does my emergency make me look like a flake, discussing salary with friends, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. Do I need to give more info about my family tragedies so I don’t look like a flake?

I’m writing to ask for a calibration check. My extended family recently had a series of unrelated tragedies very close together. It’s enough drama that it would be flagged as unrealistic by a novel editor, and it’s taken a lot out of all of us as we try and get through it.

I had to ask for an extension on a small project (not a big deal, does not impact a contract or anyone else’s work) based on “family emergencies” and got it without problem. But my inner voice keeps telling me that I’ve destroyed my professional reputation, that I sound like I’m just making excuses for procrastination, and if I just explained what the emergencies were, everyone would understand. On the other hand, no one wants to be the recipient of a trauma dump, and honestly if I wrote it all out, it would sound like a bad soap opera.

What’s the appropriate thing to do in situations like this? I’ve mentioned a couple of these things to my immediate supervisor so they’re in the loop, and I’m able to keep it together enough that my main role is unaffected. But what about these projects with offsite peers with whom I had no previous relationship? There’s no gossip network in place that will get the information over to them, so do I just accept that I look like an excuse-making flake?

No, because you don’t look like an excuse-making flake! People have family emergencies; it’s a thing that happens. If you heard that a colleague needed to push something back because of a family emergency, you wouldn’t think, “What an excuse-making flake!” You would think, “I hope everything’s okay.” Maybe if the person had a long track record of reasons for never making deadlines, you might wonder — but with someone who you knew to be generally conscientious, I doubt skepticism would even cross your mind.

There is a thing some of us do where we worry people will think X about us when we would never think X about them in the same situation. Sometimes just asking yourself, “What would I think if Respected Colleague Y did this?” can recalibrate your brain away from that.

I’m sorry about your family stuff and hope things get better soon!

2. Is it wrong to discuss salary with friends?

I have a question about the norms of discussing salary. I have just graduated from college, where my friends and I regularly discussed how much money we made, saved, and spent. At my food service job, all employees, including salaried management, talk about our wages regularly enough that I know how much each person makes (and other coworkers have used this information to push for raises).

My sister recently got her dream job offer and I asked how much they offered her. She told me and I congratulated her, as I knew it was more than what she’d hoped to make. My mom found out about this a few weeks later and told me I shouldn’t have asked. My sister agreed and said she thought it was strange that I had asked. Both told me it was inappropriate to talk about pay with friends. I said that I thought pay transparency is important, and they both agreed but said it should only be within a company, not between every person you know.

I understand what they’re saying, but I don’t understand why it’s bad to talk about salary. I admit it may have been forward of me to ask about my sister’s offer, although I wouldn’t have asked directly if she weren’t my sister. Is it wrong for me to talk about my own pay with people I don’t work with?

No. Talk about your pay! Feeling like you can’t discuss pay only benefits employers, and harms everyone else.

That said, different friend groups and families have varying norms around this. Some discuss pay openly and others never do. In general, I think you find more openness about pay among friends when you’re younger and then people start clamming up as they get older (partly because as people advance in their careers, you start getting more disparities in people’s finances and that can feel awkward).

Your mom and sister are wrong that it’s inappropriate to discuss money with friends, though! Lots of friend groups do. You just need to know the norms of the group you’re dealing with.

3. Four-page cover letters

A dear friend of mine works in a fairly niche industry (academia-adjacent) and is job searching. She is looking at roles where her demographic info make her a not obvious fit but she has dedicated her career to this area, received a doctorate in a closely-related field of study, written research on the topic, and dedicates a significant amount of time outside her actual job to the work (podcasts/social media content, creating and distributing resources, giving trainings and talks, teaching, etc). She’s been applying to jobs and her cover letter is four pages long (granted, it’s double-spaced, but still). I told her that is ABSURD, but her response was she was trying to show how all her career experience and outside-of-work activities counterbalance what many will see as her initial lack of fit for the role.

I get what she’s saying, but I still think that is crazy long. My question is: is there ever a situation where a cover letter this long is appropriate?

No.* I like cover letters and I would not read a four-page cover letter. One page. Maybe a page and a half if there’s really good reason for it and the content is compelling, not just a regurgitation of the resume. Four pages, absolutely not. If she were otherwise a stellar candidate, I might skim really quickly (like a couple of seconds per page) while thinking, “This person is long-winded and doesn’t know how to edit.”

If she’s at that length because of all the stuff you listed for relevant activities outside of her job, most/all of that should just go on her resume.

* Caveat: maybe in academia? They use really long CVs, after all. I can’t speak for them or their ways.

4. How much should I tell interviewers about my old employer’s implosion?

This past spring, I separated from a nonprofit that was well known among the small industry that it works within. It had actually been a “founding” member of the industry in the 1940s and was seen as a prestigious organization.

When I left in the spring, things were very bad at the organization. There had always a level of dysfunction and toxicity, but the pandemic made things much worse. Many people lost their jobs, and they went from about 100 people to about 12. The organization is still in existence but is a fraction of what it had been. Their board also made some pretty terrible decisions which severely altered the participation of the organization in the market and industry.

I have been interviewing both within the industry and outside of it. Inevitably, whenever I meet with a former competitor or related organizations, the interviewers ask about what happened at my previous organization during the pandemic. I think it is coming from a place of morbid curiosity, but I’m not sure how to respond or how much to say. It is obvious that things went very poorly during the pandemic so I don’t want to pretend like nothing happened (and of course I lost my job because of it). But I also want to be taken seriously and stay professional. I had one interviewer who asked a series of questions about what happened and seemed to really want some dirt. Up until now, I have been disclosed the “public” details of what happened, things that had been shared with volunteers and participants. Is this the appropriate way to go? Do you have suggestions on how to handle future questions?

Yep, stick to publicly shared details and vague statements like “they really had a tough time during the pandemic.” The exception is if you had a relatively senior position there and the interviewer is asking because they’re assessing the ways your work might have been impacted by (or impacted) what was going on. For example, if you oversaw finances or worked in senior management, it’s reasonable for them to have work questions for you about that experience. But if your sense is that people are just morbidly curious, stick to what’s been shared publicly. If you’re pushed, it’s okay to say more explicitly, “I wouldn’t want to share anything they haven’t shared publicly, but yes, they faced some real challenges.”

