*

      Not in humanities/arts but I moved from a biology background (research) into computer science. I had just left my masters program 8 months in at the university and was trying to figure out what I wanted to do (I just knew it wasn’t research in academia). Long story short, some career counselling suggested computer science was right up my ally, so at the age of 23 I re-enrolled to do a Computer Science degree. My university let me count half the credits of my first bachelor degree towards the new one, which meant I didn’t have to do any electives. That was the clincher for university vs. a private college. I’m a senior Java developer with over 10 years experience now and I haven’t looked back.

      Interestingly enough my first degree has been really useful in the technical field. Mostly because I use my research skills to really drill into heavy technical documents and though I am loathe to admit it to any management type people I am fairly good at writing technical documents (kudos to all the technical writers who actually enjoy that work!), given all the experience of writing term papers for upper year science classes. Being a competent researcher is also useful when trying to evaluate new technologies or even just how to conduct good Google searches to get an answer to a coding problem.

      Also turns out that testing is testing. Whether doing research in a lab or trying to figure out if the software behaves the way it is supposed to. I work in the defense contract industry and we have to sell off everything through formal testing with the military so knowing what a “good” test is very useful in my field.

      1. Clisby*

        I had a very similar experience. My first undergraduate degree was in journalism – after about 11 years I went back to school for a CS dcgree, and wound up working 27 years as a computer programmer. My journalism background proved to be extremely helpful in my IT career.

        1. Clisby*

          Also, I ended up working for a company that had recruited people without CS/Math degrees. One guy had a major in music, another had a bachelor’s in philosophy, etc. However, this was back when it wasn’t unusual for companies to think they were responsible for training their new hires. Teaching people how to code is child’s play compared to teaching people how to think.

    12. Pascall*

      I have an art degree but now I’m working in HRIS! My path was basically > freelance presentation designer after college > non-profit all-rounder (volunteer management, social media, grants, database management) > HRIS Support Tech.

      I work a lot with Excel now and our HRIS system so it wasn’t too far of a leap, but I’m not sure I would’ve gotten this job without my tumultuous two years at the nonprofit.

      I plan on pursuing a pathway to HRIS Analyst in the next 1-2 years and then perhaps a Sr. HRIS Analyst in the next 5-7 years.

      I have no HR or IT credentials otherwise!

    13. SparkleBoots*

      I have a BA English and started my career as an archivist at a very small library collection. I built a really basic database for a client there, and I started looking more into database administration/development. I then moved on to work in a para-technical support role at a private university, and then moved to a similar role at a large public university, all the while developing my interests and skills in database stuff. Eventually I got hired onto the database mgmt/warehousing team at my current university. And just this summer, I was promoted to manager of this team.

      I don’t think I would be in this role if it weren’t for my background in liberal arts and customer service. While having the technical skills definitely helped, I was largely self taught with those, and I was never going to be as technically proficient as my coworkers/employees. But that’s okay, because I was able to fill a hole left by our manager when he retired. I got this role because I figured out that being an IT manager was where I wanted to go with my career, and I asked my former boss what we could do to get me there. He trained/mentored me for a couple of years and then I took over his role after he retired.

      Asking for a management role was the key thing though. I was terrified to ask, because I had this mindset that I didn’t deserve anything, and I shouldn’t be a bother to anyone. But reading AAM and another mentor inspired me to do it, and here I am today!

    14. urguncle*

      I was a French major in college and now work in product management. I spent a few years doing bilingual customer service and I’ve always had a pretty technically-oriented brain, so once I had experience, I ended up doing implementation and technical account management for awhile. I recently moved into product since I was exhausted by emotionally by the intensity of customer interactions after taking a course through General Assembly and moved within my company so that they knew what I was capable of and I had 2 years of accomplishments that they could actually see the benefits of.
      I’m so grateful that I branched out of being stuck in French teacher or freelance translator roles. I like the language and I miss speaking it every day at work, but this is work that pays a lot better and that energizes me.

    15. Software Dev*

      I got my bachelors in undergrad journalism, my masters in sociology and then started a support job that became an account management job and gradually transitioned into the product department, where I quickly figured out I was better at writing code than product management. Now a fullstack dev for the same company.

    16. JJ*

      I have a MA in asian languages. I was then hired as a jack of all trades into an open source startup, first as an intern then fulltime. They were very much supportive of me upskillen what I was interested in, there was a lot of trial and error. I burn out there. Did some tech support to pay the bills, but kept on upskilling. Then I landed a sales job with on of the big cloud providers, where I trained to switch to technical sales. Changed to another one of the big3, still continued to learn and get certified. Now I’m a cloud consultant and looking going into product management next.

    17. All Oysters*

      I went to school for communications, started as an assistant school librarian and moved into tech support for our school district, detoured to a non-profit for two years in a completely non-tech role and am back in systems support. One of my current co-workers also worked as a school librarian for many years before her current role in systems support. In both of our cases, school librarians were the de facto tech support for a long time and while I didn’t have the tech background, I had a lot of curiosity, willingness to learn and the ability to communicate what I learned to people needing help without making them feel like crap. That was enough to get me into a role in our school district where I could learn a ton from people who did have a tech background and eventually be the head of the department. When I hired my direct reports, I looked less for people who had an extensive tech background than for people who had an innate curiosity and were ok with not knowing an answer.
      Personally, I couldn’t care less about technology for own its own sake. I enjoy working out the puzzles, whether it’s physically repairing something or digging into someone’s workflow and helping them find the right tool. The skills are all learnable by anyone and sometimes a non-tech background can be a help, especially when communicating with end-users.

    18. Arts & tech lover and worker*

      I graduated with a BA in French/Art History/Political Science. I answered an ad in the newspaper (this was 30 years ago LOL) and ended up working at a UN specialized agency in France. Then earned my MBA at an American business school. Subsequently worked in the telecom industry for 2 years, then moved on to a computer hardware manufacturer where I stayed for 15 years.
      The company was not concerned with my humanities background due to the MBA.
      If you have experience in the arts or humanities that can translate to tech, they will at least be willing to interview you.

    19. tamarack and fireweed*

      My partner has a degree in music and then went to library school. This, however, was back in the 80s, when doing hard-core information retrieval meant you also had the opportunity to write device drivers and deal with how storage is arranged on a hard disk…

      A little closer to now, the scientific team I’m on employs two data visualization techs, one of whom has an anthropology degree with a minor in GIS and the other a BA in arts (and is into digital art). They’re definitely techies, both, and do stuff like digital animation, virtual reality etc.

      Basically, I think you have to find a pathway to connect from your background to where you want to go. Animation work, or work in the digital humanities (corpus linguistics for example) can be such a thing.

    20. Smitten By Juneau*

      A fair number of the staff on our major public university ‘help desk’ do not have technical degrees. In fact, I don’t have a degree (and will retire next year with 28 years of service.) At one point our most prevalent degree was Music (one staff member had a BA, with a second having a MFA and two PhDs in music.)

      The big-picture skills (research, logic, analysis, communication, etc.) that are the core of a liberal arts curriculum play well in the tech sector in general. Graduates are often very flexible and adaptable, being able to pick up new skills as necessary.

      The trick is finding organizations and hiring managers that get this. But when you do they can be very fulfilling places to work, with a diverse group of colleagues.

  9. Beehoppy*

    What type of civil engineering did you practice? Do you have any interest in returning to that field maybe in a different capacity. What type of work makes you happy?

  10. The farmer*

    I’m considering moving up to a team lead position and wonder if it’s the right move. My team is newly developed and needs a lead soon, as we’re expected to double in size next year. Our current manager has far too many things on his plate. So my question is, how do you know if the sacrifice is worth it? Leadership has not been in my career plan as I’ve long valued a good work like balance. Is taking a leadership position a major inrease in stress? What should I look out for that might be red flags? Any tips are appreciated.

    1. Anon for this*

      I think that depends what kind of work you find stressful. As a manager at some orgs you can definitely have more power over your schedule which can relieve stress. But if you find social interactions, video calls, helping people or advocating for people, or really any human-related ambiguity to be stressful, it will definitely be more stressful. especially if you have more trouble setting boundaries when it comes to specifically not giving people what they want.

    2. Toucan*

      It depends on a lot of factors, for example the team you’ll be managing. I’m a manager, and my team is very efficient, so it’s minimal stress for me. I work on big idea projects, while they handle the day to day. 4 out of 5 of them are top performers, so performance issues aren’t really a thing for me. I also trust my team, and let them manage their work the way they want. On the other hand, I know managers who are very hands-on, they have to (or want to) be involved in their team’s day to day, and it’s much more stressful. Sometimes people don’t know how to delegate, so they take on extra work instead of passing it on to their team. I learned to delegate and when I did, it was wonderful.

      It also depends on your type of personality. Some people are people pleasers, and I imagine that they naturally have a harder time managing people because they worry about other people a lot. I’m the opposite of a people pleaser, but I’m also aware, know my limits, and can read people really well and adapt my style to others. I do things my way within reason, but take suggestions from others and my manager where I see fit. I have no issue challenging people or being direct, so hard conversations don’t stress me out.

      In short, what is your personality like? Would your team be efficient or would they need hand holding? What would be expected of you as a manager (team lead)?

    3. TiffIf*

      I was in a team lead position for a few years (just transitioned to a different position two months ago) I really liked the aspects of the position of managing the project and process, getting the long view of our product goals and talking through issues and ideas with product stakeholders, what I did not like was the people management. A leadership position can increase the stress but it depends greatly on your company the work you do and what type of work cycle you have. The performance of the people you will lead also can make a difference.

      I work in software where there is a predictable cycle of work–we had quarterly updates ; so near the date of the release things could get very stressful and result in long hours, but those were at most one or two weeks every three months. Often the work/life balance was actually very good. I was able to take at least 1 two week vacation every year–I would just prep people with detailed information about the status of things and divvy out my other tasks temporarily and then I could disconnect entirely.

      One thing to look out for is make sure you know how much authority you will have. In the team lead position I was in I could delegate work and do training and review with those on my team but I did not have hire/fire authority. So a poor performer on my team was allowed to stay even though I provided feedback both from me and from other teams on their performance. (I tried a number of ways to boost their performance, additional training, additional feedback, talk through concrete steps on particular assignments, check in regularly on extended assignments, nothing seemed to stick for long and their performance would improve somewhat for a short time but the lessons never seemed to stick long term.)

    4. Not So NewReader*

      Yes, noticeable increase in stress. Not only do you have your job to worry about, but you have theirs also.

      Biggest red flag, no authority to fire/reprimand. This is a deal breaker for me. That is because once they know you can’t do anything, it’s like a dog with no teeth. Your authority ends at the name plate on your desk.

      OTOH, if you are going to do this now is the time to do it. The first person in a new position can be granted a lot of leeway for mistakes and problems, simply because it’s a new position. You will basically be in a place where you can help design the particulars of the position through your day-to-day work.

      One thing I would want to know is how many people would I be responsible for? Will there be a second leader who is my peer as more people are hired on?

      Just based on what you have here, I am leaning toward “probably not worth it for you”. But I am not there and there are many other unseen factors to consider.

    5. Hiring Mgr*

      Team lead often implies player/coach (as opposed to a manager). That’s the part that trips up alot of first time TLs – balancing your individual contributor role with the “lead” part..

      1. Clisby*

        Right – when I worked in IT I never had (or even heard of) a team lead with hire/fire authority. That just wasn’t part of their job. They assigned work, evaluated team members, coached if necessary … but they reported to a manager with the hiring/firing authority.

    6. Josephine Beth NotAmy*

      I’m in a role that is essentially a Team Lead. There’s a lot I love about it – being able to contribute to higher-level projects, having a seat at the decision-making table, and making connections in our broader field are things I really value. I also love coaching the team members. What I struggle with, and what makes this a very stressful job for me, is that my boss and I have wildly different approaches to management. She’s very black and white, something is right or wrong, and has no patience at all for the process of learning. I generally take the approach of “tell me more about this” when trying to figure out a problem or addressing an issue. Now, to be fair, her role requires a level of focus mine does not, so I’m certain there are times when her approach is better for the situation, and I’m also aware that I tend to have an overall softer approach to things that isn’t always as effective. I’ve tried her style, and it just doesn’t work for me, which has caused a lot of conflict. That’s basically a long way of saying, does your leadership and management style fit in well with the current managers in similar roles and/or with your supervisor’s approach?
      As far as work life balance…again, take a look at what the expectations are in similar roles in your organization and what you know about your own supervisor. My org talks a lot about balance, but the unwritten expectation is that I need to be available all the time. It’s also more stressful to be responsible for the success of a team than just your own individual contributions. That’s not to say it isn’t worth it, but things to think about if you want to step into a leadership role.

    7. Lady Danbury*

      I grew my previous department from just me to a 5 person team. I left there about a year ago and am now looking for individual contributor roles. Management is a completely different skillset and responsibilities. Whether or not it’s “worth it” depends on a wide variety of factors, including your own management structure. Will they provide necessary support to grow develop your team? Are they understanding about the fact that the time you spend managing will require less time contributing in an individual role? Will they back you up in a conflict or if you need to discipline/terminate someone?

      Now is the time to truly assess your own management. If they aren’t good managers to you as an individual contributor, it’s unlikely that they’ll be good managers to you as a manager.

  11. New Mom*

    I’m very seriously considering becoming a consultant in the next few years in the niche industry that I work in. For people that did this, I’d love to hear your experiences. Was the pay decrease tough? Was doing taxes a nightmare? And did you actually get to spend more time with your family/doing things you enjoyed? Please tell!

    1. ConsultAdvice*

      Only addressing one portion of your question because I only consult very part time on top of a FT role, but what makes you think you’ll experience a pay decrease (other than maybe at first while you’re still finding clients)? I’m in academia and my consulting rate is 3x my FT hourly rate (I’m salary but when I math out the hourly that’s what it is) and I know for sure I could make it higher. 4x-5x your hourly wage isn’t an out of touch expectation for for-profit PT consulting, so maybe you can raise your expectations a bit! :)

      Oh and I do my taxes myself using FreeTaxUSA and it’s fine, but I only have one client and few/usually zero expenses so yours might be more complex.

      1. New Mom*

        I would ideally like to consult while working FT as well, but I’m not sure if my organization would let me and then might think I’m planning on leaving if I ask (maybe this is in my head). I’m assuming since I’m payed pretty well for my field and have very good time off/health benefits that it would be pretty hard to match all that if I were consulting. But I’m also looking for something that is more flexible but still doing the work I do.

      2. Yup*

        I’ll second your comment. When I moved from a paid role to a consulting role, my pay increased significantly. A company I had been working for as an employee paid me 5 times the amount to have me consult for them. I was doing higher level work as a consultant, but it worked for both of us.

    2. HBJ*

      Why should your pay decrease? You can set your rates such that it increases or at least stays the same.

      In my opinion, taxes are always a nightmare! They weren’t so much more difficult when owning your own business. We did them ourselves for a couple years, but the best thing we ever did was hire an accounting firm. They saved us soooo much money, including filing an amended return for the prior year, because they do this for a living and know all the little details of the tax code and write-offs you can take, which we don’t.

      Time off. It really depends. In some ways, yes, in some ways, no. If you don’t work, you don’t get paid, so there can be extra incentive to work because no one’s giving you PTO or sick time. But it’s so easy to just take a half day or a day off or go in late all the time and then work late or whatever you want. It really depends on how you prioritize things. It can be hard to say no to things, again back to that if you don’t work, you don’t get paid thing. There can always be this feeling (I think Alison’s talked about it some) of “I have to take everything I can get because what if these other customers leave.” So it’s really easy to just say yes to everything and be constantly working.

    3. Sam*

      If you do well your pay should increase dramatically over time. Working for several clients usually pays better and it’s more secure.

      Big factor is to not undersell yourself. Consultants generally get an hourly rate at least double a full time employees hourly rate. There are a ton of valid reasons for it so you should do the same.

      Reasons:
      – 1099s pay more taxes success employer otherwise would pay half payroll taxes
      – no benefits, to need to pay for yourself
      – no vacation out holiday pay
      – need to balance out time without clients work
      – there will be unbillable time line doing your accounting, falling with customer uncovering and payment issues, etc.
      – consultants are almost airways paid later and less regularly than employees.
      – some companies take advantage of consultants and don’t pay on time or even close, ask for extra work there don’t want to pay for, etc.

      Besides that, as a consultant you need to be a _great_ salesperson. This is probably the most overlooked part (and is the reason I don’t do it myself). It is generally not easy to find and obtain clients. Your niche industry might make this better though.

      Good luck!!

  12. Sapphire*

    So I’ve applied to eh 15 jobs in the last couple weeks. Had one interview right away and it went pretty bad, just didn’t click with interviewer and was awkward. But! They say it’s a job seeker’s market. Anyone have any words of encouragement?

    1. Sherm*

      I always like to say that, if your interview success rate is 0.001%, then congratulations, you’ve got a job :)

    2. Purple Cat*

      You probably didn’t marry the first person you dated – looking for a job is like that too!
      Even in a “job-seekers market” you have to match with the right company, right role, right time.
      You WILL find something! And we’ll look forward to reading your update in a future Friday good news column.

    3. All the words*

      I’ve had super awkward feeling interviews which resulted in a job offer.
      I’ve had interviews that felt like we were the best of friends and colleagues right off the bat. And never heard back.
      Now I just try not to figure out how it went. Apparently I’m a poor judge of these meetings.

      Don’t count yourself out!

    4. MissDisplaced*

      I feel this hot job market has cooled somewhat since September. But don’t let one interview put you off. It’s a long game.

      1. dresscode*

        I’m not so sure about that. My current job has had an opening for a fairly coveted job (in the past) and only had 5 applicants for the first month it was open. They interviewed 2 and offered to 1 but they turned it down. I left my past job about two months ago and they only had about 7 people apply, 3 interviewed, 2 dropped out, and 1 turned it down. They still haven’t filled it. It’s also a job with a lot of people that would be potentially interested in the past.

        1. MissDisplaced*

          I meant it more in that I’m not seeing as many jobs I’d be tempted to apply for as we moved into fall. Over the summer I was applying quite frequently to some great opportunities, and interviewed at two places. But lately, Meh!

    5. PollyQ*

      Job-hunting often moves much more slowly than you’d think. Some of those companies may not yet have gotten to the interview phase, so you might still hear from one of them.

    6. Sam*

      I think job seekers market depends on industry and location. I just switched jobs and doubled my already six figure salary. I’m a software engineer and the demand is huge (I need to hire 20-25 new engineers for my new job).

      However, I’ve seen a big reluctance to hire people with less experience. Company’s want experienced people only, so how do you get experience?? Personally I hate this. I would much rather hire a team with one experience lead and four entry level than a bunch of mid level or even worse, multiple seniors (in experience, not age).

    7. Yup*

      You are doing great landing an interview so quickly! We’ve all experienced not clicking with an interviewer, and often it just means that’s not the right place for you. If you’d succeeded in landing jobs in the past, there’s every reason to believe you will succeed again! Go Sapphire! I’m rooting for you!

  13. ThatGirl*

    Does anyone else get random, total mismatch job emails from recruiters?
    I somehow got on a few companies’ lists where they are very, very bad at matching me with potential jobs. My background is in journalism, copywriting/editing and content management. I live near Chicago and have no desire to relocate. And yet I’ve gotten emails about jobs in North Carolina, Florida, Arizona, New Jersey… often temp jobs with no indication they’re remote. Worse/funnier yet, they’re often areas I have no skillset in – food scientist came up once; a lot of software related jobs; today I got one for a machine operator in a manufacturing/production setting. So weird to me.

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      Yes, I had a technical recruiter reach out to me for an iOS developer position, and I work in IT. I mean, some people in IT may be able to do iOS development, but I don’t, and IT doesn’t directly translate to app development.

      1. ThatGirl*

        Sometimes I can tell what they’re picking up on – just scanning for keywords and the software sees that I’ve used SAP MDM or Sharepoint and suddenly thinks I’m a sharepoint developer. Which is why a human should review these things too, lol.

      2. Art3mis*

        My husband works in IT and a lot of people seem to think that anything computer related is completely interchangeable.

    2. Cats and Bats Rule*

      I get these too, and I really think they are actually phishing scams. I usually just delete them (and any voice mails from the recruiter that sometimes come in at the same time as the email).

      1. ThatGirl*

        I mean, the companies seem legit – today’s was from an Axelon Service Corp recruiter – although it’s certainly possible some of them aren’t. I don’t reply to them or answer the phone/call the voicemails back, though, for this sort of thing.

    3. Charlotte Lucas*

      Yep. I have some CS background, & I trained it for a few years. But I don’t plan to go back. (I haven’t done it in over 15 years!)

      And I get location mismatches, too. My state is big enough that being within the borders doesn’t mean the job is in any way close to where I live…

    4. Tom Servo's Sister*

      Not a recruiter, but LinkedIn sent me one for a golf pro at a country club about an hour’s drive away. I’m an archivist, and I’ve never played golf. I’m even bad at Wii Golf.

    5. mlem*

      My spam folder has recently started getting pitches for me to leverage my experience as a proprietary-language software developer and leap into the world of … “automotive aftercare” franchising ….

    6. Art3mis*

      All the time. I get a lot of Customer Service jobs. I’ve done CS, but I’ve taken those roles off my resume and LinkedIn. I still get recruiters asking about them. Recently one company decided to email me AT WORK when I don’t give out my work email address to anyone. So I’m never working with them. Plus they were recruiting for a temp role at a company I used to work for and have no desire to go back to. ZipRecruiter seems to think I’d be interested in an Accountant role, even though I have zero experience in anything related to accounting.

    7. Ina Lummick*

      I’ve been called about a job: said no thankyou based on that would be a pay cut. Then they called me a month later about the same role. When I said I’d already said no, they just said they weren’t sure if they’d already contacted me or not!

    8. The Dude Abides*

      Not a mismatch with the job per se, but a recruiter had clearly not looked at my resume before contacting me.

      The recruiter who found my info on Indeed was trying to get me into an entry-level position making at best 15% less than what I’m making now. I have almost a decade of experience which is reflected in my current title. I am also with by *far* the largest and one of the best employers in my area (state gov’t).

      I suspect he was just trying to hit a quota of contact attempts.

    9. LC*

      My recent job search, I consistently was recommended nursing jobs on both linkedin and ziprecruiter.

      I’d never worked in anything remotely related to healthcare of any kind, I have a degree from an art college, I have absolutely no idea why they (frequently!) recommended jobs that required a bachelor’s degree in nursing.

    10. Audiophile*

      Yes, all the time. I get software and engineering job emails all the time from random recruiters. I’ve started marking them as spam since there doesn’t seem to be an unsubscribe button.

    11. Rara Avis*

      Yes, this is happening to my husband constantly. Out of our area and totally unrelated to his field.

    12. NotMy(Fancy)RealName*

      Somehow I got on a call list as a nurse anesthesiologist. I am an entomologist. I’ve had to explain a few times that neither of us would be happy with me taking the position they are recruiting for.

      1. Usagi*

        Ehhh anesthesiologist, entomologist, close enough. They both have “-ologist” at the end so they must be pretty much the same thing, right?

        Btw I think it’s really cool you’re an entomologist, I used to want to be one growing up! There’s a long story about rivalries and betrayal that ends with me not doing that and becoming a corporate trainer instead.

    13. Pascall*

      Sure, I had someone email me and call me “Erica” for a role in Silicon Valley selling real estate.

      My name is decidedly not Erica, I don’t live in California, and I have absolutely nothing to do with real estate. It was real wild.

    14. sometimeswhy*

      Constantly. I work in a physical science (think lab coats and test tubes) and have worked in a bunch of different types of that science (different stuff in the test tubes) including forensics and I get recruiter calls asking if I’m interested in speech pathology positions at local elementary schools ALL THE TIME.

      Have a worked in a pathology lab? Yes. Does that have anything at all to do with helping seven year olds with their communication disorders? Nope, not even a little.

    15. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

      I’ve never once had a cold email from a recruiter or a LinkedIn recommendation that was relevant enough to consider applying for it. There usually seems to be no connection and I have no idea what keywords or other bits of data would have connected me to the job.

    16. Swift*

      Yes. I had one customer service position with “sales” in the title, so recruiters are trying to pitch me on selling insurance. If they looked at the rest of my resume, they’d probably realize I am not a good fit.

    17. JJ*

      YES! And I’m getting really annoyed at those! Worse they “waste” one of their inmail OPPS on me.
      I work for a company that is known for one product well as they are the industry leader, however has several other, fastly different products. I get loads of inmails saying that my profile fits exactly what they are looking for that one particular product. And I happilypoint out that they haven’t even read my profile, if they had they would know how much not fitting my profile is.

    18. None the Wiser*

      I am a plant (as in leafy green things) scientist and also manage a group of other plant scientists. I get a lot of requests to discuss plant (as in manufacturing facility) manager roles. Read the profile, people!

    19. ScruffyInternHerder*

      My background is in architecture; as in the building type. I work in construction in a capacity that is decidedly not that of a structural or civil engineer.

      Top five job listings I get:
      1. Civil engineer
      2. Structural steel designer
      3. Software architect
      4. Systems architect
      5. Structural steel estimator

      I’m typically not contacted by third party recruiters over what I actually do.

  14. Elle*

    I am a recently diagnosed autistic & ADHD woman. The combination of this diagnosis and video meetings has me looking back at feedback from earlier in my career (and even my teenage conversations with my parents!) that had baffled me – people think I’m distracted or not paying attention, or worse, they think I’m rolling my eyes. I’ve come to realize that I fidget and don’t sustain eye contact well. I even have a specific habit (especially if I start to get a little stressed) of darting my eyes to the side to sort of relieve the pressure that some people may have interpreted as eye-rolling. This is definitely not something I will be able to realistically change.

    I’m almost wondering if I should start Zoom meetings by saying I’m autistic & ADHD and I may look distracted but I’m not? This feels overboard when I’m meeting people for the first time via video call pretty regularly. Does anyone have any advice?

    1. LizB*

      Can you either actually take notes or pretend to take notes, and start calls by telling people that you’re doing so and holding up a notebook/pen so they can see it? This would give you an excuse to look away from the camera/eye contact at various points during the meeting. “Just so you know, I’m a pen-and-paper note-taker, so I’ll be doing that during our meeting” seems like a very reasonable thing both to do and to give people a heads up about.

      1. Anon for this*

        I have done something similar to that once or twice before — “The meeting outline is on my righthand screen so if I’m looking over there, that’s why!” It never occurred to me to do that if it weren’t actually true.

        For many of the meetings we already have a designated note-taker who would definitely find it to be odd that I’m taking my own notes so I’d have to find some other excuse for a lot of meetings. And is that going to get weird when I’m say, in a meeting with Bob and Sally one day, Bob and Sarah the next, and Bob and Brian the day after? Bob’s going to think I’m super weird, right?

        1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

          It may depend on the team/company culture. Personally, I don’t find it weird at all to take notes even if there is a designated notetaker. Just add on something like a warm and factual, “Writing notes helps me process.”

          And that’s true for me. I stop paying attention if I don’t take notes for myself in meetings (plus it’s come in handy more than once, when official notes are lost, like in a computer malfunction).

        2. MacGillicuddy*

          Even if there’s a designated note-taker, it is not the least bit odd to take your own notes. The designated note taker typically sends their notes to all the meeting participants afterwards, similar to meeting minutes. But lots of people take their own notes. And research has shown that the act of writing stuff down helps you remember it better than just listening or reading somebody else’s notes.

      2. Yarrow*

        I’m also ADHD and autistic and I listen better when I can do something with my hands/not look at peoples’ faces. I do something similar–I say something like “just a heads up, I’m taking notes, in case you notice me looking away.” Then I doodle or whatever because I suck at hand writing. I also make a point to look up at the speaker every once in a while. It honestly baffles me why we have to pretend to be looking at one another during meetings, but I try not to let it drive me nuts.

    2. Sapphire*

      I wouldn’t do that :) it may bias people against you, even subconsciously. Instead I’d focus on techniques to help you deal with anxiety in meetings that won’t translate as eye rolling or impatience / irritation. A good therapist can probably help you develop some off screen alternatives, or even to reframe things mentally so that meetings aren’t as daunting.
      Other than that, I’d try to use your tone and language to convey interest and enthusiasm and appreciation in meetings. Saying things like, “What I’m hearing you saying is x,” where you rephrase what someone is telling you can show that you’re listening attentively. Also, if you think someone raised a good point- tell them! Again, a good therapist will be able to help you.

      1. Observer*

        A good therapist can probably help you develop some off screen alternatives, or even to reframe things mentally so that meetings aren’t as daunting.

        There is a limit to that. The eye movement thing probably can’t be replaced with techniques to combat anxiety, even if the OP could get that under control quickly enough. Because that’s something that’s a but of a physical issue, and for which the best technique IS to simply look away from the screen on a regular basis.

      2. Elle*

        Meetings actually aren’t daunting at all. I love meetings! The eye movement isn’t really related to anxiety, it’s just related to how much brainpower I’m using. It can happen when I’m nervous or when I’m thinking hard or when I’m really excited, any number of reasons. As I said earlier, it’s not something I could change even with therapy (and I do have a good therapist). And as far as bias — well, some people are already taking it as a reason to be biased against me. And I’m out and proud as autistic at work — I have been featured on the homepage and given two presentations about it. One was company-wide and one was to senior leadership in my division. So I’m not really worried about that, I just don’t want to make it a constant thing if it’s going to be awkward or derail discussions.

        1. JSPA*

          Look at the ceiling and stroke your chin, really listen, and summarize or recap or address what was said, from time to time, to emphasize that it’s your “listening look.” Steeple your hands and look into them, introspectively.

          Basically, do a little eye contact, when needed, but don’t “semi” the eye contact out of a sense of obligation, the rest of the time. Doesn’t feel shifty, in the same way that constant side-darting glances that repeatedly just miss someone’s eyes, can do.

          1. JSPA*

            …or if that’s really your most comfortable default, but you don’t want to disclose why, you can pick something that strikes you as lower stakes. Maybe declare it a sort of “twitch” or “tick” or “I’ve been having some eyestrain tics.”

    3. Not Today, Friends*

      I have a similar issue (though no diagnosis to pin it to). I call it my “processing face”. In order to process information, I sort of have to shut down my face and it looks like I’m mad or scoffing at the idea. Remote work is a blessing for this. I avoid turning on my camera unless I absolutely have to.
      When I worked in an office, I found it was most important to make sure my direct managers understood. In early get-to-know you meetings, I would say “This is what my face does while I process what I’m hearing. It’s going to look like I’m angry, but I’m not. I’m just listening and thinking through what I’m hearing.” I would work very hard to seem warm and approachable at all other times so that a slip wouldn’t weigh so heavily.
      When I have to be on video now, I find something to focus on so that again it’s not so obvious. Typically I’ll pull up Minesweeper. It helps me hold my face steady but I can still concentrate. The facial change seems to upset people more than the actual expression, so I try to aim for a resting face that’s a little closer to my processing face, then hold that with the help of minesweeper (mindless but not aimless clicking works like a fidget tool for me).

    4. Reba*

      I actually think this is less of a concern with video meetings than in-person. At least in my experience, I am very used to people looking away at [other screen, desk, book, screaming child, thing happening out the window, their knitting in their lap…]

      I would *not* lead with your diagnoses (congratulations and I hope they are helpful to you, btw!) but you might be able to say something like, “just so you all know, I’m going to need to switch my camera off at some point but I’m still here and listening!” Then you can give yourself a break or two.

      For people that you meet with regularly, you could say in a friendly sounding way, “I’ve been told that I sometimes appear distracted in meetings, but I want to let you know that this is just the way my face looks and I’m paying attention :) sometimes I fidget (or doodle or whatever) which helps me listen.”

      I wonder if you can find ways to give yourself a break from eye contact in in-person meetings, too… intentionally looking at notes, presentations, the desk, the artwork, so you get some relief before you get stressed by it. IDK, I have no diagnoses but also don’t like making loads of eye contact and notice that I don’t do it all the time, and plenty of presumed-neurotypical people don’t! I just feel like eye contact is rather overrated and it’s also a cultural phenomenon! (not that that helps you, but it is interesting.)

    5. Tomato Frog*

      I think you can give people a heads-up not to read into your facial expressions and eye movement without announcing that you’re autistic and have ADHD. That way you can avoid people projecting their own associations with autism and ADHD onto you.

      Also, in line with the comment above about Minesweeper, I play solitaire through Zoom meetings. It helps me both avoid my mind wandering completely away from the meeting, and also keeps my eyes towards the screen in a way that (I think!) doesn’t look suspect.

    6. Supernonymous*

      I’d actually recommend getting a webcam that’s not mounted into your computer and setting it up so it’s looking slightly down at you–no longer at your eyeline. If it’s not directly in front of your eyes, nobody is going to expect you to make eye contact with the camera, and they’re not going to be able to tell where exactly you’re looking.

      I work in an org where external webcams were bought for all of us and nobody, i mean nobody, makes eye contact with their camera, and you honestly just can’t tell what people are looking at.

    7. Saraquill*

      Would wearing shaded glasses help? If you don’t feel comfortable disclosing your condition, you can say the glasses help cut glare from the screen.

      I also highly recommend stim jewelry like a ring or pendant to fidget with. Stimtastic makes affordable stim jewelry and toys, is run by an autistic person, and donates part of their proceeds to austim charities.

    8. LC*

      I wouldn’t suggest start off a meeting by saying that, but I think there are definitely things you can do.

      A few things that have helped me:
      – Have water nearby, both so you can drink it and so you have something you can look at and do with your hands.
      – Drink water.
      – Try to show some active listening when others are talking, i.e. nodding your head, some kind of facial reactions (you don’t need to be looking at the screen for this, this is perfect for when you aren’t looking at the screen – you can look off to the side, up at the ceiling, just under the screen, etc.).
      – Have something to fidget with. Hair tie, pen, an actual fidget toy, whatever. As long as it’s fairly unobtrusive, no one will notice and if they do, they won’t care.
      – As someone else mentioned, you can say you have another moniter to the side that you might be referencing (and at least for me, it would be helpful to have that rather than just say it, because it would give me something to look at that isn’t a person, although sometimes it doesn’t help me because I actually distract myself, you know you so feel it out on a given day).
      – Taking physical notes doesn’t help me (my hand just absolutely cannot keep up with my brain), but I know it’s helpful for others.
      – For me, I absolutely need to keep the selfie-view on. I know some people find it distracting and it makes it harder for them to focus their eyes on the people, but for me, if I don’t see what I look like, my mind gets waaaayyyy to fixated on what I do look like. Is my facial expression okay, is my hair weird, do I suddenly have lipstick on my teeth even though I’m not wearing lipstick, etc etc. Either way, it’s good to consider this, as one will likely be more helpful than the other.
      – Look at people’s backgrounds or their clothes/jewelry. Read the book titles, look out their window, admire their necklace, etc. It’s way easier to do this on video calls than in real life without it looking like you’re staring over their shoulder or something.
      – Have a comfortable chair (sooooo key).
      – Wear comfortable clothes (thoroughly comfortable on the bottom half and the top half should bare minimum be not uncomfortable so you don’t get distracted by the collar or the fabric or whatever, video call professional atire is way more inclusive than in person, so you can totally find something appropriate to wear that is super comfy).
      – I keep hand lotion nearby (I’m a cuticle picker, so hand lotion can keep my hands occupied for a minute, make it harder to pick at my cuticles, and it’s not a really obvious thing that would distract other people).
      – Don’t try to force yourself to keep perfectly still. It won’t work and it’ll take a lot of your attention and drive you a little bonkers. You can move. I wouldn’t do jumping jacks or anything, and you don’t want to move so much you become a distraction to others, but you definitely can move.
      – Take advantage of the fact that everyone has built in name tags. Notice their name each time they talk. I’m not terrible with names and I’m not terrible with faces, but I am truly awful at putting faces to names, so this is definitely a huge feature for me.
      – Drink water (it bears repeating).