5. I still have my work computer even though I was laid off months ago

During the Covid lockdown, I was told to work from home and was using my work computer at home. After a couple of months I was laid off. I haven’t returned the computer, and they haven’t asked for it. I haven’t used it and am embarrassed that I still have it. I want to return it, but I don’t want to create any problems for the department that lent it to me in the first place. How do you think I should handle this?

Note: I was dealing with a family crisis and just wasn’t tuned in to the computer situation at the time. I don’t want to keep the computer, but I’m concerned that attempting to return it could create a problem for the department I worked for. It’s a very large organization, and they have to comply to a lot of regulations. I know we have regulations for a reason, but I think it was an oversight during a difficult time. Any ideas on how to correct the situation?

This will be fine! Email your manager there and say, “I just realized that I still have my work computer! What’s the best way for me to get it back to you?” That’s it. If your manager is no longer there, send this to HR or any other reasonable contact there.

If it’s a problem that you’ve had the computer this long, that’s on them — it was their responsibility to arrange to get back anything they needed from you when they laid you off. Generally when remote staff leave, the company makes arrangements for them to ship equipment back at the company’s expense. You’re not at fault that they didn’t do that.

{ 414 comments… read them below }

  1. narafex*

    As someone in academia (for LW3): the standard I have always used as an applicant and seen on search committees, and now counsel my students to follow, is no more than two pages, double-spaced, for the cover letter, with reasonable font and margins. The letter should focus on relevant highlights (usually research with relevant teaching or administrative/service work); everything else should be in the CV.

    1. narafex*

      Grrrr, typo–single-spaced! (I’ve been writing too many formatting instructions for papers today.) Like Hanani below, I would find a double-spaced cover letter a little odd.

      1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

        Oh, okay, I’m glad you added the clarification about being single-spaced.

        OP3, four pages is waaaaay too much. And, while not a core issue, the fact that it’s double-spaced makes it stand out even more (in a yellow flag way), because it reads to me as “This person still thinks like a student. Does she understand professional norms…? Am I going to have to teach her basics?”

        I recognize that may be an unfair read. Double-spacing (in my many years of report writing) is not used in professional work. Teachers require it becauase it’s easier to correct/edit a hard copy that’s double-spaced, but more and more writing goes digital, that’s less and less of a need.

        1. narafex*

          The other issue here is that LW3’s friend might not be reading the room correctly; the positions she’s applying for are “academic-adjacent,” which means they could in fact abide by the cover letter conventions used by everyone else (and require a resume, rather than the life-history CV). There’s a lot of gray area, though, and even alt-ac jobs that don’t require you to pursue your own research program might still want a “traditional” cover letter. LW3’s friend really needs to make sure she knows her audience’s expectations.

          1. Loulou*

            And to piggyback off this, I’m a little confused by the premise of the question. OP’s friend has a doctoral degree in a related field, has dedicated their career to this work, has tons of related experience…but they’re writing a ton to compensate for initially seeming like not a fit? It seems like their CV would probably make them seem like a fit!

            OP, I realize you’re being vague for anonymity, but what do you mean by “demographics”? I was initially picturing something like being a WOC in a white male dominated field, but maybe you mean something more like someone with an obviously Muslim name applying to work at a Jewish organization?

            1. Simply the best*

              Your second thought was exactly what I thought. I assume by demographics OP means something like a white person with a doctorate in Asian literature or African art or Native cultures. Or something not race related, but where the area of study pertains to a particular group of humans that the friend is not a part of.

              1. Elle*

                This is what I assumed – a white Australian person who majored in African American Studies or something like that.

                1. fueled by coffee*

                  Huh. My (maybe more charitable thought?) was a woman in STEM or stay-at-home parent for a decade before returning to get a doctorate in something finance-y. That is, someone who might feel the need to overcompensate for an entirely appropriate work experience.

              2. rural academic*

                Yeah, I am assuming something like that, too, and I think the LW’s friend needs to own their expertise and avoid over-explaining their background.

              3. Reba*

                I mean given the makeup of academia, that situation is extremely… normal? Unless the friend is applying for like a fellowship that prefers candidates from minoritized groups, I think getting into one’s demographic background would quickly become protesting too much. If it’s appropriate, like they ask the letter to address one’s commitment to diversity & equity or to working with a target population, acknowledging one’s position makes sense. But I think dwelling on this point of perceived misfit is going to come across very weirdly.

                1. Loulou*

                  Totally agreed. OP’s experience speaks for itself in that respect! The cover letter needs to clearly show how their experience has prepared them for this specific job, NOT how their experience makes them a fit even though they’re not X.

          2. Escapee from Corporate Management*

            Good point. I have been in the for-profit world my entire career and my companies often hire(d) PhD’s. I’ve seen applicants who adhere to academic standards when applying, and they often don’t get interviews. We don’t want a cover letter longer than one page, and while we do see full CV’s (which can go past 20 pages), we do want to see a resume of no more than two pages. It’s a way of seeing if the applicant understands the norms of our industry.

        2. The Prettiest Curse*

          For some reason, I find it very difficult to read anything double spaced, especially on a screen. So if I ever had to read that much text double spaced, I’d probably have to copy/paste and change the spacing.

        3. who has that kind of time*

          Yes yes this. A cover letter that long is off-putting to me as a manager. It makes me wonder: is this person not an effective communicator, unable to clearly and concisely focus on what’s the most important? Is everything this person produces going to be 4x longer than it needs to be, creating more work and headaches for me trying to get them to stop doing that? Do they understand industry and institutional norms and does this make them not a great fit for our larger organization? I know myself and my own limitations, and even before I started to read this cover letter (if I even bothered) I would be going in with a mindset that held two strikes against the submitter already.

          There is absolutely no way I can rationalize that a four page cover letter adds value to an application; quite the opposite, it may be hurting the applicant in the long run.

          1. Anonym*

            Agreed – my first instinct (based on a number of experiences) is that this person may not be able to prioritize, see the forest for the trees, and/or communicate well. It seems from OP’s description that the friend is focused on what SHE needs to explain. She would benefit from focusing instead on what her audience needs to understand, and their circumstances (reviewing many job applications).

          2. Artemesia*

            I think this bias about long cover letters is spot on. I worked with grad students and eventually would not even discuss their dissertation plans with them until they produced in one page a statement of the question they were trying to answer, the process they hoped to use to answer it and why it was worth answering. If they could not succinctly express those 3 things, then they were not at the planning stage.