      Also, try to notice what other people do. I think you’ll be surprised at how much less everyone keeps eye contact and stays perfectly still than you might thing.

      Welcome to the club, and good luck! I believe in you!

      1. Elle*

        Most helpful comment award for sure. I definitely do the drink thing. I was starting to worry that may also be viewed as “disrespectful” because I do not understand NT rules and it makes me paranoid. I also pick my cuticles – adding lotion to my desk is a great idea. A sensory thing to do out of camera line. A+ to the selfie view on – it’s a must for me too. Maybe I’m actually coming off better over zoom than I did in person because of that. This was feedback I got years ago about in-person work, but I had just connected all the dots very recently here with my diagnosis and watching myself on video.

        1. LC*

          Yay, I’m glad it’s helpful!

          I feel like we do a lot of similar things, and in my experience, I definitely come off better on camera than I do in person, so I wouldn’t at all be surprised if you do too. I feel like some of the things that are natural for me aren’t as obvious or .. disruptive? that’s not quite the right word, but closest I have right now .. as they are in person, and that gives me a little more energy to mask some of the stuff that I do still try to keep under control (mainly, the part where I actually focus on what people are saying).

          Also, the dots that start to connect after a diagnosis are real, and nine years after my diagnosis, I’m still finding more that connect. It’s remarkable what those kind realisations can lead to.

    9. Healthcare Worker*

      I’m an occupational therapist and one strategy that often works for autistic individuals is to not look directly at someone’s eyes but to focus instead on their forehead, just slightly above the eyes. This seems to be easier to process and still gives the appearance of looking at an individual, and is not as obvious as looking to the side. Practicing in a mirror may make it easier to try. Good luck!

      1. A*

        Yes! I’ve had life long issues with keeping eye contact for more than 30 seconds or so – it makes me extremely uncomfortable. Many moons ago my therapist at the time suggested I focus on people’s eyebrows instead and it’s been a game changer. Looks like I’m making eye contact, but for some reason staring at eyebrows doesn’t make me nearly as uncomfortable as direct eye contact.

        Added bonus, it keeps me in the loop on eyebrow trends and styles!

        1. Pennyworth*

          I’m going to try that! I know I am bad at looking at people, possibly starting as acute childhood shyness. When I try to look someone in the eye it is almost physically painful. I also listen better with my eyes closed, a teacher once accused me of being asleep when I was just concentrating on what she was saying, and I often close my eyes at concerts.

    10. Parakeet*

      I’m also relatively recently diagnosed autistic & ADHD, and I’ve dealt with some similar issues. If it’s socially acceptable in your organization’s norms, to keep your camera off for large parts of the time, I highly recommend it. If not, I think the note-taking suggestion that others have brought up is a good one. If it’s socially acceptable to have an object to fidget with, in your organization’s norms, that can also be helpful for the fidgeting.

      For the eye contact issue specifically, I find it helpful sometimes to focus on, say, the bridge of someone’s nose, so that it looks like I’m more or less making eye contact, without my having to do so. On Zoom, I can pull up something on my computer to look at that isn’t a face, and position it in the right spot to make it look like I’m doing eye contact.

    11. RagingADHD*

      I would not self-disclose at the beginning of meetings because it is a derail and will set expectations that may not be necessary at all. I rarely make sustained eye contact during meetings, never have, and never had a problem.

      I take copious notes and will occasionally say, “don’t mind me, I’m taking notes.” Then I just look up occasionally and then go back to writing. Remote meetings are even better for this because nobody can see my notebook, so I can doodle freely as a fidget. Your verbal contributions to the discussion will show that you are in fact paying attention, and generally speaking, people like to feel that you are writing down what they say.

      A key point I discovered midway through the pandemic was to minimize the display so that I don’t actually have to see myself or the other person! I just take a break from my notes to look intently into the camera from time to time while I’m listening, or when I am speaking and need to make a point. Looking into the camera gives a much stronger impression of eye contact than looking at the person’s eyes on the screen, but it is much less pressure-y because it’s just a black circle. (Especially when I can’t see myself).

      It’s a little bit mechanical, but it keeps the NTs happy.

      1. Elle*

        I mean, I’m glad that hasn’t been a problem for you but it has definitely been a problem for me. At least half my managers have explicitly told me at review time that people have complained about working with me because I seem off. When I asked for direct examples so I could do better, because I am actually a very vocal contributor in most meetings, they were never able to give me anything concrete and said things like, “It’s just a sense people are getting that you aren’t paying attention in a way that’s disrespectful.” I really don’t think only glancing at the camera occasionally is going to be a tenable solution for me, especially in one-on-ones.

        1. RagingADHD*

          I apologize, I didn’t mean that it isn’t a problem. I meant “here are the particular things I do that seem to have averted this problem, so maybe they might help you as well.”

          Just some possible tools that may or may not be useful. I hope you find something that helps.

        2. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

          What about something that addresses the eye movement but doesn’t specify why it happens? Maybe something like “please don’t be concerned if I look like I’m distracted or rolling my eyes, I have a condition that causes it”? I think it’s worth noting that you know it looks like something it’s not, but you don’t necessarily need to get into the details of why it happens.

          1. A Wall*

            I say this knowing some others will disagree, but based on my own experience I highly recommend never disclosing that you have any kind of ongoing condition, chronic illness, neurodivergence, etc etc unless you absolutely have to in order to get a specific accommodation. Some people will act normal about it, sure, but for a significant proportion of people this flips a switch in their head that labels you “a liar who’s bad at their job and trying to get something they don’t deserve.” It’s often an instant guarantee that folks they will scrutinize you more, be more hostile to you, be less willing to help or be generous with you, and speak of you poorly to others. That’s true whether you name the diagnosis or just acknowledge that you have any kind of condition at all.

            If you want to disclose and you find it empowering, I won’t argue with you. Or if you specifically trust whoever you’re talking to and want to take the risk, great. But folks who haven’t personally dealt with disability/ND in the workplace tend to assume that disclosing will lead to people rationally behaving cooperatively, when that’s not actually the most typical response. So they’ll advise people with new diagnoses to disclose openly without knowing how big of a dice roll that actually is, and/or newly diagnosed people will disclose expecting rational behavior and are really shocked at how much negativity they actually get in response.

        3. JSPA*

          Sometimes that’s gaze, but sometimes it’s content. There’s listening to the point that people want to make…and there’s listening to people with the goal of fitting their data into your ideas (or deciding how to argue them into agreeing that they agree with you, whether or not it’s so). For those of us who are high IQ but low EQ (at least, perceptively!) that’s a fairly common bad habit, and it leads people to feeling railroaded, under-appreciated, and like they are being treated as non-player characters in your internal mental monologue.

          This may not fit you at all!

          How to tell?

          One warning is if you can summarize the words and facts, but can’t summarize the motivations, goals, and conclusions (most particularly, other people’s good points that are NOT helpful to your own preferred interpretation / solution / goals).

    12. Observer*

      I’m almost wondering if I should start Zoom meetings by saying I’m autistic & ADHD and I may look distracted but I’m not? This feels overboard when I’m meeting people for the first time via video call pretty regularly. Does anyone have any advice?

      You have the right idea but not so great execution.

      People don’t need your diagnosis, and for most people it’s TMI. But giving people a heads up that you tend to look away from the camera in short glances to avoid headaches in a low key way gives people enough context with getting into the weeds.

      Also the note-taking idea may be worth pursuing.

      1. Elle*

        Interesting. I don’t consider it TMI. It’s just who I am, like having brown hair or enjoying meeting new people. It feels way more convoluted to make up a fake health problem and explain it than to just tell people I’m autistic. Especially given that my company has had me give presentations regarding being autistic at work to the company a number of times now.

        1. JSPA*

          Even if it’s not TMI, it’s not immediately relatable to most people, which makes it loom as “a thing that requires ongoing awareness.” And that, in turn, is distracting. Just because it’s outside their personal experience. Contrast headaches / eyestrain, which most people have experienced.

          Also, a lot of people will assume that if you’re aware of operating differently, you have enough awareness and control to (at least slowly and partially) modify your behavior to better mimic neurotypia. (Which isn’t at all a given.)

          Could they eventually get used to your way of interacting as being a “normal Elle thing”? Sure, one would hope so. But ideally, that’s not in the context of, “and she always hijacks the agenda to remind us that her behavior is different, without ever finding ways to modify that behavior.”

          Otherwise, some people will react like they would to someone who always takes double servings of the treats, and always couples that to putting on a show about it: “just look at me, I took the last donut again, and Jan didn’t even get one–I’m such a donut fiend, ha ha!”

          TL;DR: if the thing itself is irritating, having a presentation on it can render it more irritating, not less so.

    13. Sam*

      I’m going to disagree with most, just my opinion.

      I would tell the recruiter ahead of time that you’re “on the autism spectrum” and what it means as it pertains to the interview. They’ll usually ask if you need any accommodations for the interview and I would put this in that category.

      Yes, some employers may (consciously or not) hold this against you. That sucks, it’s illegal, but in the end do you want to work somewhere that is full of horrible people?

      My three children are on the spectrum and oldest is about to graduate. I do worry about him interviewing. I don’t worry about working that much, but do worry about the interview.

      I have mental issues myself that don’t usually affect interviews but are noticeable at work so I usually am open to my manager and coworkers.

      I don’t mention ADHD though. It’s so common, it’s not worth mentioning.

      1. Elle*

        A lot of autistic people find the phrasing “on the autism spectrum” to be demeaning, so I doubt I would use that. I would much rather say I’m autistic. I’m not talking with recruiters though, I love my job. I’m just talking about the regular meetings in the course of my work.

        1. I heart Paul Buchman*

          Elle my husband struggles with eye contact for similar reasons. His habit is to turn his face up to the ceiling when he is thinking. He also sometimes screws up his face and covers his eyes with one hand while saying ‘um, hang on let me think’. These are for moments of intense concentration, a time he can not sustain any eye contact at all. He has never had a comment and I’ve seen other people make a similar expression. (Particularly, in some East Asian cultures I believe so familiar to us here in the Pacific??). I wonder if this would work in a US context? Turning the whole head avoids the eye rolling accusation and makes it a more considered movement.

    14. fleapot*

      I’m also an autistic woman with ADHD. If I could advise myself before I’d disclosed my disabilities, I’d say—don’t do it. People are worse than you think, and legal protections are harder to access than you might imagine.

      It’s possible that I’ve been particularly unlucky, but it’s never made things significantly better, and it’s often led to straight-up psychological abuse.

      That said: when I haven’t disclosed it, that’s been a problem too (for reasons similar to those you describe). There’s a reason for the 85% unemployment rate among autistic people. :-/

  15. Saradactyl*

    I have a second interview today for a company that recruited me last week. I’m nervous and also feel guilty to my current employer because I’ve only been in my position for about 3 months (been with the company for 3 years, I was promoted in August) and my new boss is a wonderful manager. I feel like I’m betraying her, but I think my salary might increase somewhere in the range of $10-20K if I get an offer from this company and I don’t think I can turn that down responsibly. I’m going to see this through and do my best because I should do what’s right for me, but I can’t shake this guilty feeling

    1. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      See if you like the job and take it if it will make sense for you.

      If your boss is wonderful, she’ll be disappointed for her self AND glad for you.

      Your current company will survive just fine.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Agreeing, I think that getting more info will help ease some of that guilt.

        And try to keep in mind that leaving any job seems to come with some level of guilt. The best you can do is be fair, leave notes, work your notice and be as supportive as possible during your notice.

        Reality is that we can be replaced at a moment’s notice. Or companies can just suddenly lay us off. This is how it goes. It’s up to your boss to have a plan to replace each employee at any time. Hey, you could win the lottery and run off to Bermuda. People suddenly leave for all kinds of reasons, and this is reality.

        Collecting up facts, crunching some numbers will really help you as you go along here.

    2. LKW*

      Something to consider, will this new company provide you a career trajectory that is better than your current organization. Was it difficult to get your promotion and move to a new position? What has the new organization said about career paths and promotion expectations.

      I’m not saying $20K is anything to dismiss, but where will you be in five years?

    3. Pumpkin Party*

      I had something like that happen to me–I was with the agency for 2 years (in a terrible department) and had just switched to a new department for 2 months (which was AWESOME). All the jobs I had applied to while with Terrible Department started calling for interviews while I was with Awesome Department. I felt so guilty when I ended up taking a position somewhere else; like you, the position was a pay increase of like $8,500 so I just felt like I couldn’t pass it up. And even though I actually cried a little when giving my notice, my supervisor, while very sad to see me go, was actually really good about it. And, the job I ended up taking was the BEST job I’ve ever had (too bad it was only a 1.5 year project!). So for me, in the end, it was worth it. I still felt guilty, and I totally get it, but of course I don’t think you should feel guilty! Your new boss will understand, and you can always keep that relationship going for any future opportunities.

      1. Saradactyl*

        I also had started to resent my old department and am very happy in my new department. I was applying for other jobs and would have jumped ship if the opportunity to move teams hadn’t materialized. This new opportunity also knocked on my door, I wouldn’t have been looking because I was happy again in the new position.

        I’m fighting a little bit of imposter syndrome too, because my “promotion” was really a lateral move into a brand-new skillset and this opportunity is for that skillset. When the recruiter told me she wanted to give my resume to the hiring manager and have me speak to him, I had to try so hard not to check that she was serious. “You know I’ve only been doing this since August, right? Like you saw that start date on my LinkedIn, and the hiring manager is also going to see that start date on my resume – I’ve only been doing this three months, and you’re okay with that, right? You’re sure?”

    4. PollyQ*

      It is not a betrayal to leave a job. Not personally to the manager, not professionally to the corporation. It is entirely normal that employees leave and then managers have to replace them. Will that add something to her plate? Sure, but it’s her job to handle that. It’s literally what she’s paid for. It seems like you’re asking yourself, “Is it fair for me to benefit from something that will harm manager/company?” but you’re not doing a harm to anyone. Make whatever choice works best for you & your career.

  16. Should I stay or should I go?*

    My workplace is weird but it pays well (law firm)… I’ve job hunted and interviewed over the years but always back down when I realize I can’t get the same pay anywhere else (it’s an hourly job and the first place where I’ve had my own office and annual year-end bonus, usually $5-6k). Now, of course, the job market is favorable to job seekers and I keep thinking about trying again, but I’m nervous.

    I’ve been here for about 5 years now. It’s not toxic, but the management is pretty absent (for example, I had to lobby to have annual performance reviews). The business itself is doing well, but at this point we’re overstaffed (all the staff I’ve talked to agree on this, but we don’t want to say it to the management for fear they’ll fire someone) and so there isn’t enough to keep me engaged on a daily basis. And with the pandemic, I’ve been frustrated by the response– we’ve been back to working in-office since June 2020 (!!) for no good reason; I can absolutely do this work remotely.

    Should I try again? I’ve been burned before where a new job didn’t work out and I was laid off, so I’m pretty anxious and cautious about leaving a solid job, even when it’s got some real flaws.

    1. ThatGirl*

      There are no guarantees; you could get laid off tomorrow! Not that you WILL be, but I see no reason not to at least see what’s out there. And you can afford to be picky, and ask lots of questions and do research, because you won’t be desperate.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Adding it sounds like you have a chance of getting laid off even if you stay.

        Ask the potential employer about layoffs- how often does that happen? Have they had layoffs recently? etc.

        Yes, Look around. And the reason is that you don’t want to grow rusty from too low a workflow.

    2. ecnaseener*

      There’s no harm in looking, is there? If you still can’t find anything at the same pay, then you don’t have to leave.

    3. MissDisplaced*

      It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a employee in possession of a good job, must be in want of an even better job. ;-)

    4. Ha2*

      Give it a shot! Since you already have a decent job, that makes the job hunt easier, I think. You can go at your own pace. You can be picky and evaluate each option carefully without feeling like you HAVE to take an offer you get, you can say no if you’re not excited about the new position or if you have concerns.

    5. Joielle*

      I agree with everyone – you might as well look around! Honestly, I think the best time to look for a new job is when you’re still kind of conflicted about it. That means you’re job searching before you get SO sick of your current job that you’ll take anything that comes along. Maybe you’ll find something that pays well and you’re really excited about. Maybe you won’t, and you’ll just be in the same place you are now. But it doesn’t hurt to look!

      1. Rosie*

        Agreed! I’ve always had a better experience with actively job searching when it was more of a casual I could leave versus an ugh I have to get out of here before I explode situation.

  17. CatCat*

    I am not terribly LinkedIn savvy. Is it possible to let your LinkedIn network know you’re actively looking for new opportunities, but exclude anyone from your current employer from seeing that?

    1. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      Nope.

      If it’s open to your network, it’s open to the company.

      However, if you just accidentally, you know, for personal and professional development, decide to update your profile to highlight your really awesome skills and experience, and if your headline stops having “Job Title at Current Company” in it and instead says “Job Title with Some Really Great Words About Your Experience/Focus”, and you start having more conversations with people in your field about things you guys do in your work and accidentally continue to prove your value to others …
      well, that’s not advertising that you’re on the market … it’s just … demonstrating that you’re amazing and ready to be poached.

      1. Maggie*

        Actually you can turn on the “open to recruiters” function and it will exclude your current company (as best it can, it does state it doesn’t guarantee it). But they do specifically offer the option that OP asked about.

    2. DCQ*

      I think LinkedIn tries to do this for you — if you put “open to opportunities” it blocks that from anyone at your current employer, but it’s not perfect.

    3. Purple Cat*

      With all things social media, although that might work, it wouldn’t exclude people who now work at a different company, but know people at your current company and start talking (probably innocently, but possibly not).

    4. Saradactyl*

      I actually ran into this today. You can set your settings to only show that you’re open to opportunities to specific users who are recruiters who have permissions to see this. You can also set it to open, which would literally be open, anyone can see it.

  18. Coenobita*

    As a 35-year-old person, I am extremely amused by an article in yesterday’s (?) New York Times called “The 37-Year-Olds Are Afraid of the 23-Year-Olds Who Work for Them,” and I thought you all might enjoy it too. I’ll include a link in a follow-up comment.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      I saw the title for that floating around but I can’t get past the NYT paywall (don’t like them in general, so I won’t pay for a sub). It was intriguing.

      1. Applesauced*

        Check your local library! I found that with my card I can get access to NYTimes online, it’s under virtual resources on the library site

      2. NYT Library Edition*

        I second checking a library for an access code. For example, https://www.library.pima.gov/, scroll about mid-way to “E-Library: Research & Learn”, toggle through the cards until you see “NYT Digital Edition”, complete the directions for signing up and using a code.

      3. Mstr*

        With just an email address you can “create a free account” that let’s you read a certain number of articles. I forget the details as I don’t use it much.

        1. Mstr*

          Also — this option to login/create a free account comes up as a pop-up at the bottom half of the screen when I click the article link above in case anybody’s having trouble finding this.

      4. Victoria Nonprofit*

        Not being snarky here, genuinely curious: You don’t like paywalls (who does??) — what is the alternative (that still pays the folks who create the work in question)?

        1. tamarack and fireweed*

          Paywalls – or rather, the expectation that you subscribe to the papers you read, are just very badly adapted to the way we consume newspaper and magazine content right now, where any given day I might want to follow links to 15 different papers I otherwise have no interest in. And of course for free-to-read content, the ad market is deeply rotten.

          In the olden days, I would pay for a newspaper most days (I usually bought them individually at the newsstand), or I might read it for free at the library, the café, or a friend’s place who had a subscription. If there was a big controversy about a particular article, I would hear about it on TV (paid for by license fee or by a bundled subscription with cable for example). I could then go to the library to check out the particular issue, or if it was sufficiently earth shattering, the article would be re-printed in a dedicated supplement. The time scale was just a lot slower than the immediate-gratification style news consumption now.

          The odd thing is of course that journalism has since declined, so even though I feel like I’m bombarded from a firehose, there is in fact less of it… I would be absolutely happy to spend about as much as I used to, but I don’t get proportionally as good access for the same price. What I do is to subscribe to 3 or 4 publications that I regularly read, poke around in the library options, and otherwise rely on allocations of free-to-read articles.

          There are of course alternatives! But the incentives haven’t aligned for them to be seriously implemented.
          a) A system of feasible micropayments. If every article, or 5-min access to a publication I otherwise wouldn’t consult were to cost, say $0.50 and it would be secure and easy to make my payment and keep track of my spending, then sure! I’d love that! There are obvious privacy concerns, but I don’t believe that if the powers-that-be had found it economically interesting to implement such a thing, it wouldn’t be feasible.
          b) Bundle subscriptions with internet access. Competition among ISPs is horrible anyway in the US – which is why prices are comparatively high. It would take a careful regulatory approach to make something like this happen, that is, political will, but I could totally see it.

          As it stands, a lot of the most innovative public-service journalism is free to access and run by non-profits that have some very very rich backers. Sad to think it is, but I guess in a society that decides it’s ok to produce a tiny number of fabulously rich people, it’s a better use of such moneys than others. We’re sliding back to the arts (in the extended sense) being bankrolled by the super-rich. Sigh.

    2. Birch*

      I can’t read the article, but I kinda get this? But I also kinda think it’s a good thing… jury is still partially out. The younger people I work with sometimes shock me with how willing they are to be open and honest about what they need and want and think. I know that can go overboard into real problems with professionalism, but it’s honestly refreshing to see them being invited into a team space and treated like an equal member (which in itself says a lot about the quality of my team and the progress we’ve made), and then acting like they feel like an equal member and deserve to take up that space. As opposed to my 30-something work attitude which probably has far too many bending-over-backward and a**-kissing habits baked in.

      1. Coenobita*

        Oh, I agree! I just think the framing of “you thought you were a young person making change, but now even younger people are changing you! how terrifying!” was funny. I do think that a lot of us who started our careers during the recession have a big “I am lucky to even have this job, I need to keep my head down” thing going on.

        Also, part of the article is about how younger workers are pushing their employers to be more active on big social issues. I liked this quote: “You talk to older people and they’re like, ‘Dude we sell tomato sauce, we don’t sell politics,’” said Mr. Kennedy, co-founder of Plant People, a certified B corporation. “Then you have younger people being like, ‘These are political tomatoes. This is political tomato sauce.’”

        1. Reba*

          omg the quotes were hysterical. I’m sorry these young people don’t think you are that cool!!

          I also noted that they talked to people doing these like “”wellness”” selling supplements on instagram quasi-vanity small businesses. No Fortune 500’s here. No factory line workers either.

      2. Younger than 37, thank you very much*

        I think it is kind of a good thing. I think there’s a temptation to not question the way certain things are done just because ‘that’s the way things have always been done’ – I mean, unless there’s a really good reason for working 9-5, why shouldn’t you be able to work the hours which most suit you, provided you’re getting your work done? And, provided you’re getting your work done, why shouldn’t you be able to take a sick day for mental health? If it makes sense, why shouldn’t you be able to delegate jobs to your manager or even your grandboss?

        That being said, I’ve worked with two people who were summed up in this article to the letter and, in both cases, I found them abrasive, lacking empathy and selfish. Think things like:

        “Sorry, you need to stick to the rota rather than work on pet project because otherwise Fergus will need to work a double shift and that’s really not a fair ask”, “I think you’ll find pet project is a much better opportunity for me”, :: doesn’t turn up for scheduled work, have to scramble to get everything done::

        “I need those forms in by noon because of business critical reason”, “I’ve told the client to send the info by 4pm.”, “Then, you need to call them and tell them you need it sooner – you can blame me for the reason if you like”, “I don’t want to have that conversation though” :: Noon passes, forms go in late ::

        But, at its worst, I felt like I was under attack and being punished because I’d dared to tell them no! Like, nit picking my work in public for the week after giving them some feedback one-on-one, publicly insisting we change rotas because their idea is so much but it appears ‘SOMEBODY ELSE’ disagrees because I’ve already explained to them why we’re not changing rotas in private, and emailing our manager with concerns that my decisions are insensitive and personally motivated even though there were very good business reasons for making them.

        I will caveat this by adding that I hold an odd job position where I oversee and troubleshoot a lot of stuff but I don’t have ownership so I think there was an element of trying to ‘hold me to account’ for things I had no responsibility for, or even control over. I also think this was more indicative of the attitude/word choice/tone of these two people more generally than the trend the article is pointing towards. Telling me you’ve noticed a lot of our teapots have gone out unpolished recently and asking me if I could have a word with the teapot polishing team, fine. But the lecture I received about how so many teapots were going out unpolished recently, how it was making the company look unprofessional and perhaps I should consider trying harder to make sure this didn’t happen in the future made me REALLY enjoy the awkward pause when I responded with, “Sure, and if I actually had any responsibility for teapot polishing, I would get right on that”.

    3. Not A Manager*

      I thought the entry-level employee sending tasks to the CEO was hilarious. I also thought the article leaned waaaaaay to far into the “befuddled elders taking their cues from the young pups.” I’m pretty sure most managers would have shut some of that stuff down fairly quickly.

    4. Beth*

      As a 61-year-old who has never, ever been cool, and has done just fine without ever being cool, I’m finding the whole thing hilarious.

    5. SlimeKnight*

      I read it and the article is less-panicky and more balanced than the headline suggested. I remember about 10 years ago the barrage of articles for managers along the lines of, “Those darn millenials are so entitled but yes you have to coddle them.”

      The actual gist of the article is, a) Millennials expectations around workplace norms were shaped by the Great Recession and accompanying job market, b) Gen Zers entering the workforce are having their views shaped by the pandemic and “open” communication facilitated by platforms like Slack. So Gen Zers are much less likely to want to say, work 100 hours a week, even for a lot of money, like the LW complained about recently. They are also more likely to speak out to their employers about topics, both workplace and non-workplace related (i.e. social justice issues). And those are all good things! “Hustle” culture has led to little except burnout for us Millennials.

      The only example that had me scratching my head was the start up where new hires were delegating work to the founder.

    6. Rosie*

      hmm I dislike how the article is basically just retreading gen-x vs millennial work ethic with millennial vs gen z work ethic when it’s really just there’s people who will work all hours and people who will set rigid work-life boundaries and the current labor conversation is more about a cultural shift than generational differences. There’s plenty of millennials and gen x’ers taking mental health days for example, that’s hardly a gen z identifier.

      1. A*

        Typically I’m not a fan of generational divides being pointed to as the primary driver of everything under the sun… but in this case I think it makes sense. Every generation has it’s challenges and defining adversities – but Millennials and Gen-Z are somewhat unique in that they are back to back generations (and the first two to have largely digital upbringings / entries into the workforce which inherently sets them apart from analogue generations) with catastrophic failure level economic issues that came about close to the beginning of when these generations were entering the workforce.

      2. Younger than 37, thank you very much*

        True although I would argue the thing which has changed with mental health days is managers are now more accepting in people taking them. My mental health is generally fine but it becomes very much ‘not fine’ (to avoid a long and drawn out description) when I’m under too much stress for too long. My solution to this is to take some time out when I can feel myself ‘tipping’. This happened on my first job about a decade ago so I took a couple of days out and said that was the reason. When I got back, my manager stormed over with a million and one questions – basically, the messaging I got was the company was supportive of you ‘fixing’ your mental health, it was not ok with ‘managing’ your mental health. From then on, I have lied that the reason I’m out is a cold or ‘I must have just ate something funny’. And, on that first job, I ended up signed off work for several weeks with severe stress so clearly their attitude towards ‘fixing’ mental health worked…

        Now I’m the one overseeing why people are off I still find people are quite sheepish in admitting that’s the reason. But my attitude, and that of my now peers, has been ‘Well, rest up and take care of yourself. Let me know if you’ll be in tomorrow’. If that’s now playing out with a younger generation as being confident in saying that this is the reason why they’re off, then that’s a good thing!

        1. Chaordic One*

          Your observations are so true. When I need a mental health day, my 2 default excuses are that I have food poisoning or I’ve come down with a migraine.

  19. LizB*

    Outlook help needed! I get many emails that I need to rename, forward, and then file into a folder in my inbox. For the vast majority of messages this goes fine, but occasionally I will go through the process and then when I later look through the folder, a few of the messages have reverted to their previous name and are not showing the blue forward arrow. When I look in my sent box and ask the recipient I can confirm that these messages definitely did forward successfully. There is nothing that sets these messages apart from the others that have no problems, they all come from the same address (our faxing service) and have the same kind of attachment (a single PDF file). Any insights?

    1. Kathenus*

      No solution for you but share a similar frustration. I’ll save an email to my files, and sometimes rename it in the files with more detail so it’s easier to find when relevant in the future. In my files it shows with new name, but if I try to attach it to an email it reverts to old name. Frustrating!

    2. Tea and Cake*

      Are you regularly forwarding to the same person/people? If so you may be able to set up a distribution list with them and yourself on it so when you forward it you have a copy locally as well.

    3. Admin of Sys*

      Are you on a desktop client? if so, it’s probably your ost being slightly corrupt. When you use a client, it keeps a cache on your computer so it can keep running if you drop offline, and it doesn’t have to constantly download existing mail. That file is supposed to match whatever actually happened to the email / on the server, but sometimes things get corrupt, especially if you have a particularly large or old ost file. You can remove and recreate the file, but it can be a bit tricky and/or take a really long time if you have a lot of mail. If you’ve got IT help, I’d suggest having them do it?
      But if not, I can walk you through it.

      1. LizB*

        I will ask our IT folks about this possibility! This is the first real lead I’ve gotten on why this might be happening (other than “Are you sure you remember to save/send it?” YES, I am very sure.) so this is exciting, thank you!

  20. ecnaseener*

    Super low-stakes question that fascinates me!

    What is up with people ending business phone calls with “buh-bye”? I never hear it in a professional context off the phone, and in any other context it’s read as casual and cutesy.

    Don’t get me wrong, I do this too, but only because I’m so awkward on the phone I say a ton of weird things. I feel embarrassed by it, but then I hear it from experienced professionals as if it’s a professional norm.

    Is this new? (I’m only 24, so I wouldn’t know.) Is it regional? (I’m in Massachusetts.) Is it just somehow the thing everyone lands on when “Goodbye” is too stiff and “Bye” is too curt and you don’t have the presence of mind to say something like “Take care” ??

    1. Va*

      I’m a 23 year old woman from VA and the only people I’ve heard use that phrase is my family from Massachusetts.

        1. Sam Yao*

          I am also in Massachusetts and I have what I consider to be a bad habit of ending calls with a “buh-bye.” It’s not something I’ve tried to train myself out of doing, but every so often I catch myself saying it on a work call to, say, some government agency or other and internally cringe.

    2. Littorally*

      I was trained never to end with “bye” or “bye-bye” in any professional call — but then, I started in a call center, so phone etiquette was front and center and heavily QA’d. But I’ve found that in my more professional roles, where the focus is on more substantial issues and a warmer tone with clients is expected, “goodbye” comes across as cold.

      When you’re talking about business phone calls, are you talking internal? B2B? Calls with clients? Standards are different for each of these (I would say B2B is probably the most formal, internal calls the least, and client calls match the tone the client sets.)

      1. ecnaseener*

        Somewhere in between client and internal, because I work in an internal compliance role at a non-profit institution. Technically the people I’m talking to are colleagues, but they have to go through my office to make their projects happen and they don’t like it, so communications are along the lines of “customer” service.

    3. CBB*

      “Buh bye” has been the standard (or very common) phone sign-off for as long as I can remember. I’m old enough that when I learned how to use a phone, it had a rotary dial.

      I heard somewhere the word “Hello” was not common in English until it became the standard phone greeting.

      1. Siege*

        I end all calls, pretty much, with “bye-bye” (I mentally hear “buh-bye” in David Spade’s extremely annoying voice from that airline SNL skit in the 90s) but I also used a rotary phone growing up – we probably held onto it long past its typical end of life, given that my parents were early-adopters with computers and just got rid of their enormous console television when it broke for good about five years ago – so it might be a generational thing. “Bye” sounds really cold to me, and “good-bye” is worse. Like, you soften “bye” in person by waving or otherwise physically acknowledging the person, and you can’t do that on the phone. I might shift it to “thanks for your time” if it was a certain kind of professional setting, but I call the same 10 people for work, and I know them all really well, so that’s more if I’m talking to a lawyer or a doctor.

        1. pancakes*

          David Spade and Cheri Oteri, I think? I think they were airline employees saying it to people exiting the plane. I’d forgotten those skits but now that you mentioned them I can absolutely hear it in his voice! I don’t know anyone else who says buh-bye.

          I don’t agree that just saying bye seems cold, but I’m in and from the northeast, and we don’t tend to try to be super-friendly all the time. I often end with “talk to you soon, good bye,” but I mostly use the phone for chatting with friends, not work.

    4. Koala dreams*

      I’ve long been wondering what the phone good bye phrase is supposed to be in English. In US movies they never seem to use anything, not even thanks, and I watch too few movies from other English speaking countries to notice. Take care sounds nice. I hope more people comment with their experience!

      1. Coenobita*

        Approximately 100% of my phone calls with my mom ends with her saying “take good care.” I always thought it was nice! I’ve noticed that “take care” in general has increased in popularity during the pandemic. Though I think I tend to end work calls with some combination of “ok, thanks, bye.”

        1. Mr. Shark*

          Yes, take care has gotten a lot more popular in the pandemic. It’s pretty common now.
          Normally, I’d say it’s what you mentioned…okay, thanks, bye. Or, okay, talk to you later.
          I’ve never heard buh-bye, but I’m from mid-west to California, so I don’t think I’ve even heard that from anyone even in a non-business setting. Usually it’s just “bye”.

        2. Sleeping Late Every Day*

          Yeah, thinking back to my work life, I usually ended calls with “Okay, bye” or “Okay, thanks, bye” depending on if I’d received the call or initiated it.

      2. ecnaseener*

        Yeah that’s a weird movie thing – I would never hang up without saying goodbye unless I was angry.

        1. CBB*

          There a certain things that happen often in movies but rarely in real life. Hanging up without saying goodbye is chief among them.

          Also: car seats without headrests, and people wearing shoes in bed.

          1. Strict Extension*

            I think this is situational. I spent ten years in specialty retail and am now patron-facing in arts non-profit. Approximately 90% of retail customer calls and maybe 50% of patron calls end with me passive-aggressively saying “goodbye” to a dead line because the person on the other end has hung up without ending the conversation.

      3. Person from the Resume*

        I think I probably end with “talk to you later,” “see you later,” etc. Also thinking harder though, I bet I follow up that sentence with “bye.”

        “Buh bye” (emphasis on BUH) is not professional and I think it could could be used jokey with friends. It’s making fun of something/someone, right? For me “buh bye” is not equal to “bye bye” which is fine and normal though a tad bit more cutesy than a single “bye.”

        1. ecnaseener*

          Yeah, the “professional call” version doesn’t emphasize the BUH. It’s more “b’bye.”

          Actually enunciating “bye bye” would make me feel like a five-year-old, but that probably has a regional element to it.

      4. I heart Paul Buchman*

        I universally say ‘see you later’. I’ve never heard Buh Bye and Bye-Bye is for toddlers here. Australian.

        1. ecnaseener*

          Interesting, I almost never say see you later on work calls, other than maybe casual ones with my own team. You say it even with people you might not see / talk to later?

    5. Purple Cat*

      On our team calls we drive our boss crazy ending them with “Bye-eeeee”.
      And yes, we’re all far too grown to be doing that. Gotta laugh at work so you don’t cry :)

    6. RagingADHD*

      Everyone is awkward on the phone. Honestly, really they are. The ones who appear to not be awkward on the phone have just memorized certain formats and scripts so thoroughly that they are second nature.