            Four pages of ‘why I am a good fit’ tells me this is a person who doesn’t know how to cut to the chase and who perhaps doesn’t have a clear idea they are trying to express.

          3. Ama*

            Yup, I once received a SIX page cover letter and it did seem to be that long for a similar reason — the candidate in question was trying to move from for profit (and a high paying industry at that) to nonprofit and had clearly received advice to explain that she was intentionally looking to move to nonprofit even at a lower salary rate. However, she implemented that advice by spending a page and a half of the six page letter telling an extremely detailed story about a friend of hers who had moved from law to teaching and had never been happier. (I don’t actually remember what she put in the rest of the letter as it was years ago — but I remain to this day astonished that she spent almost a third of an already too long letter talking about someone else.)

            In addition the position she was applying to involved a lot of writing — primarily boiling down complicated scientific studies for lay audiences. She couldn’t even concisely explain why she wanted the job. It may be the only time I disqualified a candidate only from reading the cover letter (usually even with a bad cover letter I will at least read carefully through the resume and see if maybe there is work experience that could redeem them).

        4. Joielle*

          Yeah, double spacing definitely does not look professional. Even when I was in college, you just would never double space a document. It makes it look like a child’s book report – like you say, ready to be corrected by a teacher. Not a great first impression for someone who already is outside the norms of the profession for whatever reason.

          1. quill*

            It gives the impression of padding. And especially in these days of emailing your cover letter… if the recipient needs a different format to read it, they can change the format themselves!

        5. Harvey 6 3.5*

          I’d be careful before making a general statement like “double spacing . . . is not used in professional work.” Per the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure 32(a)(4), briefs to Federal courts such as the US Court of Appeals for the DC circuit have to be double spaced. In your field, perhaps double spacing is not common. In mine, it is often required.

          1. JB*

            And you would therefor find a double-spaced cover letter to look professional and polished?

            The fact that double-spacing is required on certain documents created in your profession does not make double-spacing professional. My job involves copying and pasting a lot of images into word documents, but it would be very odd (and unprofessional) for me to fill my cover letter with images.

        6. Julia*

          Wait, everyone’s saying four pages is too long but also that it shouldn’t be double-spaced. Four pages double-spaced is two pages single-spaced, which doesn’t seem crazy long to me. Doesn’t LW just need to change the spacing?

          1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

            I agree that changing from double-spaced to single would help with the initial impression (for me, at least).

            That said, I would still be a little cautious about a two page cover letter, BUT that’s because that’s outside the norm for my field/the types of role I hire.

        7. MCMonkeyBean*

          Yes, I think they likely need to cut a lot out of the letter that should be reflected on the resume instead–but it sounds like they should start by just making it single spaced which would already bring it down to two pages.

        8. Zennish*

          I’m in an academic-adjacent field, for what that’s worth, and I’d kind of have the same reaction. Honestly it would end up in my “no” pile, assuming I already had a number of good prospects. It’s so outside “the norm” with the double spacing and the length, that I’d worry they were out of touch with other aspects of how this whole employment thing works.

          1. Zennish*

            I should clarify… “the norm” in my own little corner of the world. Mileage will vary depending on the terrain.

      2. The Pied Piper*

        As a fellow academic, my cover letter is two pages, single spaced.

        Also, I highly, highly recommend The Professor Is In for academia and academia-adjacent job hunting advice and services. As my fellow denizens of the academy know, we do job hunting differently (10+ page CVs??!?!), and her site and book have been invaluable.

        1. The New Normal*

          I have the Chief of Specialty at a major hospital coming as a guest speaker to a student conference. He sent his CV over so I could write his bio and introduction at the conference.

          Forty. Eight. Pages.

          This man is impressive on so many levels but the fact that he has a 48 page CV listing his research where he was the primary author blows my mind.

      3. tamarack & fireweed*

        Yes. My experience is as academic staff and grant-funded research, and I’ve applied to TT roles and did get interviews and even once an on-campus interview, so I’m fairly confident it wasn’t my cover letter that limited me.

        If it’s academia-adjacent I would expect the rules that apply are closer to an industry role anyway. I would expect anywhere in academia/academia-adjacent that people will be comfortable with a cover letter that exceeds one page, but even for a TT position mine don’t exceed two pages. You want to demonstrate that you’ve understood the priorities and needs (including gaps) of the unit or department you’re applying to and make the argument that you would be an excellent fit into their particular slot. If you can’t do that in two pages, that’s a problem. Academics are no different from other people in that eyes glaze over!

        I’m also a little wary of the idea of showing “how all her career experience and outside-of-work activities counterbalance what many will see as her initial lack of fit for the role” – that’s way too complicated. Also, for those on the hiring committee who didn’t consider she lacks in fit, she then suggests that idea. She should simply argue boldly how she does indeed fit.

        And also, if there’s something complicated and unusual that makes her a particularly good fit, the documentation can always go into a supplementary document. (“As a supplementary document, I provide the body of a grant proposal entitled “Flame Retardant: Building a Knowledge Network to Mitigate Lava Flow Hazard among Villages in South-Central Iceland”, which was recently funded by [funding agency] at [award amount]. As Chief of Operations of the Association for Rural Volcano Hazard Policy I am the PI and author of this proposal. The award is portable in case I were to move to a different employer with a compatible support infrastructure. I believe the project would be an excellent fit or complement for the portfolio of [your organization’s] Pole of Excellence in Circumpolar Hazard Management and am looking forward to the opportunity to engage a conversation on this topic with you and your colleagues.”

        1. tamarack & fireweed*

          I forgot to add, sometimes you’re directed to put your research / teaching / diversity statements into the cover letter, in which case it gets longer. Each of these statements should not exceed 1 page, though, and if they go in the cover letter, I’d use headings, just to make reading easier. Most of the time I see them requested as separate documents.

          The upshot for me is: If your cover letter is to exceed 2 pages, it would be to address specific requests that are made in the job posting.

    2. GSI*

      Careful though, with arbitrary limit advice ti students, especially students applying to academic positions beyond the US. In the UK the hiring process is quite different: much faster and significantly fewer documents are asked for. At times there, teaching philosophy, research plans, grant and publishing plans, etc are expected (and requested) for the cover letter. Pros can do that in two, but three isn’t bad. Four is long, but as I said below, the best academic cover letter I ever read in the UK was 4 pages and wonderful…

      1. PT*

        My husband applied to academic jobs in the US and Canada he had to include a whole bunch of those things. (I remember proofreading for typos all of the individual documents.) Cover letter. Teaching statement. Research statement. Statement of commitment to diversity. Statement of how he would apply the university’s unique mission statement.