      That’s why they pick up habits like, “buh-bye.” It keeps you from accidentally blurting out “love you!” because your brain momentarily decided you were talking to your mother.

      All of formalized etiquette is just scripts to help people know the appropriate thing to say in different situations, because life and people are inherently, permanently, irretrievably awkward.

      1. fueled by coffee*

        Omg, yes. I have to focus SO hard on not closing phone calls with “Talk to you soon. I love you, bye!”

        1. Cold Fish*

          I had a co-worker say that once to a customer. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a face turn that red before. :)

      2. PostalMixup*

        Oh man, every work call I have to remind myself that I’m not talking to my spouse or I’m terrified that I’ll say “love you” to my boss!

    7. Girasol*

      Mom always said that. I used to think it was because of teaching us kids to talk and saying “bye bye” to babies so often that she’d started to say it to adults without thinking.

    8. Joielle*

      Ha! I was literally just thinking about this yesterday. I would NEVER say “bye-bye” in person, or to a friend, or on a video call, or even to my own coworkers. But I talked to my dog’s vet on the phone yesterday and we both said “bye-bye” at the end of the call and it dawned on me that it’s super weird that’s how I end professional phone calls with people I don’t know well?? And most other people do it too?? Why???

      I have no answers, just share your confusion (even though I do it too)!

    9. A*

      Interesting! I’m in MA as well and I don’t recall coming across this in the workplace (I’m sure it’s happened, but I guess not often enough to register). ‘Take care’ and ‘speak with you soon’ seem to be most common.

      That being said, I’m in a global position so it might be influenced by the tendency to steer clear of slang and more casual speak that is more likely to be lost in translation (or misinterpreted as disrespectful) across multiple languages and cultures.

  21. HopeMyBossDoesNotSeeThis*

    My current job is focused on creating materials for participants in a continuing education program. Think new veterinarian providers (vet techs, doctors of veterinarian medicine, etc) who need topic-specific information*. If a vet tech said they needed to know the frequency of cancer and recommended in a specific breed of dog I would research the topic, develop all of the documents and share them with the program participant so they can provide quality care and receive certification in their profession. I am casually looking for other jobs. How do I share writing samples of the work I’ve created since it is technically the IP of the organization I work for?

    *this is not actually the work I do, just a similar example.

    1. HopeMyBossDoesNotSeeThis*

      Oops. Typo. The third sentence should say ” If a vet tech said they needed to know the frequency of cancer and recommended course of treatment in a specific….”

    2. BlueBelle*

      Don’t provide the entire document. Take a screenshot, or copy and paste a section. I do mine like this;
      Context: Manager Toolkit provided to all people leaders to guide them through performance management, coaching, and systems
      Software: Adobe Publishing
      [ screen shot]

      Make sure to always provide everything in PDF format, and watermark if you can so nothing can be “stolen”.
      Hope this helps! I look forward to hearing how other people do it.

    3. Reba*

      A lot of times designers, for example, will share work samples with the product or company name obscured. Often they will use a password protected area of a website, but I assume you don’t have a portfolio site :)

      You could share things through a password protected online drive, no downloads (with a password that expires or you change after a bit).

    4. Annony*

      How involved are these documents? Can you create a writing sample specifically to use for job searching? For example, if you are creating that document about prostate cancer in greyhounds, would it be a lot of extra time to also write up the risk of prostate cancer in golden retrievers?

    5. PollyQ*

      IANAL, but I’m pretty sure that unless it’s confidential or a trade secret, you can share part of the document (ssay, a few paragraphs) under fair use without violating copyright. If that’s too short to get across the full nature of what you do, I second Annony’s suggestion of creating a sample document (on your own time!) to show off your skills.

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

      Are the positions you are interviewing for potentially more interested in the content or the development/ delivery? If the content isn’t as relevant as the presentation to what you are applying for, you could lorem ipsum the text and keep the design/presentation. If the development and writing style of the content is the most important part, I would write a sample that isn’t something created for your current employer — come up with the frequency of skittles pox in Purple People Eaters and treat it the same as a real-life case study.

  22. donut avenger*

    Someone in my office just left 1/8 of a donut in the box that our landlord sent down to us for Halloween. There are 3 boxes of donuts, it’s not like they didn’t want to take the last one. How do I continue to work here knowing someone in my office is this person?

    1. lost academic*

      Zeno’s paradox applies best of all to office donuts. I’m always really excited when someone’s willing to take it past that 2nd step. HOW FAR WILL ALL OF YOU GO!?

    2. Rainy*

      There’s one in every office. Whenever I see it, I want to find whoever it is and say “Just take the whole fucking donut, you coward, no one wants the dried-up bite you put your filthy paws all over just so you can feel like you didn’t eat a whole donut.”

    3. Not A Manager*

      They understand that you need to leave 1/8 of a donut overnight in the box in order for the donut elves to refill the entire thing.

    4. Can't Sit Still*

      It’s the same person who carefully pours out half a packet of hot chocolate mix, folds the packet, and starts over again with a new packet the next day, resulting in a half dozen partial packets of hot chocolate.

      I particularly like when the box of donuts is full of halves, quarters, and eighths. Bonus points for when people hack off pieces in a group, but never from the same donut.

    5. Purple Penguin*

      Just go with it, assume the other 7/8 were mistaken for Munchkins, and mentally thank your in-house donut-hole manufacturer.

    6. MMM*

      We had donuts on Monday and someone took one, cut a piece that was maaaaybe 1/8, then threw the rest away. Blatant disrespect for free baked goods

    7. Mr. Shark*

      Get another donut, slice it like a bagel, and leave the bottom, unfrosted part for the next person.
      Some people just like to watch the world burn!

      1. MacGillicuddy*

        Office donuts – many places I worked would always put a plastic knife in the donut box. You’d be amazed at the number of people who won’t take a whole donut.
        Maybe it’s based on the theory that calories leak out of the cut parts!

        1. Kat in VA*

          In the Before Times, I was a feral trash panda with regard to food.

          I would eat my whole donut and whatever 1/2 and 1/8 doughnuts were left as well.

          Now? Pandemic expansion of my midsection, pandemic caution around already-handled food (and, uh, working from home FT) precludes those trash panda habits but I fear my return to the old ways is inevitable when (and if) things open up again full-time.

  23. Confused dot com*

    I work for a uk company and have an American manager. My manager is quite insistent that I cc her on all the emails I send. I’m not used to this and find it a bit micromanage-y and annoying. She has said it’s quite standard in the US.

    I’m about to start a new job working with another American manager. Do I do the same? Is it really an American thing to be cc’d on al email? How do you have time to do actual work?

    1. LizB*

      That’s not at all standard in the US. Your manager is both a terrible micromanager and lying or very misinformed about US norms.

    2. Charlotte Lucas*

      It’s common if your manager needs to be aware of the communication for some reason, but I am on the US & even my worst micromanager never insisted on it for *all* emails. I’d ask my new manager what they prefer. Some want to be cc’d on more than others.

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        I’ve had terrible coworkers who cc’d management on everything. It’s generally a passive-aggressive move that implies you aren’t doing your job & need to be watched. (But they usually make themselves look like fools.)

    3. ThatGirl*

      It is not a standard US thing. I have had managers who wanted to be CCed on *specific* topics or when emailing *specific* people, but I’ve never had a manager (much less more than one!) who wanted to be CCed on EVERYTHING. Especially if the email sending isn’t a major part of your job (like if you were in customer service and in training I could maybe see a BCC on everything for awhile).

    4. Marillenbaum*

      I think this really depends on the field. When I worked in higher ed administration, this was not a thing–my boss did not want to have me filling up his inbox with that. Now I work in government, and it is much more cc heavy–my backups get cc’d on everything related to the portfolios where they back me up, in case I am out and they need to step in (and vice versa). My boss expects a cc on my communications with external agencies or higher-level internal staff. This is not because she jumps in on the email; rather, she has them for reference and can track to make sure I’m doing things correctly AND to make sure other offices don’t try to walk all over us.

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        Yes! In government work, you often cc people for accountability/sharing info reasons. But even then, it’s specific to the topic & who you’re emailing.

    5. CatCat*

      Not at all standard in my part of the US (western coastal) and would be seen as weird and micromanagey.

    6. Kathenus*

      In my experience it is not an American thing, it’s a (potentially universal) bad micromanager thing. I would start with your new manager with what you think the appropriate level of cc’ing is unless they specifically request otherwise. Set the standard you want and assume it’s good unless she gives different direction.

      1. londonedit*

        Yeah…she wasn’t American but the worst and most micromanaging boss I’ve ever had was the only person I’ve worked for who’s ever insisted on being copied in on absolutely every email. Because she was a total control freak and made it clear she didn’t trust any of us to do our jobs properly, so she wanted to be copied in so that once you’d left for the evening she could then email the person and say ‘Sorry, londonedit has got this all completely wrong, this is what you should be doing’ when she’d said nothing of the sort beforehand.

    7. Abated*

      I only do this on emails on special projects that also involve my manager. Not on all correspondence on all matters. That’s ridiculous.

    8. I Am Not a Lawyer*

      It’s not an American thing. It’s a micromanaging American thing.

      I would not expect your next manager to request it. You could maybe ask what type of emails they’d like to be cc’ed on, but don’t just start cc’ing them on all emails unless they ask you to.

    9. LKW*

      Manager in US here. I do not want to be copied on all messages. However what i will do is ask that a newer team member copy me for a bit to emails to clients so I can get a sense if they are asking the right questions, following professional norms, getting the answers or finding challenges. That gives me a chance to coach them, or if needed, step in.

      But at some point I’m just like “don’t copy me anymore”.

      I do not need internal emails unless I’m expected to contribute or they feel it beneficial.

    10. Ashley*

      Our office has a general standard of the support person and sales person both copied on email chains so either can jump in as their role requires, or someone knows what is going on if the other person is out. It isn’t a managing issue and it is more an FYI.
      Outside of that the one time I had to do it was for a micro-manager.

    11. another academic librarian*

      American here. Being ccd is a horror. The only time I wanted to be ccd like this was when I put someone on a PIP and was concerned about her professional correspondence and response time. Yes, I was micromanaging but for a reason.

    12. cheapeats*

      I’m a US-based manager, and if all my folks cc’ed me on all their emails I would get nothing done. And if I did that to my boss, she’d ask me WTH was wrong with me. Take your cues from the new manager and assume they are a normal person with actual tasking of their own.

    13. RagingADHD*

      It’s not a US thing. It’s a herself thing.

      Now, she may have come up through constantly micromanagy situations and *think* it’s normal. She may not be deliberately misleading you. She might just be wrong.

      But it’s not the case at all.

    14. Clisby*

      This is NOT standard in the US. Why not ask your new manager? “I know different managers have different thoughts on which emails they’d like to be copied on. What do you prefer?”

    15. NotMy(Fancy)RealName*

      I guess it depends. I end up with my boss cc’d maybe 75% of the time because I work in product development and he needs to be in the loop on a lot of stuff.

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

      I’m guessing that your previous manager didn’t do 1-1 standup meetings, or there wasn’t any project tracking system in place and this was her clunky way of keeping on top of what’s going on in her department. It’s a terrible way to manage and there are definitely more efficient ways of tracking. All of my managers (in the US) have wanted regular updates on my work, and to be kept in the loop, but certainly did NOT wanted more emails. Your new boss will hopefully have a better system of tracking.

      One exception to that might be if you are in more of a personal assistant type job, where everything you do is an extension of the boss or in her name. That’s the only situation where CC on all emails would make any sense…maybe. It does show a lack of trust.

      1. Confused dot com*

        Lol, I wish. We have daily team stand ups, weekly 1-2-1s and a weekly status document we have to fill out.

        It wired because she has all this info and contact with us but rarely does she give any opinion or instruction so I feel like I can’t justify calling her a micromanager but she does get to set when we don’t cc her on on emails.

    17. cmcinnyc*

      In NYC if you cc too many people one of them will find you and hit you.

      OK not quite, but nobody wants a jammed inbox.

      I’m also finding it hilarious that your boss thinks she can airily blame the entire U.S. of A. for her own control-freak quirks. Because you’ll never hear different, the US being so small and obscure and no one ever meeting or interacting with Americans in a business context.

    18. A*

      Not in my experience. I’ve had a few managers that have made this request, but only in regards to certain types of requests/responses – not across the board on EVERY email. And then it was only due to the nature of the work and needing to ensure that a paper trail exists outside of just one individuals inbox. I’ve never come across that kind if request without a true business need for it, and definitely not in regards to every single communication. The majority of my managers have specifically stated they don’t want to be CCd on anything unless absolutely necessary.

    19. What???*

      Oh my gosh, NO. This is not at all normal (unless your boss ASKS you to do it). My boss would kill me if I cc’d her on everything, she already gets 400 emails a day. The default here is do NOT cc the boss. That is how I would start and if they want you to, they will tell you.

      1. What???*

        p.s. I would not ask ahead of time if they want you to cc them. That is just inviting micromanagement. I would start by not cc’ing them (since it’s not normal here), and if they want to be cc’d they will tell you.

    20. tamarack and fireweed*

      I used to work in the UK and had an American manager. He would never have asked for such a thing. Your manager is lying to you.

  24. anonymonster*

    Yay Open Thread —

    A rant but also looking for advice — I’m really frustrated with my the leadership of my org right now for its secrecy. I am currently the VP of Basket Making. My boss (COO) came to me last week to tell me that the current VP of Pottery is going to be working more closely with the president and needs to offload some of her responsibilities and wants me to take them on. She indicated that this would come with a title change (moving to Deputy COO) but not for a few months. She didn’t say more than that. I learned through another staff member that really the VP of Pottery is moving into a “Chief” role. I am pissed that my boss didn’t tell me this and even more pissed that she wants me to take on this extra work, all while the other VP is getting promoted, without giving me a new title.

    I’m planning on insisting the title change happens as of January. But, I am hesitant to give up my “VP of Basket Making” title in part because its will still be a big part of my job and helps with my credibility in the Basket Making field than just having the DCOO title (think when I’m quoted in the media, since our org does many other things besides Basket Making). Do you think I can ask for my title to be DCOO & VP for Basket Making? Also, what’s the best way to tell my boss that she was wrong not to tell me about the VP for Pottery’s new role and to demand the title change immediately?

    1. Reba*

      Well, I don’t think you can tell your boss she was wrong. I mean, I get why you feel a bit blindsided but just, you can’t go into this, like, Seeking Justice for the way the company decided to handle notifying people of their plans. What would be different for you now, if you had known that your peer was being promoted over you? You would still have more work and you would still be getting a promotion as well, right?

      The double title sounds confusing, but maybe makes more sense in your industry.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Is the new spot permanent or temporary? Sorry I really can’t tell from what you have here.

      But I’d recommend taking a step back for a moment. This is a company that keeps everything a big secret. Personally, I am cured on this place already. I am wondering if your reaction here is more about a long list of secrets rather than just this one and that is a much, much larger problem. If this is the case, fixing this secret won’t fix past or future secrets. The problem with secrecy will remain.

      1. DCQ*

        Yes, you’re right. When I was promoted to VP (along with 3 others) they conveniently left out that though they gave me a small increase, I was still going to be paid less than others who were in the level below where I was and >$30K less than the others at my new level. I demanded loudly to my boss that they fix it and they eventually did (after a year), but I’ve been frustrated since then. It feels like the same thing here.

        This is a permanent transition. The thing I’m frustrated about is her telling me she’ll give me the title in 6 months. Meanwhile my peer is getting a new title immediately. It’s not just a matter of taking on new tasks as she framed it to me.

        1. Reba*

          Oh, that changes things. You don’t trust them (with good reason)! It makes more sense that you would want things hammered out ASAP. I still think, though, that you need to keep it focused on your role, compensation and title, not the coworker’s.

        2. Cold Fish*

          Along that line, is this a promotion in title only or are you getting a bump in pay. If the latter, you might want to do a little market research into that as they’ve already shown they are willing to low-ball you.

    3. Analytical Tree Hugger*

      So, I think a few questions to ask yourself are:
      *What is the outcome you are aiming for when you are considering confronting your manager?
      *How reliable is your coworker’s information?
      *Assuming there is a title change happening for the VP of Pottery, how unusual is it in your company that they aren’t announcing it right away? How likely is it that the promotion hasn’t been decided on yet?

      And, just a check, you say you’re pissed that the VP of Pottery is getting a promotion, but you aren’t. You also say you would be getting promoted (?) to Deputy COO; is that not a promotion? Could it be that the shift in responsibilities, the VP of Pottery’s promotion, and yours are all moving parts of the same transition (i.e. both promotions being announced together in a few months)?

  25. Dino*

    Is there hope of finding a chill office job/receptionist position (with health insurance) if you don’t have prior experience doing those roles?

    I have a BA in my current field and like the work I do, but it’s a subsection of the profession that is call center based with lots of vicarious trauma and RSIs. I have several disabilities that make the attendance requirements really hard for me (working on FMLA, but my HR is slow and not helpful). I think my attendance would be fine doing an office based/front desk position. But I really need full time with health insurance and decent PTO/sick time.

    Is there hope?

    1. Nacho*

      Check temp agencies. That’s exactly the kind of thing they’ll find for you. You won’t get health insurance or PTO while you’re doing the temp work, but the experience will bake you much more likely to find a job where you have those things.

      1. Lady_Lessa*

        Sometimes, if you work through a temp agency long enough, you can get something like that through them. (assuming my memory is correct)

      2. Dino*

        I wish I could do temp agencies! Just one of my medications costs $600/month without insurance so I really can’t go without coverage for any length of time. But that’s a great idea, and I’ll keep it in my back pocket in case my situation changes

        1. pancakes*

          I have worked for temp agencies that offer insurance but don’t cover it, and do give some accrued PTO. Might be worth looking around.

        2. KX*

          When I temped (AppleOne & Eastridge) I had the option to get health insurance through the agency, as their employee. My tax documents came from them, too. I was not a “contract” employee. I had W2s and everything.