    3. Academic Chick*

      LW3 (And Alison): No, not even in academia. My own cover letters were 1 page up until more senior (faculty) job applications – then they were less than 1.5 page.
      And properly formatted. I want to see what your final product looks like, not a double spaced draft version. May be personal, but that would put me off.

      My take: the cover letter is to tease them into reading your (long academic) CV by highlighting some specifics of why you would be a fit.

      For everything not strictly academic, academics are learning to tweak their application materials to more industry standards, so my advise would be: go with the standard in the field you are applying for and be creative within those standards to make it work.

      1. fueled by coffee*

        The only reason my academic cover letters go onto a second page is because my department’s letterhead inexplicably takes up half the page.

        4 pages is longer than my research and teaching statements combined! If I could fit my entire dissertation summary and future research plans onto two pages, you can write a cover letter in one-ish.

    4. Virginia Professor*

      I have been on many search committees in academia. The length of letters I have seen are generally proportional to the level of the position. For a PhD candidate applying for an assistant professor position, 1 to 2 pages is average. For a department head or dean, I have seen very long letters. Last year, we received a 60-plus page letter for our department head position. No one on the committee read past the first few pages. I think 6 to 10 pages are standard for senior positions. In general if you are going above 2 pages, the letter should be organized to follow the job requirements. That aids the committee in determining how you fit the job.

      Those letters combined with 30-page-plus CVS and various required philosophy statements (teaching, research, leadership, diversity, etc) makes serving on a search committee a true reading nightmare. Luckily, I read fast!

      1. RabbitRabbit*

        Wow. Here I thought the 150-ish page CV of a physician in medicine/academia was insane, but a 60 page cover letter?!

      2. After 33 years ...*

        Agreed – typically cover letters are 2 pages at maximum, highlighting points to be expanded upon in the CV and other documents.

      3. peasblossom*

        I’ll also add that it depends slightly on field. In my humanities-based field 2 pages (single-spaced) is typical for newly minted phds, but 3 is fine for people up through associate–and as Virginia Prof says, beyond that it can get much longer for senior folks. My takeaway for the letter writer is: this may indeed be too long (especially for academic adjacent), but it may be fine. It’s honestly impossible to tell from the given information. It probably should be single-spaced, though.

      4. Rock Prof*

        This sounds about what I’ve experienced too. I’ve written 2-3 page cover letters, when they’ve asked for specific information to be covered and no separate statement on it. It’s common to have separate research and teaching statements, but for more senior level positions they sometimes want the cover letter to basically be something like a ‘leadership’ statement.

    5. Nate*

      Yes, Allison is off on this. I’m an academic librarian in a leadership position. Cover letters are an absolute must, and they’re generally 1.5-2 pp, single spaced. I *have* seen longer, but they’re rare and don’t help your case. I would tell the LW’s friend to single-space the letter, and if it’s still over 2 pages try to do some editing to get it down a bit.

      1. Coyote Tango*

        Gonna agree with this. Assuming this is for a ‘normal’ academic position, pulling it down to single space will put it into the correct parameters and should be fine. (at least it would not be the slightest bit eyebrow raising in terms of *our* recruiting, even for a junior position)

      2. biobotb*

        Huh? You’re saying she’s “off” for agreeing with you that four pages is too long for a cover letter?

    6. BethDH*

      And for most doctorate-preferred ac-adjacent fields I’ve seen (research librarians, lab support, environment or diversity centers), the appropriate ones I see are about a page and a half, single spaced but with wide margins and often on letterhead.
      I do see an increasing number of academic and ac-adj jobs asking you to address certain things in the cover letter, so I wonder if the problem is that the friend is trying to do that and explain the back story too, and hasn’t figured out how to tell the back story through answering the questions instead of in addition.

    7. Artemesia*

      From hard experience I have learned that ‘long winded’ whether in interview or on paper is a big red flag in hiring. A 4 page cover letter would probably have me discard that application.

      The cover letter is to intrigue, to tell a bit of a story and make me more interested in looking at the resume closely or interviewing you. A page is plenty to do that. In the case of the OP’s friend, her story is why her combination of experiences make her a good if not obvious fit. If she can’t make the case in a page or so, then she can’t make the case. Longer just feels defensive and definitely feels like someone with problems focusing and editing their work.

    8. Oxford Comma*

      With the caveat that I don’t know what’s usual for high end administrative positions, I would say no more than 2 pages.

    9. Distracted Librarian*

      A caveat for non-teaching academic positions: some state institutions (not sure about private ones) use a matrix to score applications based on criteria in the position posting. Some are so rigid about this process that if you don’t spell out exactly how you meet each item (in detail), you’ll get scored lower. I once had to pass on an employee with great experience b/c his cover letter was only a page and didn’t address everything. I wasn’t allowed to extrapolate from the experience on his resume.

      So yeah, 4 pages seems long, but depending on the position and what’s listed in the posting (I once applied for a position with a 6-page posting!!), you might have to go that long.

    10. Nesprin*

      Yep this. Academic cover letter should be about 1 page text with maybe an extra half page for letterhead/signature block. One paragraph on research, one on teaching, maybe one on service/diversity/inclusion for most institutions.

      CVs can be long as hell though- goal is to list everything that makes you a candidate, including all publications, appointments, invited talks etc.

    11. Read and Find Out*

      Agreed–I’m also in academia and have been on many search committees. 2 pages single spaced is the max I would read and is the norm; not even the most senior scholars would write 3 pages or more.

    12. AnotherLibrarian*

      The only exception to this is rarely (and I mean rarely) I have seen adds where they specify that they want to you address all of these X things in your cover letter and sometimes that list of X things is so bananas long you could never do it in only two pages, but even then…. brevity is the soul of wit folks. 2.5 is fine. 3 is pushing it. I put up with long CVs because thats how it goes, but long cover letters make me annoyed.

    13. laowai_gaijin*

      This. I was recently on a hiring committee for my academia-adjacent job, and I guarantee nobody’s reading that four-page cover letter. It’s the literal definition of tl;dr.