          This was technically ages ago but worth asking about if you are interested in temp work.

          I learned a lot as a temp. No regrets.

        3. fleapot*

          Could COBRA be an option to bridge the gap? I know it can be exorbitant, but last time it was an option for me it would have been less per month than the out-of-pocket cost of my meds. Might be worth investigating.

    2. Jortina*

      Maybe a school secretary position? My friend just started a job as head secretary at an elementary school. She was previously a lawyer. Public schools typically have great benefits.

    3. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      Union jobs … check for jobs with your state or county sites, it’s amazing how many good positions people won’t even look at.

    4. Don't Touch My Snacks*

      I did this and now have delightful, fairly cushy job in higher ed. I know there are people in the world who have issues with higher ed and and I hear them but it was a great way for me to break into the kind of office job I wanted without direct experience; I just ended up loving the work, my coworkers, and the benefits/pension are great. At least in my state, in public higher ed these positions are being highly under-applied to. Like it used to be a posting could get 60 applications and are now getting less than 10 so it would be even easier to make the jump than it used to be.

    5. Twisted Lion*

      Yes! I got one at a non-profit. Pay wasnt awesome but great benefits. Also look into government admin jobs. Thats where I am at now with life insurance that I would never have qualified for otherwise :) Ps: my degree is in social sciences.

    6. RagingADHD*

      Yes, there is hope.

      I saw your comment that you can’t temp because of insurance needs. I would still encourage you to look at the agencies, because some of them do direct placements. You’d go in and do the skills tests, have them look at your resume/help brush it up, and get some advice about the local market and your specific need to avoid a lapse in benefits.

      1. RagingADHD*

        Hit send too soon. IME, larger and more stable companies (the kind with lots of reception/admin needs and good benefits) tend to outsource placement for these roles. Places that direct-hire for reception roles are often smaller and may not have the deep pockets that enable the kind of support system you’re looking for.

        Those aren’t absolutes, but it’s a general observation I’ve seen over the years.

        1. Dino*

          Oh dang, I didn’t know any of this! Thank you very much, I’ll start poking around local temp agencies and see what’s out there. Appreciate the heads up, RagingADHD!

    7. Eleanor Shellstrop*

      Check cushy law firms! That was my first real office job after college, having only had retail/student type job experience before that. It paid decently, had great benefits, and aside from the odd busy period, was pretty quiet and chill. Might be tough now with a lot of lawyers still working remotely and being hesitant to open up the offices again, but hopefully that will change in time.

      There’s a post somewhere in the archives here that has a title like “what non-obvious things should I know about being a receptionist” and the advice there for roles like this is incredible. I referred back to it so many times.

    8. stornry*

      Check local government jobs. The entity I work for has 26 different departments and employees aver 7000 people (including hundreds of office assistants). We have entry level office workers in every department so the work can vary widely – some front reception, others back-office clerical. All full-time and insured (with loads of other benefits, like a pension!). Gov’t doesn’t pay as much as private sector but the benefits outweigh that. Check the City, County, State, and Fed websites where you live; look through the job classifications, and, if they got the option, indicate interest in those classifications you qualify for and like — our agency lets you do “interest cards” so you can be notified when we’re hiring for that class.

      1. Cassie*

        Seconding this. A few friends work for County of Los Angeles – massive entity (covering 88? cities) and they have ~100K employees, so they’re always hiring. Jobs range from entry level clerical and mailroom up to licensed positions like attorneys or social workers. The one (slight) downside is that most of the entry positions require applicants to take a test that is only offered once a year or even less. If you pass the test w/ 70% or higher, you’ll be placed on an eligibility list and departments will call for interviews based on the eligibility list.

        Once you get in to the County, moving around is not difficult – employees can even use work time to take the exams and go to interviews! Job offers full benefits, pension, vacation, sick leave, the whole shebang. Their dept that handles elections is always hiring for temporary workers (to handle verifying voter registration and stuff) – those positions don’t get the benefits, but it gives the workers some experience and also helps them get a foot in the door, so to speak.

        If you live close enough to a large metro area, govt jobs are really good and stable.

    9. Nessun*

      Short answer – yes, always continue to hope! Anecdotally: I got a job as a receptionist at a position with full benefits with no degree and no experience, just because I was computer literate and available.

      Long answer – it can be done – but it wasn’t an easy thing to find. It was a right-place right-time thing, and required me to really be on the lookout, and open to places I had never heard of/had no industry interest, and required me to sell myself HARD and look good on paper. I’d polish your resume to a mirror shine, be enthusiastic and friendly, show an inclination to help out wherever needed (there’s always work to do that is “someone needs to do random thing X and you’re someone”, and reception can be a good place to put up a hand and try to do just that) – so show versatility and willingness to learn. I do think it’s possible you can find something that doesn’t require experience, as long as you’re open to learning.

    10. Anon for this*

      I think you might have more luck looking for a different type of role.

      I’m sorry to be a downer, but I think this needs to be said.

      If you’re having regular attendance issues — even if it’s for something covered by the ADA — you’re going to have a much easier time looking for a position where coverage isn’t a big part of the job. A lot of individual contributor roles can handle issues like unexpected absences or late arrivals with little difficulty. Receptionist, in general, is not one of the roles that can handle that easily. I know you said you think your attendance would be fine in a typical office/front desk type of situation. But if you don’t have experience in that, and you have a history where attendance has been a problem, it’s going to be an uphill battle convincing a future employer that that won’t be a problem here. It might well be easier to first land a job where you don’t experience attendance problems but where coverage is not one of the key parts of the job, and then point to that as your evidence that the attendance problems were caused by the traumatic experience in the previous roles.

    11. MacGillicuddy*

      There was an article yesterday on NPR (radio) about worker shortages and competition for jobs. Both situations exist- openings jobs with variable or unpredictable schedules are not being filled. The article specifically mentioned receptionist jobs as having stiff competition for any open positions. They said that receptionist jobs are considered “entry level”, or at least a way of getting a foot in to a company. So people who don’t want jobs in food service or retail (because of the irregular schedules and often not enough hours to qualify for benefits) are applying for receptionist positions.

      On another note, some staffing agencies will consider you an employee of the staffing agency, and assign you to the client company as a “contractor”. (The contract is between the client company and the staffing agency, not between the client company and you). Because you’re a W-2 employee of the staffing agency, often there are benefits. And when the “contract” ends, you’re typically eligible for unemployment.

    12. Chaordic One*

      After I was fired from my job at “Dysfunctional Teapots” I was able to get health insurance through the ACA website at Healthcare dot gov. Even though my state didn’t participate in the ACA, I was still eligible for coverage as I did have some income from my temp jobs. Insurance from the ACA was a cost less than the insurance offered through the temp agencies I worked with. If you quit your present job and start working temp, you should look it.

  26. Saraquill*

    Does anyone else have trouble managing phones at work?

    I’m in a 20< person company with no receptionist. Anyone who has a phone at their desk is supposed to pitch in. The only straightforward instructions I’ve gotten was 1) Here’s how to use Hold and Transfer and 2) Never let the phone ring more than twice.

    Other rules include:
    Stay in your seat to page people, rather than rise and search for them, except when you shouldn’t.
    If the person is unavailable, take a message, except when you shouldn’t.
    If the person is unable to receive a message or is otherwise busy, here’s contradictory instructions.
    While on the phone, I should pay more attention to what the manager is saying to me right that instant than to the caller.
    I should know whether or a not a call is important by instinct.
    Important calls get priority. What “priority” is should be determined by instinct
    Never let the phone ring more than twice, but it’s somehow good form to keep a caller on hold indefinitely, particularly the important ones.

    As far as I know, I’m the only person in the company who struggles with answering the phones. Is there some inherent skill others have that I’m lacking?

    1. Elizabeth West*

      I don’t think you’re lacking anything; speaking as an experienced front desk person, these rules are crap and obviously made by someone who doesn’t / has never answered the phone in their life. There is no way to know by “instinct” if a call is important or not. Are you expected to screen calls, or just transfer them? Does your company even have voice mail?

      I would ask for a bit more clarification on what they define as important. Also, they need to hire a damn receptionist.

      1. Saraquill*

        As far as I know, I’m just meant to transfer calls. Company has a voicemail, though due to the “no more than two rings” rule, it’s mostly for off hours calls.

    2. Low Key*

      What the hell are these rules? This is why they should just hire a receptionist or someone takes over that phone line.

      I would just transfer to the right person and if that person doesn’t pick up, give the caller their email. Or even give the direct number of the person, if it sounds important and it’s not like a random person calling wanting to speak to the CEO. But like a client wanting to speak to regional sales manager, just give them the number, transfer the call and have the caller deal with the rest.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Yep. You have no way of knowing what is urgent for some and not urgent to others.

        Look around for a level headed cohort, find out how they are handling it and copy what they do with the phone calls.

    3. RagingADHD*

      This is why they need a proper receptionist or admin person. Because the missing piece here isn’t actually instinct, it’s institutional knowledge. Which cannot be effectively maintained in a distributed network of 10-20 people. It’s not blockchain.

      Part of the art of being a good admin is learning the complex decision matrix that makes one call more important/urgent than another, when the best option is to hunt someone down vs. page them, etc. There are just too many inflection points to sum up in a blanket list of rules, and that’s why you’re experiencing so much frustration. Learning that matrix isn’t supposed to be part of your job.

      I have no advice other than to maybe ask your manager for a list of VIP callers and a single protocol for how to handle their calls as opposed to other calls. That may not work, but it might slightly help.

      I’m sorry you’re in this position as a result of your employer’s bad decisions.

    4. Cold Fish*

      Ugh, I hate phones to begin with. I think I’d have my ear buds in 90% of the day and “not hear” the phone.
      I’ve taken to answering the main line (when I can’t get out of it) with “This is MyCompany, how may I direct your call?” then transfer. I try not to get into any reasons why they are calling but this doesn’t really help if you are expected to try and help, rather than just transfer. I wouldn’t know what to do with all those rules.

    5. WellRed*

      It’s 2021 for Pete’s sake! Who has a phone system that doesn’t offer a menu with extensions?

  27. TheThatcher*

    Are cover letters unpopular? I have been seeing post after post on linkedin saying that they are “so 2001” and “this hiring manager won’t even look at one”. I think they are fed up with bad cover letters, because the specific complaints I have seen reference how “no one ‘has known since they were a child that they only wanted to do [specific job no child dreams of].'”
    So where do cover letters stand today?

    1. DCQ*

      I think the answer really is, it depends. A lot of hiring managers don’t look at them. But I personally do, and I can tell you if you just regurgitate your resume to me or if you just say “hey, here’s my resume attached” it leaves a bad taste in my mouth. As Alison says, Cover Letters really sell you to me as the hiring manager… so besides time, there’s no cost to actually writing one.

      1. TheThatcher*

        Do you think that for hiring managers that do not like cover letters, a candidate who includes one (let’s say a strong cover letter for arguments sake) is hurt by the inclusion of it? I would assume if they hate cover letters, and don’t read them, they are assuming that the candidate has sent a bad cover letter in and that assumption hurts the candidate.

        1. DCQ*

          No, I don’t think anyone looks down on a candidate for doing “extra.” They just may ignore it and it won’t make a difference.

      2. Spearmint*

        There is a time cost to them. It’s much more work to write a custom cover letter for each position rather than just tweaking my resume. I still wrote them in my last job search, but they were by far the most stressful and time consuming part of the process for me, and I’m a pretty decent writer!

    2. Flag Major Donor Prospects*

      In my career field of non-profit, they’re requested and expected. I’ve never applied to another industry, but my husband works in security and they’re requested and expected there, too.

      I’d like to get rid of them, but I’ve hired and understand why they’re still requested/expected.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I really don’t like writing them and I’m sick of doing it. But I don’t want to get rid of them; they’re useful for explaining things that aren’t covered in your resume, such as why you’re applying to an out-of-state job or discussing a skill or experience in more detail, etc. If I were hiring, I’d want to see something besides just a resume so I have some idea of why the person is interested in that particular job.

        1. Siege*

          If I hadn’t already been a believer in cover letters, being on the last hiring committee we did would have converted me. We had a candidate who had the weirdest job history I’ve ever seen (mine is now in second place) and because they didn’t include a cover letter, we didn’t understand why they were making the jump from Bean Farming to Cat Herding by way of Professional Yelling With Light Sweeping. I guess maybe the Yelling helps with the Herding? But the Farming, Light Sweeping, and most of the Yelling make no sense at all for a career path, and the candidate was clearly relying on the fact that our overarching organizational mission is Enraged Teapots and their Yelling experience was in an Enraged-Teapots-activated industry. A cover letter would have helped. As it was, we declined to interview.

          (I had more fun writing this comment than I should have.)

        2. Flag Major Donor Prospects*

          @Elizabeth West nailed it. They’re time consuming and the tailoring is annoying – like writing a new thesis each time. But, if well written add context to job hopping, non-lateral moves, employment gaps and so forth. I’m sure they’ve helped me as I’ve moved 8 times in the past 15 years as a military spouse, Reservist and now to a civilian who moves a lot.

          My frame of mind towards them has changed. I know look at it this way using this specific sentence, “I appreciate the opportunity to share my lived and professional experience that makes me qualified for this position.” I’m sharing my whole person with them and hopefully in a human manner.

    3. not a doctor*

      I was chosen to interview for my current job based on my cover letter (they told me that it was one of their favorites), so they matter to at least some people.

    4. Panicked*

      I LOVE cover letters. It tells me so much about a person’s personality, if they’ve done any research on the company, and what they have to offer that doesn’t come across in the resume (like soft skills). I find them especially helpful if a person is changing career fields. If I get just a resume with no related experience, it’s going in the trash. But if I get a cover letter that explains the change, I’ll give them more than just a cursory glance.

      1. Anonymous Hippo*

        Obviously everyone has different takes, but for me this is almost exactly the opposite. Yes, it shows you part of their personality, but for the most part, the people that would excel in the positions I hire for need to be nerdy about numbers and problem solving, and not about writing or self-promotion. If I relied on cover letters I feel I would miss out on a lot of qualified candidates. I also can’t imagine what someone could say in a cover letter that would make up for key experience being missing.

        But for me it boils down to I know I’m good at the job and a cover letter is near torture for me, so I don’t ask for them. I’m more likely to have issue with the disorganization of the resume itself as I think that speaks to your ability to present information in a way that is easy for readers to digest which is important in finance.

        1. Panicked*

          It really does depend on what you’re hiring for! I hire a lot of sales, so personality is huge for me!

    5. Loulou*

      A lot of random online people seem to hate them and I’ve even seen people implying that Alison is off base or out of touch for writing about them so much.

      In my field (libraries) they’re really important. I do ignore a lot of Alison’s specific cover letter advice (length, how many of the qualifications to address) but her advice about using the letter to connect your experience with the posting is spot on.

      1. Xena*

        I’m going to guess that they hate writing them (which, same). Which is not the same as them being useless.

    6. JitzGirl11*

      I am currently hiring for a communications role with a heavy emphasis on writing, and cover letters are essential. The vast majority of candidates did not submit one and we went back to top contenders to ask for one before we would phone screen them. I know there is different advice out there on cover letters – as well as different awareness on their value, particularly for newer grads or candidates who may have come from backgrounds where their parents or mentors didn’t have jobs that required them – so I didn’t immediately discount any candidates solely for the lack of cover letter. But at the same time, writing is too central to the role for me to consider a candidate, who after we reached out to request the letter, did not respond. Once received, the cover letters were absolutely a factor in who got interviews. (For context, for whatever reason, our system is not set up to require cover letters as part of the application for individual jobs. If that was set as a requirement, it would be for all jobs within the organization, and they don’t want to require it for every role.)

    7. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

      I think it comes down to the role/industry.

      Last hiring round I was part of we sorted resumes and, if one was on the cusp of going into the interview pile, we had a look at the cover letter. The role we were hiring for had a heavy writing component, so we also read the cover letters of those in the interview pile. I like them as they help flesh out some interesting tidbits on resumes and can make it easier to formulate interview follow up questions.

      Now my partner is in a very fast moving, high demand field and industry that doesn’t require formal writing. He has a bit of a template cover letter just in case but thats about it – anyone cranking out cover letters in that field would be considered odd.

      Those blanket statements of ‘so 2001’ are just that – everyone knows their field best!

    8. cmcinnyc*

      I was reviewing resumes yesterday. Only about a third of the applicants included one. None of them were good cover letters. A few applicants didn’t have fully relevant experience. Two of them included cover letters–but missed the opportunity to say something like “I’ve been painting teapots successfully for 10 years, but I’m now looking for work in llama grooming because I really want to work outdoors.” The letters were mostly business gibberish about being a proactive self-starter who loves a challenge. I don’t think we’ll be interviewing those candidates unless we start scraping the bottom.

      The best resume had no cover letter and didn’t need it. But if you feel at all borderline, a cover letter can get you an interview.

    9. Cheezmouser*

      Agree with all the above who say it depends on the industry or position. My field requires strong writing skills, so a cover letter is a must when I’m hiring for entry-level or mid-level positions, because I use it as a writing sample. A strong cover letter can move a candidate with a sparse resume to the “to interview” pile, and a poor cover letter can move a candidate with a stellar resume into the reject pile.

    10. tess*

      The best cover letters I’ve ever seen were ones that responded to the direction my workplaces gave for what they wanted to see in the letters, e.g. what is it about the responsibilities of the job that motivated you to apply; what skills do you have that are transferable to this position; what has been the impact of your work; etc. As such, I think sometimes cover letters are unfairly maligned. If you’re looking for specifics in a cover letter, say what they are in the job ad, and then assess applicants in the first stage of things by how well they stuck with your direction. No one is a mind reader.

      Also, it’s a bit halting to see how little regarded good writing is, especially in this context. Someone might be a whiz with numbers, but good, clear communication is useful in any context. I remember when, in the ensuing days after the 9/11 attacks, I was working a retail job. During the anthrax scares, our store received a memo from the home office instructing us on how to handle package deliveries. The memo was so poorly written we had no idea of exactly what to do. The author was the CEO.