    14. Anonymeece*

      Also in academia and often on hiring committees – I would agree. And honestly, one page is still preferable.

    15. A Friend Indeed*

      I have served on a couple of search committees and peer review committees at three or four institutions of higher ed, and this length is not unusual for, say, the application of a dean, or of a C-Suite leader, in academia. *maybe* for a chairperson of an extraordinarily prestigious or large program. But for general academic applications, it’s outrageous. Academia is my “side gig” (I’m not even an adjunct, but a “visitor”) and I can also add that as a manager, I’ve had a couple folks do this (also the 8 page résumé for the 10 year careerist) and in both cases, I just find the candidates, when I do feel they may be worth talking to, are missing some essential self-awareness. You are right to tell your friend to pull this back @LW3. They need to save some of the mystery for the first date!

    16. Metadata minion*

      Same here! A four page CV is totally normal, but the cover letter should be two pages at the most, and honestly the longer ones I’ve seen are usually kind of rambly and could be edited down to 1 page. I’m not hiring for high-level writing ability so it’s not a serious mark against them, but longer is not necessarily better.

  2. HR Bee*

    #2, please don’t stop talking about pay! I have a group of friends that I met at an old job. We were all entry to almost mid level HR Generalists at the time. We’ve all since moved to new companies and are all aged between 30-35 now. Our titles and pay now all range as well: Senior Director of People & Learning ($120k + bonus), Director of HR ($105k + bonus), Talent Acquisition Manager ($85k), HR Business Partner ($70k) and Associate of Learning and Development ($75k). Everyone has gone into their desired path in our profession.

    Our constant sharing of our offers, promotions, salaries, bonuses, etc… is how we’ve all negotiated more and countered back offers. We’ve all grown because of each other and how open we’ve been. I know my salary wouldn’t be where it is without having the confidence to ask for what I was truly worth and I had that confidence because of being open with salary with others.

    1. New Mom*

      So agree. And I’m sorry your mom and sister made you feel bad about asking. Some people may not want to share that information but that doesn’t mean you were wrong for asking. And its very strange that they think it’s weird to tell that to a close family member.
      I have benefitted so much from conversations with friends and peers about salary, it helps people know what is appropriate to ask for. I remember chatting with a small group of friends and three of us work in education (not teachers or academia) and I was a coordinator or a manager at the time and making about $55k-$60k and felt so underpaid for our high COL area. One of the other women who was a director and had so much more responsibility and stress than I did was being paid $50k. Before we talked she thought that what she was making was market rate.

      1. Loulou*

        I think some families are more open with information like this than others. If OP’s mom and sister both thought the question was overly personal, maybe that means that in OP’s family asking questions about salary is considered rude. Families can be really different!

        On the other hand, OP apparently knew how much her sister hoped to make, and I’m not really sure why you would willingly share that information but not your salary. So maybe this is just a weird mom thing.

        1. MK*

          I realize that everyone’s family is different, but this reaction baffled me. Apparently it’s fine to discuss salary with coworkers you hardly know, but not your sibling because “it’s private”? I would think that even if discussing salary was generally taboo, people wouldn’t mind talking about it with their closest relatives.

          1. Hobbling Up A Hill*

            Your co-worker who you hardly know is probably not going to take offense if you don’t get them something expensive for the holidays because they know you make $100k+. They’re probably not going to ask you for a loan because they know you have money.

            I can very much see why people from specific types of families might have issues talking about how much you make. Or if one parent has had that issue in the past that they might just pass that on to kids as gospel without thinking about why they don’t want to discuss money with family.

            1. Coins*

              Definitely agree with this. Talking about salary with family can really change the dynamic on many things including expectations around holidays, helping give money when someone in the family unit is in need etc… it serves very little benefit in that arena.

              Talking about personal finances (which includes salary) is not done in some cultures like mine. It would be wildly inappropriate for me to openly talk about my comp with friends and fam. What do I hope to achieve by this? Especially that they work in different companies, industries and occupations?? Even if I worked in the same occupation as my family, each company has different budgets they can allot for compensation. So the number itself alone without more context on other benefits, size of company, your education level and daily job tasks etc serves very little. Comp analysis is more complex than – I make X and you make Y, so you are paid unfairly.

            2. Roscoe*

              Absolutely. In my family, my mother and some of my cousins (the ones who make good money) know roughly what I make. My siblings? Nope. I don’t want them asking me for money. They are the type to try to decide how much I can spare at any given time. I don’t even want them having that info.

              1. JB (not in Houston)*

                This is how I feel. My siblings know how much I make, but I have cousins who don’t know and I hope don’t find out–not because I’m rich but because I don’t want them asking me for more money than they already do and then arguing with me about whether I can afford it. It seems like a number of commenters here are lucky enough not to have relatives like that.

            3. Boof*

              Good point; it depends A LOT on family dynamics. Supportive family/friends who are cheering you on; sure, why not? Family/friends who will use it as a weapon/bargaining chip, no of course not!

              1. UKDancer*

                This is where I stand. Some of my family I don’t want to communicate this information to and others I’m happy to discuss with.

            4. generic_username*

              YES. I am fairly open with my immediate family, but they know not to share with our extended family (who have a history of asking for money)

          2. Snow Globe*

            I get it. With co-workers, it is about salary equity. It is important to be open about salary within a group of people with similar jobs in similar industry. But if the sister is in a completely different industry from the OP and her friends, then the question appears to be nothing more than curiosity about the sister’s financial status. Many people have reasons for not wanting the family to know how much they make, including not wanting family to make judgments about their spending habits or not wanting a family member to ask for a loan, etc.

            1. doreen*

              I work in the public sector as do my two sisters ( and my son, and two nephews). Our pay is publicly available ( although the accuracy depends on where it is looked up – some sites list total pay for 2020 including any retro pay, location differentials, OT , etc while others just list the base pay rate) ). If I had any choice in the matter, I would not talk about pay with my family – my mother has absolutely no problem telling me what she thinks I can afford and how I should spend my money.

            2. JB (not in Houston)*

              Exactly this. It doesn’t seem like the OP was asking because she wanted to information for the data she’s collecting for a public salary database she’s maintains but just because she was curious. But a lot of people aren’t comfortable discussing their finances, if for no other reason than people, often (especially?) family members, feel like they have the right to tell you how to spend your money or make judgments on what you do or don’t buy. It’s great if people in the same organization or similar fields choose to share salary information, and that should be encouraged. But when someone not in your field or industry is asking for that info for what appears to be no reason other than curiosity, that is going to rub some people the wrong way.

              In this particular case, since the OP’s sister had already shared what she hoped to make, then assuming she had shared that information directly with the OP, I’m not sure why she found asking what she was actually going to make to be rude. But it’s not strange to find people asking you about your finances to be rude when that information doesn’t have any real use to the asker.

            3. Alpacas Are Not Dairy Animals*

              Talking about salary discrepancies between professions as well as within professions is hugely important; avoiding that topic is how we got an American public who thinks that they’re middle class and about to be upper class whether they are the nanny or have a nanny, and that’s a big reason why we have terrible tax policy and an even more terrible social safety net.

              1. George*

                It’s also hugely important for people to talk about their health problems, to similarly fix the social safety net. And their age, to fight ageism. And their ancestry, to fix ethnic discrimination. And their sexual identity, and lifestyle, to fix discrimination about that. And their politics, because … etcetera.

                And yet, some selfish people choose to claim this is private information, keep it to themselves, and act as if these are personal questions. I can’t wait for the revolution when all this so called privacy will be removed from everyone.

                1. J*

                  George, count me as one of those selfish people.

                  I hide – now I hide my age, because frankly I want a job so I can afford food, shelter and clothing.

                  I hide my ethnicity because frankly nothing good usually comes of revealing it. I have been told I “hung the moon” and “was the person they knew could get it done” because I am great at my work. I have worked for bosses that told me I was the best employee they ever had frankly they need my talents and high quality of output.

                  But there are firms that once they know, everything you do is judged in a different light. Been there and lived that.

                2. Kal*

                  The point, though, isn’t “everyone must share their information!” its “you shouldn’t be too ashamed to share that information if you otherwise want to”. I have had family that had a similar reaction to OP’s when I openly talk about my disability. They acted like I was being rude by admitting that I have a health reason why I use a wheelchair instead of just ignoring friends when they express concern or curiosity about why I use one now. I have no responsibility to share any of it with people, but if I want to talk about it when asked I shouldn’t be shamed for that. And there is immense value in talking about those issues openly when I have the energy to.

                  In OP’s situation, if her sister didn’t want to share the info, she could have said that. If any of the friends don’t want to share their info, they can too. But there shouldn’t be a blanket rule that friends must never discuss salaries even if they are comfortable sharing that information with each other.

            4. Boof*

              I understand this mentality and it’s not worth pushing any family member who has expressed reluctance to discuss salary. BUT. I think being open and honest about finances among close family can really help make a healthy environment around money/finances; estate planning for example is actually really important (and, honestly, all adults should have it roughly in order just in case) and goes much better if all parties who might be involved are informed and agreeable on the plan.

          3. Chocolate lover*

            My family doesn’t discuss salary, at all, for a variety of reasons, including controlling and manipulative behavior when it comes to money. Since none of us work in related areas or similar skill sets, I’d find it nosy and wonder if they wanted to hit me up for money.

            I wouldn’t discuss it with coworkers I “hardly know” but would with people I know better. That’s not uniquely about the topic of money though, it’s broader about me sharing any personal information as I get to know them.

          4. Lady Catherine de Bourgh*

            Personally, I don’t like discussing salary with close relatives because mine are very nosy and it turns into “well can you really afford that when you’re only making xxx a year?” Or “I don’t see why you can’t buy that, you make $xxx!”

            Don’t need comments on my finances and it’s just much more comfortable for me to keep it private!

          5. Anon4This*

            Discussing your salary with close relatives can be a minefield. Sure, some are supportive, but they’re human beings, just like everyone else, and aren’t immune from jealousy, judgment, and other negative feelings just because they are related to you. My family is generally supportive and helpful, but even they’re not above jabs or passive-aggressive comments that so-and-so can afford something because of X or that someone else should take in an elderly relative because they have a more expensive home than everyone else. The thing with friends is that, if they turn into assholes, you don’t have to see them. I still have to see Uncle Joe at Thanksgiving (if I want to see my other relatives), even if he needles me about my “fancy job” every time we meet up, to say nothing of the nightmare of being hit up for money or assumptions about what you can/cannot afford being casually batted around.

            I also generally find it pointless because my family does not work in my niche industry and would not benefit from my sharing my salary with them. At least sharing with professional contacts has value for the human emotional fall-out.

          6. tamarack & fireweed*

            My guess is – and that can happen – that there may be a fear of or experience with relationships going sour because of either jealousy or an excessive focus on comparing one’s material achievements to each other. I’ve known people who seemed perfectly reasonable and nice, and then they came out with some really nasty attitude about someone not owning a house, driving a small car, or being in a low-paid job.

            People should be able to, and would benefit from, talking freely about wages, but in practice it can be touchy. It’s much less touchy if it’s people working for the same company, or even among friends if instead of what you make you talk about what different roles at your company earn.

        2. FisherCat*

          Yeah I think my family would react like OP’s. I would never ask my mother or my brother how much they earn; it would be just deeply out of step with family norms. But I absolutely think its fine among friends or colleagues, especially when its relevant to them like if a friend were switching into my field.

          1. BethDH*

            Same. My family will talk about pay in general terms, and it has come up with greater detail when I was seeking someone to bounce ideas off of when comparing jobs that required a move and the pay was part of a bigger discussion about my personal life, but in my family it would be like telling my parents my grades once I was in college.

            1. Not a cat*

              ” in my family it would be like telling my parents my grades once I was in college.”

              My parents wouldn’t let me live in their house during school breaks if I didn’t send them my report card. Not a copy, the original. They were/are terrible humans though…

          2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

            I won’t ask my brother or his wife about their pay because it really embarrasses them how much more they make than I do. They see my work as way more valuable to society then theirs which makes things awkward AF to them (not so much to me – I knew my pay going into this gig). Everyone else I know is cool discussing thier salaries, their manager’s salaries, their reports salaries, and anyone else we know. It helps so much when trying to write in salaries for entry-level, interns, etc. into grants because I have a general idea of what everyone in my area is paying. Of course we all know the pay because we are writing grants for similar positions which makes for transparency.