  28. ferrina*

    I work with a chronic brain dumper. She’s a senior to me (overseeing some of my projects), and whenever we work together she loves to ramble. She talks a LOT- 5 minute calls regularly go 30+ minutes. She likes to say all of her thoughts at once- she never has prepared bullets on anything and tries to process information and give instructions at the same time (yeah, that doesn’t work well). She regularly tells us to go in one direction, then changes her mind and we have to re-do work. She’s also constantly late on reviewing or providing feedback.
    I’ve tried to ask clarifying questions or repeat back what I hear her saying, but this spurs a launch into another brain dump. Anyone have any tips for dealing with this?

    1. Hannah*

      I think the brain dump is different from changing her mind or being late. You really can’t do a lot with the latter two but for the first – I actually do this too. What my staff have found helpful (and I try to do at the end of my processing) is to end out the call with the bulleted list. Basically “ok, after all that we’ve decided on A, B and C, correct?” You can either do this multiple times until she gets to the end of her brain dump or you can do it via email as a “just want to document the final decisions” and hopefully avoid another 30 minutes on the phone.

      1. pancakes*

        Nah, you don’t have to wait out 30 minutes of rambling! You can and should interrupt someone who does this. Lacking self-awareness doesn’t entitle them to steamroll over others or waste other people’s time. It looks like there’s quite a few letters in the archives where Alison has answered this exact question. Search the site for coworker rambles and you’ll get at least three letters, including one from last week titled “How to manage an employee who rambles.”

        1. Hannah*

          Ehh, if one of the things I need from my staff is to listen to me ramble, I feel like that’s ok for me to ask. I make sure they’ve got plenty of time for the work they need and are supported in other ways.

          1. pancakes*

            Do you really need them to listen to you ramble, or do you need to ramble to get to lucidity? What would happen if you rambled to yourself and brought others into the process after you’d sorted out your thoughts? I don’t think it is ok to use people as basically interchangeable warm bodies, or props, just for the sake of having an audience.

          2. Ask a Manager* Post author

            For what it’s worth, I think there’s a difference between long rambling and a brain dump. A brain dump can be totally fine in a work context if it’s framed as “Let me get out everything I think on this topic and then we can sort through it and figure out the right next steps.” I think that’s what Hannah is talking about.

            What isn’t okay is just long rambling because the person is a rambler who isn’t having a real conversation but is just monologuing (a) to hear themselves talk, (b) because they like an audience, or (c) because they’re inconsiderate of other people’s time. But that’s not what I think when I hear “brain dump” the way Hannah used it in her initial comment (I’m less sure about the second!).

        2. RagingADHD*

          Seniority matters.

          If the most senior person chooses to delegate the task of “organize these thoughts into bullet points” onto one of their employees, then that becomes one of that employee’s job functions.

          Employees don’t get to delegate that upstream (because you don’t delegate upwards), or onto their peers without consent. Even between peers, brain dumping in a planned brainstorm session is fine as long as everyone gets a turn.

          1. pancakes*

            Of course, yeah. It doesn’t sound like this is happening in planned brainstorm sessions, though – it sounds like it’s happening whenever ferrina talks with this person.

            1. RagingADHD*

              I think it depends on the relationship between this senior person and their oversight of these projects and ferrina’s role.

              If this person is essentially ferrina’s boss for these projects, and has discretion to assign roles among the team, then maybe organizing the boss’s thoughts is actually ferrina’s role within the project. Might make the job not a good fit for ferrina, but it is a job function that people hire for or assign team members for.

              1. ferrina*

                This is part of my role, and I have this role supporting several people. She is the only person where I struggle with this aspect of the role- no issues with anyone else.

      2. ferrina*

        Adding some context- the changing her mind happens at the same time as the brain dump. I can handle a brain dump that has some (mental) bullets in it – like LKW describes. But this Brain Dump + Changing Mind + usually at the last minute….I try to take notes and can’t even make enough sense of her to know what to note! She thinks she’s making sense, and I can’t understand her. Sometimes I’m scared to ask because I think I’ll look dumb.

        1. LKW*

          Hopefully (hopefully) she recognizes that she brain dumps. But more importantly if she can’t say “Huh, I think I’m wrong about this action, based on what I just said.” then you will always be in chaos. I am at least considerate enough to ramble, reach back to the points I made earlier to show relevance and sum up at the end. “So we have A, B and C and our actions are X Y Z”

          If she can’t do this… run.

        2. RagingADHD*

          You have to ask! It’s not dumb. People who need to process things out loud do better when there is feedback coming back to them, because they hear it and it helps direct or clarify their thoughts.

    2. LKW*

      Ooooh this is right up my alley. I am absolutely a brain dumper and I’m currently working with a brain dumper.

      First off – when someone asks me a question in email, I will provide a brain dump but it is an organized brain dump. It’s got bullets and sub-bullets. But if someone asks me on a call – I will go in many different directions because I want to give them the whole panoramic view and that means going to a few different places then tying the strings together (if I can).

      With my current brain dumper – I just take notes on screen and while I’m doing it I’ll say “I’ll clean this up and then send it to you or we can review it together”. It takes more time but it gives me the opportunity to write down everything he says, fine tune it and then ask follow up questions. It also means that the conflicts are right there on screen and I can ask “well is it a or is it b? or is this an it depends thing?”

      1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

        I was also thinking that following-up via email rather than verbally might be a better option. That would only work if the Brain Dumping Colleague @ferrina is dealing with doesn’t also stream of consciousness in email.

        In the email, keep it as short as possible. Use bullets and mark things, such as:

        DECISION: Blah blah blah
        ACTION ITEM: Ferrina to do ____ by Friday.
        ACTION ITEM: Brain Dumping Colleague to do ____ by Monday.

    3. LadyByTheLake*

      Classic external processor — someone who thinks by talking. Google it — there are some ideas online about how to deal with external processors. That said, my last boss was like this and I had to quit after a few months — I couldn’t take it.

      1. ferrina*

        I’m also an external processer, but this is just beyond! She sounds like she’s processing but thinks that she’s giving instructions. Then immediately changes her mind on half of what she just said, but it’s hard to tell which half!

        1. pancakes*

          I think that gives you a good opening for “I’m sorry to interrupt but I just want to make sure we’re on the same page here . . .” or something similar.

    4. ferrina*

      Thank you, everyone! This was a really helpful conversation and really helped me think through the issues. It’s not really the brain dump that I’m having issues with (brain dumps are a regular part of my job), it’s combination brain-dump/ramble + no follow-through step on sorting her thoughts. (Thanks Alison for pointing out that a brain dump should be followed by sorting through!)

      LKW, thanks for sharing your experience in talking vs writing. This person is much clearer in written communications, and I’m much stronger at processing written information rather than spoken. And thanks to everyone that pointed out that I need to stop being scared and start speaking up!

      I think I’m going to start cutting off the ramble early, pleading that I need time to process all the words and explain that I process better visually. IM is very acceptable at my company, so I’m going to start utilizing that more than calls. That should really help.

      Thank you so much, everyone!

      1. allathian*

        Good luck! Please update us soon on how it went when you started implementing some of the suggestions you got here.

  29. PolarVortex*

    Just wondering people’s thoughts after a conversation on an earlier post.

    What do you think are allowable religious items within a workplace? It was mentioned by one person that nobody should ever have to see iconography that would upset them – eg satanic symbols for christians, baby jesuses for anyone who doesn’t believe in baby jesus. While I don’t believe people should be putting up like, items mocking other religions, I think the other part can be a grey area.

    Could you have a one-a-day calendar with religious quotes? Probably fine. Should your entire cubicle be a shrine to your one true god? Probably not unless you’re working for a religious organization for said one true god.

    I don’t think one has a right to prevent attire that is required for someone’s religion at all – hijabs, yarmulkes, etc. But wearing a cross isn’t a requirement for christian religions (or at least the ones I know of) so does that get the pass of minor religious stuff to ignore or a bit strange for the workplace? Is that dependent on how large the cross is? Does anyone’s feeling change if they’re wearing a giant pentagram?

    1. DCQ*

      I think the golden rule here is don’t do things that could make others uncomfortable. Wearing a piece of religious jewelry? Not going to make folks uncomfortable. Putting Bible quotes in your email? Yes, that would make me uncomfortable (as a Jewish agnostic), particularly if it were coming from my superior.

      And I think if one faith can do it, then so can another. So if I want to have a desk calendar for Pastafarianism or Satanism I should be allowed to if you have one for Christianity.

      1. Dittany*

        I think the key distinction is whether the religious signifier forces other people to devote a lot of mental energy to it.

        So, a cross necklace? No big deal. It communicates that the person is Christian, but doesn’t promote the religion (unless you consider reminding people of the existence of Christians to be promotion), is notable without requiring a ton of mental space, and doesn’t require any communication beyond perhaps a polite “What a lovely necklace!”

        On the other hand, something like a Bible quote in a work email requires a certain investment of mental energy. It’s text in an email, meaning that you have to take in the words (even if only to conclude that you don’t need to do anything about it). Moreover, it doesn’t just communicate that the person is a Christian; it communicates that the person feels strongly enough about that particular Christian sentiment that they want to include it in their self-presentation, with a subtext of “This is a good way for people to be.” Even if it’s a relatively noncontroversial sentiment like “Love thy neighbor” it still requires the other person think about it more than they would about a simple accessory – especially if the email-writer is in a position of power over them.

      2. Eden*

        “Wearing a piece of religious jewelry? Not going to make folks uncomfortable.”

        Well, that’s not true. It doesn’t make you uncomfortable, but it makes other people uncomfortable. If you mean “it doesn’t make ‘reasonable’ people uncomfortable” then we’re just back to the original question of what’s reasonable.

        1. Fulana del Tal*

          If seeing my cross necklace or someone else’s yarmulke causing a person distress, that’s their problem to manage not mine.

          1. Admin of Sys*

            Does that include my pentacle? I mean, I agree with you, small religious icons on a necklace should be fine, but I know folks who are fine wearing crosses and absolutely want to police me wearing a pentacle.

            1. SnappinTerrapin*

              I’m not the person you asked, but here’s one data point:

              I’m a fairly conservative, evangelical Christian. Your pentacle is none of my business. Even if it made me uncomfortable, being tolerant is the right thing for me to do.

              I don’t wear visible symbols of religion myself, but I firmly believe that freedom of belief and of expressing that belief is a fundamental human right.

              I have discouraged the wearing of necklaces and piercings in workplaces where they posed a safety hazard to the employee, but the “content” or “message” of the jewelry wasn’t my concern. For example, police officers and security guards should think seriously about the risk of being choked by something tied around their necks, or the risk of injury if a piercing is ripped out during a confrontation. I can think of some similar risks in other industries.

              Otherwise, I don’t see much point in a business regulating employees’ jewelry, and especially not on the grounds of a statement of faith (or lack thereof).

              That’s my opinion, for what it’s worth.

            2. Clisby*

              Your pentacle is fine. It would be fine if you were wearing a cross, or a star of David, or whatever. None of my business. Just like what other people wear is none of your business.

          2. Eden*

            So surely you agree that “things that won’t make others uncomfortable” is not the correct litmus test here?

    2. Charlotte Lucas*

      I think that people should be fine with small items of religious jewelry & clothes that are required/preferred by their religion. To me, it’s more of a “looking professional” thing when it comes to jewelry.

      It absolutely does not bother me if others have items at their desk that have to do with their religion, as long as no one tries to proselytize at work.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        This is where I fall. I don’t have a problem with someone wearing a cross or having a picture of Jesus holding a lamb in their cube. Unless I ask, however, I don’t want to hear about it, nor do I think it’s appropriate for you to paper the break room with said picture.

        Just seeing iconography of a religion other than your own isn’t inherently offensive. Other religions exist. I feel like if the aforementioned Jesus person is upset that I’m wearing a mala or have a tiny Buddha statue on my own desk, then they’re being a giant hypocrite.

      2. PolarVortex*

        But would you feel differently if it becomes more performative but falls within professional wear?

        EG a coworker wears a giant cross – about the size of the palm of your hand – necklace around their neck daily.

        1. Siege*

          I have a not-a-coworker who wears a cross the size of my hand. It’s plain wood, so it’s kind of weirdly ascetic, and it hangs pretty low so it’s front-and-center of every interaction. I was predisposed to dislike this person anyway because it was like someone said “let’s take every personality trait Siege hates and make them into a person and then make it so she knows them” but the cross being so visible is kind of a problem. I’m sure a bunch of people will tell me I’m a bad person who’s wrong about Christians and anyway the ostentatious ones aren’t REAL Christians (because No True Scotsman needed an update), but I am SO TIRED of ostentatious Christians hating me because I’m not a person whose life or personality or presentation to the world they like. I literally had an experience where my niece-in-law was describing the clothing women wear that she thinks are ungodly (she is extremely evangelical) and … she was describing exactly what I was wearing, which was totally appropriate to the situation at hand, since it was an above-knee skirt and camisole at a casual family dinner in the summer. She did not appear to realize what she was doing, either. And it’s not just Christians. We interviewed a potential roommate once in college, who it turned out was Orthodox Jewish and would not speak to me or even look at me because I’m a woman. He didn’t get the room.

          Anyway, I guess what I’m saying is if you want to wear a six-carat diamond cross or an entire scapular or an ostentatious display of your faith, you better be prepared for the fact that maybe YOU are lovely, but people who’ve been exposed to repeated negative treatment by members of your faith can’t tell you apart from the ones who want you to die because you’re a heathen.

          1. pancakes*

            You are speaking as if individual people are ambassadors for or representatives of the religious traditions they ascribe to and I don’t think that’s a good practice. It’s a big world out there, and there are as many ways of being Christian or Jewish or what-have-you as there are of not being religious at all. I know there are many small towns and smaller cities in the US where it doesn’t seem that way and isn’t that way, but that’s cultural, not just religious.

            I think you’re also probably mistaken in thinking that your evangelical relative who described your clothes as “ungodly” to your face had no idea what she was doing. It sounds like she knew exactly what she was doing!

            1. Cold Fish*

              Sorry, but if you announcing your religion to the world (by jewelry/clothing, cubical decoration, quotes, etc.) you ARE an ambassador/representative of your faith. It may be a big world out there but my view of the world is dependent on what I’ve been exposed to. Just like if I were to wear a company sweatshirt to a book burning, that would reflect poorly on my company. Even though the only company involvement was by employing me.

              (BTW, I adore books. I had a hard time tossing textbooks that were 10 years out of date!)

              1. pancakes*

                It’s your choice, of course, but if you’re thinking that people with religious necklaces or calendars or whatnot are representatives of their religious background while people from the same background who don’t happen to have those things visible are not, you’re probably going to be making a number of superficial and inaccurate guesses! That wouldn’t work for me where I live. I’m in NYC. If I were to assume that there are no Jewish people in a particular place just because there’s no one visibly wearing a yarmulke, for example, that would often be wrong, because we have a wider variety of Jewish people here than that. I don’t believe that everyone who wears religious jewelry or has a calendar on their wall is doing so with the aim of making an announcement to the world, either. There are a number of people in this thread who’ve said they wear small crosses, for example, and if we could get them all together (with Madonna? why not) they’d probably have some things they agree on and some things they don’t.

                I’m not sure what books have to do with the matter.

              2. Loulou*

                This is effed up, sorry, you and Siege should both either get out more or realize why people normally keep views like this to themselves in a liberal society.

                1. I heart Paul Buchman*

                  Views like what? I don’t think either commenter is being offensive. They are putting forward their perspective on the question asked. Isn’t that why we are here?

                  Personally, I am not offended by representations of faith (yes, including the examples given above). I consider myself to be part of a liberal society.

                2. pancakes*

                  Can you honestly not see why people would have a problem with the idea that meeting a terrible person from ________ religion is a good basis for thinking everyone from _________ religion is similarly terrible? It’s simple-minded bigotry whether you personally are offended or not.

                3. Loulou*

                  Thanks, pancakes! Yes, it’s just plain bigotry and that kind of thinking has no place in a pluralistic society. I know we all deal with our own biases but these are thoughts you should keep to yourself until you’ve managed to get rid of them.

            2. Philosophia*

              Individual people ARE ambassadors for or representatives of the religious traditions they subscribe to when they act in the name of their religion, or ascribe their actions to it. No matter what the religion says, it is the sum of what its adherents do qua adherents.

              1. pancakes*

                That’s a different question, and I think most of us agree that Janet in Accounts Payable isn’t somehow an emissary for the Catholic Church just because she wears a cross necklace or has a little Christmas tree on her desk.

                The replies to this question are sprawling in the same ways they nearly always do when people decide to reinvent the wheel on this topic. We have a lot of legal guidance in the US on how much religion is too much religion for workplaces and public spaces, but for some reason people seem to like to start from scratch.

                1. Nina*

                  The Catholic church, maybe not, but for some branches of Reformed or evangelical Christianity (btdt) Janet in Accounts Payable absolutely sees herself as an emissary for her church.

          2. Loulou*

            It’s truly wild that you got as far as the Orthodox Jewish example and still decided to post this screed?? Babe if you harbor negative feelings towards all visibly Jewish people because of this one dude in a story you very possibly made up…you might just be the normal kind of antisemitic!

          3. SnappinTerrapin*

            I would personally regard something that ostentatious as being in poor taste, even if the religious message were left out of the equation. In the case of the large cross, I would have thoughts about what the person was trying to say, but would keep them to myself.

            I’d try not to visibly shake my head or roll my eyes, but even when the spirit is willing, oftentimes the flesh is weak.

        2. Lizy*

          I think as Charlotte Lucas said, it’s the “looking professional” thing for jewelry. IMO, a cross the size of your hand is not really professional, as it borderlines proselytizing because LOOK AT MY BIG CROSS I CARRY JESUS WITH ME ALL THE TIME, but that’s just my opinion.