            1. Person from the Resume*

              I am all for talking about salary with coworkers and family. Your pay is not a mark of your value to society. That’s why I think it troubles some people – they equate pay with personal worth. I think your family is right in that regard.

              At the same time, I do feel bad mentioning salary to my friends that I know make less because they worry about money. But I also feel bad mentioning my time off and how my job is slow right now when my overwhelmed and overworked friend can’t take as much time as she’d wish. I guess it feels like rubbing in my good fortune. She never begrudges me when I do mention it though. That’s true friendship.

        3. History Chick*

          I think this is why it *is* so valuable to discuss salary, especially amongst people you know in similar fields. I’m currently in the process of discussing salary with people I work with in an attempt for more transparency and – oh boy – we’ve discovered some pay disparities! Not talking about pay only benefits employers and not employees. That said, I have been very transparent about pay with several members of my friend group and it does sometimes cause issues. Most recently it’s been of the – well you should be able to afford x because of what you make, or you should be able to afford this much money on a house because of what you make, or (my favorite) we really make the same thing (my friend makes about 70,000 more than me on her own and when factoring in her husband’s salary about 350,000 more a year) because I don’t have kids and don’t have to pay for day care/private school. So that is what I see as the downside to being transparent about salary with friends – situations like this where people feel like they can comment on your budget and your financial priorities.

        4. EPLawyer*

          that’s what hit me too. You can know what she hopes to make but asking what she actually got offered is “rude.” Especially because she got more than she hoped. Then its okay to talk to strangers but not friends and family about something so “personal.”

          OP your family has weird ideas around this. But its family, so you are kinda stuck with it. But definitely push back and do some educating.

      2. CatLady*

        So from my side, I don’t share my exact salary with my family because then it becomes a rabbit hole. Comparisons with my brother (similar field but not same position). Comparisons with what my dad made (similar position) before he retired. Unasked for advice and so on. Its all well-meaning but extremely tiresome. But then again, I have my family on a carefully curated information diet in general to save my sanity so YMMV.

        1. Anon4This*

          I’m in the exact same position. After my mother asked how much I made and then snapped, “Well, it must be NICE to be SO SUCCESSFUL.” in a manner that indicated it was not nice at all, the info diet started. The funny thing is that she’s not shy about sharing her kids’ success with others (not actual dollar amounts, but promotions and what we’re doing), but anyone who exceeds her success in life deals with the same sort of things she said to me.

    2. Tali*

      I think it is especially helpful in cases like that where you all work in the same industry at different levels. However I do think it can be awkward discussing salaries with friends in unrelated industries, where there is little knowledge to be gained and it can create unnecessary awkwardness. I know College Friend went into Lucrative Field while I chose Desk Job With Benefits, but hearing their high salary right after they shot down my restaurant idea for being too expensive would make me grumpy. Know your social circle!

      1. TiredEmployee*

        Agreed. My social group (late-20s to mid-30s) has a few IT-and-adjacent careers where pay is decent-to-high (£35k-£60k?), call centre workers and lab techs where pay is low (£17k-£23k), and a tech PhD working in a lucrative startup (£???).

        When you’ve got that much disparity, specific figures very quickly make things awkward.

        1. münchner kindl*

          But salary is just one detail of talking generally about your work life: office norms, manager behaviour, how to set goals and reach them, how many hours to work, how many vacation days – all those are important to discuss and compare.
          Of course they will also vary wildly between industries, but you can easily figure that out as you keep talking with others inside your industry and share that.

          1. Dee*

            My friend group is similar to TiredEmployee’s. We have a nurse practitioner, a teacher, a well-connected friend who quickly rose to a director-level position and a friend who struggled to land an entry-level office job for 7 years. We are obviously aware that there are major income disparities in the group. We do openly discuss things like benefits, management and other elements of our work lives, but hearing the specific numbers out loud does nothing but remind the teacher that she’s underpaid (a systemic problem she can’t solve on her own), or rub in that for some reason one friend’s career soared while another struggled.

            1. münchner kindl*

              But why is only the salary the sticking point?

              If one of your friends is a director, and can afford a paid nanny and expensive vacations, while the teacher struggles to take 1 week off, doesn’t everybody know that from normal talk, even if you don’t mention the numbers?

              For me, it would also be a way to seperate friends from jerks:

              when you talk about work, and mention that your boss/ company
              demands 50 hrs/week; has you do the work of 2 people; only pays 10 $/hr; gives you only 3 days off per year

              then your real friends will tell you “this sucks, I hope things get better” and variations (and maybe, in a seperate step, brainstorm what steps are possible in your situation)

              but jerks will say “well it’s not illegal to do this, it’s the market” or similar – now you know you can’t rely on them for any help or just compassion.

              1. NK*

                I live under my means in almost every regard. The exceptions tend to be things that have very reasonably priced knock-offs, so I just don’t flaunt that my lounge chair is actually the name brand model which may last me the rest of my life.

              2. Tali*

                It’s not the only sticking point. I also don’t discuss benefits in extreme detail for the same reason. What value is it to compare exact amounts of PTO across different jobs and industries? My goal in discussing work with friends is either 1)to discuss their industry and learn about it or 2) to support my friend. If the former, yes it can be helpful to discuss numbers and details to get a sense of the market. If the latter, the details don’t matter beyond my friend’s perception of them.

            2. Important Moi*

              “hearing the specific numbers out loud does nothing but remind the teacher that she’s underpaid (a systemic problem she can’t solve on her own), or rub in that for some reason one friend’s career soared while another struggled.”

              Did the teacher or the entry-level person actually say that or are you assuming that’s how they feel?

              1. Koalafied*

                I’d check for this, too. I’m in nonprofits and I’ve certainly envied friends earning more than me, but my reaction was more “wow, that would be nice” or “damn, wish I could see my way to that…” than “oh my gods, I just remembered how bleak my life is.”

                If I had to pick one word to sum up my emotional state following these disclosures, I’d probably go with “wishful.” Imagining an alternate version of my life where I took a different path and what that might have been like, or perhaps a surge of ambition and wondering if there might indeed be a course I could chart to earning similar money that drives me to start a job search or prepare a raise proposal for my boss.

                To the extent that cash has been tight at different times in my life, hearing about friends who earn more has never made me feel *more* depressed about it. Most underpaid/struggling people are well aware pretty much at all times that they’re underpaid/struggling – they don’t need to hear the exact numbers of someone else’s better salary to be reminded or made aware of it.