          I’d probably roll my eyes internally, and blab to my husband about it, but that would be it.

          Not sure if it’s relevant perspective or not, but I do wear a cross daily. The one I wear most often is maaaayyyybe 1/2″ long, and the chain length is such that it often slips under my t-shirt neckline. The biggest one I have is maybe an inch, and has another token on it with my kids’ birthstones.

          1. Charlotte Lucas*

            I was raised RC, and you generally only see members of religious orders wearing crosses that large in that tradition. But their clothes generally also mark them as nuns, monks, or friars.

            1. tamarack and fireweed*

              Yeah, and indeed, if the person in this workplace *is* for example a nun (in a hospital, a school, or some sort of Catholic social institution) then it is in fact professional dress. And nothing to worry about in the absence of other conflicts with the religious nature of the workplace. I think I can perfectly interact with people from any religion that wear some kind of traditional clothing.

    3. CatCat*

      Unless all jewelry is banned, it doesn’t seem there’s any issue with wearing religious jewelry. It would be problematic to say only religious jewelry is not allowed.

    4. ferrina*

      It depends on the workplace and on the person. The workplace may have different policies or cultures, but it also depends on the tone and actions of the person. I’ve worked with people that had very distinct religious iconography, but they were kind and respectful to everyone at the organization, they would never start a conversation about religion or politics with anyone who wasn’t an enthusiastic participant (and even then, not in a widely public area). I’ve also seen people with more ambiguous religious iconography, but who were judgmental and disrespectful people. These people definitely got more side-eye for the less blatant religious iconography because everyone knew that they were doing iconography at other people.

    5. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      The only time I have a problem with it is when it’s done performatively.

      Had a colleague who made it a genuine practice to try to incite discrimination (so he could make a claim and get rich, apparently) … he made a display of icons of as many religions as he could find and just hoped that someone would complain about it.

      We were over him at that point, and ignored it as best as we could.

      1. PolarVortex*

        Honestly I would’ve made it a game to wish him “happy *insert wide variety of religious holidays here*”.

        But between managing calendars for people of multiple religions and my own religious beliefs, it would be pretty easy for me to be that petty since they’re all on my calendar anyhow.

      2. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

        The best part was that he was very vocally “an ordained minister” and in divinity school. But would NEVER indicate what denomination he was most aligned with, and had a sticker on the back of his truck that was from the same internet website that you might go to so you can perform your friend’s wedding ceremony in the woods.

        And was the least empathetic and least ethical human I’ve ever met.

        1. pancakes*

          My boyfriend registered as a minister on one of those sites in order to marry some friends of ours. (Not in the woods, fwiw). I find it amusing when people look down on that sort of thing as being insufficiently religious, because the irreligiosity of it tends to be precisely what draws people to it. We’re atheists and so are our friends that he married. I wouldn’t assume that someone who makes a point of putting a sticker from one of those sites on their car has any denomination at all, even if they’re in divinity school.

          1. Msnotmrs*

            I think the problem comes from when people call themselves “priests” or “ordained” in some made-up internet church. I don’t really care if someone goes online and becomes able to marry someone, that’s all well and good. But it’s purposely appropriating job titles (ones that come with typically years of study and sincere moral conviction) that makes it come off poorly. It makes you sound like a homeopath who calls themself a “doctor”.

    6. CBB*

      I think it make a difference whether you’re talking about an individual worker’s personal items kept on their desk (or worn on their body), versus items owned and displayed by the employer.

      In the case of the piped-in music from yesterday’s letter, that falls firmly into the latter category. If the religious worker had complained about a coworker listening to secular music on headphones, the answer would probably have been different.

      To answer your question, I think almost any item of religious clothing or jewelry is acceptable. As are small religious personal items displayed on an employee’s desk.

      1. fueled by coffee*

        This is also where I fall. Your personal clothing/desk space? Go for it. Stuff in shared office space? Agh.

        To be fair, I also get really irked by office Christmas decorations (Snowflakes, string lights, peppermint? Totally fine generic winter decorations. But hanging up red stockings and having a Christmas tree in the office are *religious* even if people don’t want to think of it that way), so I might be more sensitive to this than others.

        1. Admin of Sys*

          Nah, I’m with you. The argument about Christmas decorations / whatever being secular is a false one, in the same way that folks claim ‘guys’ is gender neutral. It only works if you’re a member of the ‘assumed neutral’ group, but if you’re marginalized, it can feel a lot more exclusionary.

          1. Nina*

            off-topic, but I’ve had decent success with getting colleagues to use ‘folks’ rather than ‘guys’ by asking them (they’re all male, that’s another story for another day) ‘so, tell me about that guy you’re seeing?’

            I’m not a guy. I don’t like being included in ‘hey guys’.

        2. SnappinTerrapin*

          I am also irked by performative Christmas displays in the workplace. I respect your reason for being irked, but I have different reasons.

    7. Rainy*

      A one-a-day calendar with religious quotes I would have no reason to see unless you’re shoving it in my face. If I notice your calendar is churchy, you’re doing it wrong.

      I think I would really *really* have an issue with someone who did a cross wall in their office at work, and I wouldn’t go in that person’s office, ever. Personal ornament I don’t really care about it; if I notice it more than vaguely it’s probably because you’re shoving it in my face, and it’s really the shoving that’s the problem, not the actual item or religion or whatever.

    8. Black Horse Dancing*

      Problem is Satanism is a religion. So if Christians get offended, well, they are out of luck. I love no religious stuff at all but if someone is wearing a cross or anything else, fine as long as they are not proselytizing. Pentagrams, Satanistic jewelry, whatever is acceptable as long as they are all treated consistently. If you get upset with a Baphomet statue but are ok with a crucifix, that’s an issue.

      1. PolarVortex*

        Oh I don’t disagree here! I am not christian nor a satanist, but I recognize both are valid religions. So the fact people get upset with one over the other is where I have seen people getting bothered.

    9. Beth*

      I see an important line between, for example, jewelry and apparel — which is what you have in your personal space — and religious quotes in email — which you are sticking into my personal space. As a speechwriter once commented to me, people’s eyes and ears are bodily orifices, and you should think about what you’re trying to put into them, especially without consent.

      Decor is in the middle; if it’s subtle, I will assume that it’s for your own benefit, and if it’s huge and gaudy, I will feel that you are attempting to shove it onto me. Is the religious calendar a small thing on your desk, facing you, or a giant item on the wall, facing everyone else? Decor has its own kind of body language.

      1. fueled by coffee*

        Yeah, this is where I fall, too. Religion is a personal experience, so personal clothing or small items on your personal desk space? Totally fine. Inserting religious messages/symbolism into work communications? Not fine.

        To be fair, I also get really irked by office Christmas decorations, so I might be more sensitive than most. But in general, I think with office decor, there’s a difference between generic seasonal decorations (snowflakes, string lights, peppermint, etc. in the winter; orange and black pumpkins in the fall), versus explicitly religious decorations (red stockings and a Christmas tree; Satanic imagery).

        This is also why I find it extremely annoying when people try to make it okay to have Christmas decorations by also sticking a Chanukkiah (Menorah) in the display. I’m Jewish, but my religion is personal and it’s super weird to have it publicly displayed in a workspace (and the expectation that I’m supposed to perform appreciation and gratitude for having been considered). PLUS doing this just marginalizes other religious groups — you can’t possibly include every religion in the world, or even the local community.

          1. pancakes*

            There is a hilarious thread making the rounds on Twitter right now of some confused & confusing Hanukkah merch Bed Bath & Beyond put out for Christmas. Search “Hanukkah pillow.”

    10. RagingADHD*

      I didn’t see that comment about “nobody should ever have to see iconography that would upset them” but I think that person is off the rails.

      The major distinctions to me are

      1) Whether the symbol/saying is in your own space (cubicle, laptop, body, mousepad) or in shared space.

      2) Whether the expression is for your own consumption/enjoyment or inserted into work-related time or communications. (wearing jewelry or having a screen background, fine. Email signature, no.)

      2) whether the symbol/saying overtly expresses hate or disparagement toward other people or groups. So for example, “God is peace” on your mousepad is fine. “X group is an abomination sayeth the lord” is not.

    11. Lizy*

      I think if we start going into “nobody should ever have to deal with something that upsets them” … I mean, sheesh. If you don’t like baby Jesus, don’t look. If you don’t like an upside down cross or a statue of Buddha, don’t look. If you don’t like football, don’t turn on the NFL channel.

      As others have said, I think it’s the balance between being yourself and not being rude or unprofessional. I personally wear a cross every day. No, it’s not a requirement, per se, but I honestly have had days where I’ve forgotten my cross and have just felt… off. Then I realize I’ve forgotten my necklace. So for me? Yes, it’s a requirement. I just feel better/more secure with it. But – and IMO it’s a big but – I do it FOR ME, and it’s a very small cross. The biggest one I wear is maybe an inch long and is with another pendent, so most of the time it’s covered up/not super visible. I do think it’s different if it’s a huge honkin’ cross that screams I LOVE JESUS. I probably wouldn’t say anything unless they were also non-stop talking about Jesus, too. At that point, IMO, it becomes more of a disruption than me just not liking your necklace.

      To me, unless it’s really offensive, starts to creep into being a distraction, or as you said, mocking others, let it be.

      And no – my feelings would not (do not?) change if someone was wearing a giant pentagram.

    12. Anonymous Hippo*

      While I’m sure someone could come up for an exception to this, but my general rule surrounding any/all office paraphenalia would be how much it intrudes into public space. So I think you could safely have a small whatever, something that’s virtually unnoticeable from walking down the hallway, but something very obvious and attention taking would be a no no.

      I would say the one-a-day calendar would be fine. I wouldn’t hang a cross up on the wall, but wearing one or having a small one actually down on the desk seems fine. I would expect the same consideration if I brought in something from the Satanic Temple. This is assuming they aren’t offensive in purpose, ie if something from the Satanic Temple is mocking theist’s, or a Christian item is bashing homosexuals etc.

      So, small items (under 6in desk, probably 2inch on body) in your own personal space (don’t put stuff in emails or the like that’s not your personal space), and be sensitive.

    13. Lora*

      Well, I have worked in clean rooms where the rule was No Jewelry Ever, no, not even a small cross necklace, and we did have to fire people who then complained about religious discrimination (and lost their EEOC case because No Jewelry Ever meant just that). And I did turn down a job offer earlier this year from a startup where the CEO had turned her office into what I can only describe as a walk in closet size shrine (not Christian) – it wasn’t the main reason I turned it down but it was a contributing factor type of thing. It was bad enough that a CEO didn’t seem to know how money works, but the whole giant multi colored shrine thing… it was WAY TOO MANY black velvet paintings of multiple deities, floor to ceiling, with statues and a table with food offerings, candles etc. I could not imagine this going over well with clients. In a biotech company. Heck no. For me it’s more of an aesthetic thing though, if I turned my office into a Dog Shrine with floor to ceiling badly done portraits of my dogs, wearing dog t-shirt, with bags of biscuits all around, I’d probably hear about it from my boss too. One photo on my desk is fine though.

  30. Don't Touch My Snacks*

    I used to work in a haunted church and had several weird experiences with our resident ghost.

    The first and most hard to explain away was I was in the commercial kitchen washing my backlog of coffee cups (I’m not the only one with a cup graveyard in my office, right?) and my lunch dishes. I had dishtowels laid out in the center of our metal counters and all of my stuff lined up so they could start to air dry while I finished washing. A coworker came in to chat while I worked and while we were talking several of the larger dishes FLEW off the counter and crashed on the floor a good five feet away. It was very, very creepy. We kind of just stood there in shock and then attributed it to Sophie, our resident ghost. I still have no other explanation for this as they were all very heavy, Pyrex style dishes.

    Another time I was by myself in the church and we were supposed to be completely locked up and empty. In the floors above my office I heard a door slam VERY loudly. I called our business manager who had me lock myself in my office and then had the police come do a courtesy check. They never found anyone and seemed to want to brush me off as hysterical or maybe someone else let themselves in but the time of day did not lend itself to that. I would really prefer not to be in that building by myself after dark ever again.

    Hope that was spooky enough for you.

    1. Don't Touch My Snacks*

      This was supposed to nest under a comment I no longer see; I hope the person looking for spooky office stories find it anyway.

      1. Bibliothecarial*

        I am not that person, but came to the open thread specifically for new haunted office stories, so ya made my day!

      2. Thoreauvian*

        If you’re referring to me, I just found it! I hope this thread gains tons of responses. Ironically, I was just going to post to ask the readers to share their ghostly work stories.

        1. Don't Touch My Snacks*

          I forgot to mention the best part! Part of the church had been built over an old graveyard and there was one of those old graves that you could see into the casket through a window under the pastor’s study! You could crawl through a tunnel under the church that you accessed through a hole in the ground of a closet. Every bit as dusty and creepy as you’d think it would be.

      3. Grand Admiral Thrawn Is Blue Forevermore*

        I was one of those looking for spooky stories – so yaaa!! There really aren’t many explanations for dishes or objects that just fly off shelves like that.

        Also I too worked in a S Baptist church, a small one, with a…not spooky but unsettling story. I don’t think it was the place that was haunted, I think it was the senior pastor who had an attachment, probably due to his behavior. He hurt me but I think he hurt someone else much worse. My experiences involved doors and lights being on when they should not have, and we had to rekey his office because things kept happening in there he wouldn’t talk about but asked if others had been in there. Three squirrels met their untimely demise in his inner study wall.

        My final experience was coming back to my office to see his office door and light, which I had closed and turned off ten minutes prior, on and the door wide open. It was extremely unsettling and odd to stare at that wide open door. Of course, I was laughed at when I asked about the building history. Trust me, it was all him.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      Hmm, I wonder how you would send a ghost a bill for all the dishes that she broke. Sounds like a good case for having a ghost tuner! :’D

    3. Cold Fish*

      Last year, I came into the office to work on a Sat. (very unusual). I was alone. I heard a metallic thump in the hallway. When I went to look, the metal bracket that goes around the ceiling fire sprinkler head was sitting directly beneath the sprinkler head in the middle of the hallway. 1. I have no idea how it fell off as the sprinkler head is larger than the smaller hole of the bracket. 2. If it did just fall off, given it’s shape, it should have bounced off at a strange angle, not fallen directly below the sprinkler head. It was unsettling to say the least.

  31. Pantalones Help*

    This is really specific but does anyone have any recommendations for full-length dressy work pants for smaller-sized women? Most of my work pants are J Crew size 000 but they’ve discontinued making that size and my wardrobe needs a refresh really badly. Most of the major workwear brands like Banana Republic, Ann Taylor, etc, do not fit me. Just wondering if anyone has any secret go-to brands before I resort to spending a fortune on tailoring.

    1. coffee is my friend*

      I’ve had luck with express – though I always have to hem them (even if I but ‘short’ inseam).

    2. CTT*

      Have the petite lines in those brands not worked? I know they were my mom’s go-to when she was working, but it’s been a minute since she was last buying from them.

    3. 30 Years in the Biz*

      The brand Theory is sized really small. Pieces can be expensive, but I’m sure you could find some good deals on NWT or lightly worn items on Poshmark. I’ve had very good luck there. I recently bought a new J.Crew linen blazer for $25.

      1. Pantalones Help*

        Oooh thank you! I forgot about Theory. I didn’t used to be able to afford them, but now that I’m an established adult I can splurge a little! I’ll give them another try/see what’s on Poshmark and Thredup!

        1. mreasy*

          I recommend looking for your discontinued sizes on Posh too. They tend to have a ton of J.Crew and similar brands. I’ve successfully bought discontinued items I wanted to replace there.

    4. Reba*

      Check out the blogs Extra Petite and Alterations Needed for recs.

      I second Theory which was mentioned (sometimes can be found at Nordstrom rack and similar). Reformation is not exactly lots of workwear but it’s very slim. Boden could be worth a look as the fit tends to be slim. The Nordstrom store brands are inconsistent, but do start at XXS/00. Everlane and Uniqlo both run on the small side, at least they used to! Haven’t tried MM Lafleur, but it’s supposed to run a bit small and you can chat with a stylist.

      1. pancakes*

        Agree on Reformation, but in my experience Boden runs true to size to large. Maybe it’s changed in recent years, but I bought a raincoat from them in my normal size and had to send it back because I was swimming in it.

        Maybe Zara? Their sizing is often uneven but tends towards smaller.

    5. Tiny*

      I’m a similar size and have had good luck finding smaller sizes of dress pants in the junior’s section of various stores, most often Kohls

    6. Petite Pantalones*

      Eileen Fisher at aNordstrom ankle length pants fit like regular pants on petite women. They’re expensive, but look good & fit well.

    7. Sam*

      Fwiw, I can’t purchase pants off the shelf anywhere, even specialty size stores. I have them tailored every single time and they take 6 inches off the end. I don’t quite understand it, I’m average height, but I’ve always needed this tailoring.

      I even got my pajamas tailored when pandemic started.

    8. PizzaTwin*

      Try searching for 000 J Crew on ThredUp and Poshmark.

      The blog extrapetite.com has good recommendations for small-sized professional clothing, so you might try searching for pants she has reviewed.

      I have found good options at H&M in the past. However, sizing and quality are very inconsistent, so I really recommend shopping in person if possible.

  32. Daisy-dog*

    Not a currently relevant question, but I’m wondering: How do you tell your manager that someone in your family died and that you need time-off for the funeral? If email, what is the subject header?

    I opt for email. If I were to do it in person or on a call, then I know that I would cry and I don’t like crying during work.

    I know the answers will vary greatly based on your own relationship with your manager, but I was just curious what others do.

    1. londonedit*

      I’d probably use the date of the day I’d need off as the subject line. Something like:

      Monday 27th

      Dear Tabitha,
      Unfortunately my great-uncle Wakeen passed away over the weekend, and we’ve had word that his funeral will be held next Monday, the 27th. I’ll request the time off online as usual, but I wanted to let you know in advance so you’re aware of the situation.
      Best wishes,
      Londonedit