      2. KateM*

        Why would it make you grumpy to learn that people have not only different salaries but also different obligations and different priorities?

        1. UKDancer*

          Yes. My cousin earns a lot more money than I do. On the other hand I have more disposable income proportionately. He has 4 children and a large house with a substantial mortgage, private school fees and a lot more outgoings. I have a small flat with a small mortgage, a tiny car and no kids. So while he has more money on paper, he also has a lot more financial commitments attaching to it. Of the two of us I go on fairly luxurious foreign holidays (when we don’t have a pandemic) and can indulge in decent theatre tickets when it suits me.

          How much you earn sometimes matters less than how many commitments you have for the money.

        2. Anon4This*

          Because people are human and not automatons. They feel jealousy or pity and have trouble not letting that come out. In more emotionally vulnerable movements – anger, fits of pique, whatever – the information can be weaponized just like anything.

          And, as someone who has a job that goes against the grain of most AAM commenters’ sense of normalcy (as in, closer to the 100+/no weekend letter recently than a 9-5), I can tell you from personal experience that acknowledgement of the different expectations and obligations is not what you would think. I joke with my partner that those with whom I’ve shared any information both think I’m overcompensated AND that the work requirements of my job are beyond the pale, so I get shit for making “too much” money and for “not standing up for myself” when my job eats into my personal time, requires last-minute travel, or involves 12-hour days for a project sprint.

          Maybe I just interact with crappier humans than others, but I’ve had far more negative feedback when I’ve shared any personal details of my job than positive and have basically stopped doing so because my position is very unusual (hybrid role at an org that can’t afford both) and not meaningful info. I will share with them ranges of salary for the types of jobs I supervise, but not my own. I only have so much emotional energy to expend on managing other people’s feelings.

        3. kt*

          That’s not what was being said — Tali proposed a restaurant idea and friend shot it down as being too expensive. This is about friend not being supportive and citing money. Of course we all have different obligations and different priorities. At the same time, if your “friend” says in response to your comment that you’re thinking about having kids, “that’s stupid, kids are an endless money sink,” or in response to your comment that you’ve saved up to take six months off for art and rock climbing, “I would *never* spend my money that way that’s so irresponsible!” you might reasonably feel miffed.

          I don’t think spending money on large dogs or pets in general is at all in line with my priorities — so I don’t. I don’t go around commenting on all my friends’ dogs though, telling them that it’s a poor way to spend their money!

      3. RabbitRabbit*

        This. It absolutely makes sense to discuss among people in the same job type, but I wouldn’t want to go into it with friends/family not in the field. Discussing pay is great for allowing people in a similar field to understand their worth and advocate for more pay or to go for a better job.

      1. londonedit*

        Firstly you seem to have a weird anti-American agenda and secondly it’s exactly the same in the UK. It’s generally been – or historically it has been and there’s still a big hangover in today’s world – seen as vulgar to discuss money in polite society. I work in a ‘we can pay people peanuts because they’ll be queuing up to do the job for the PASSION’ industry and there are definitely moves being made to start conversations about salary and to start trying to get companies to list the salary on job adverts, etc, because as Alison said not discussing salary only helps employers and harms employees.

        1. UKDancer*

          Yes. I think it’s more we don’t talk about money socially in the UK. It’s considered impolite to ask your friends and family how much they earn. I’d also say it’s slightly considered impolite / vulgar to make ostentatious show of wealth through status symbols. There’s a reason that old money stereotypically tends to drive beat up cars and wear old tweeds (Lady Sybil Ramkin is a good example of this in a fictional setting) whereas new money tends to drive the latest status symbol vehicles and buy designer clothing.

          That said I think it’s different in a professional setting. I’m a lot more comfortable discussing salaries and pensions with my colleagues than I am with my family because I’m in a professional setting and it’s relevant to work to know what a parallel company might pay if I were looking for a career move.

          1. BubbleTea*

            I think including pay in the advert is more common in the UK, at least in public sector or charity sector jobs.

            I’m weird, I talk about money socially and will happily show friends my budget – I’m a bit of an evangelist for the benefits of budgeting though, so that’s the context. I do try to be sensitive to other people’s potential circumstances, but as a single parent working for a charity I’m not outearning most of my friends.

            1. Eldritch Office Worker*

              It’s becoming more common in the US! Some states are starting to pass laws legally requiring it (either in the ad or upon request)

      2. MK*

        I don’t think it’s specifically a US thing, many cultures have the “it’s tacky to talk about money” rule. In my country people talk about money more freely, it’s OK to ask what people make or how much they paid for things (as long as you are not obnoxious about it and back off immediately if the other person seems reticent), but there are subgroups and situations where it wouldn’t be appropriate.

        1. T*

          “Do you mind if I ask how much the new job pays?” Or how much more than the last or how much you paid for your house or car or… if I’m going to ask someone about $$ I ask if they mind my asking so they have the option to say no or be vague and not feel put on the spot.

          1. MK*

            Yes, prefacing it with a “would you mind?” is the norm here. Also offering a reason for asking, e.g. “I am thinking of buying a house, do you mind telling me how yours cost?”. If the other person doesn’t want to say, they usually say something vague about the housing market and we move on to another topic.

      3. PT*

        Well this is the reason people don’t want to talk about money. Because once the status-oriented folk know you have it, then they can start setting external expectations on how you spend it.

        “Why do you drive THAT car? If I had YOUR money I’d have a nicer car.”
        “Oh let’s go to Wildly Expensive Restaurant YOU can afford it!” (even if you don’t want to, because you’d rather spend that sort of money on things you can keep, like say, home improvements or retirement savings.)
        “Why do I have to pay you back for the AirBnB we shared, YOU can afford it.”

        1. Cat Tree*

          Yes, this is exactly what I have experienced. I felt pressured to share my salary with a group of people after they all shared theirs and I made the most in the group by a wide margin. After that one guy was super weird about it and made a lot of comments. When I spent a few extra dollars in a way he didn’t approve of, he would “jokingly” say “this is why you can’t afford XYZ”. But XYZ were always things I never said I wanted anyway, and certainly $3-5 I spent on convenience wouldn’t cover the cost anyway (such as a fancier car than the one I had).

    3. Sutemi*

      I think there is a difference between asking someone else their salary and offering your own. If you want to have conversations about pay equity the place to start isn’t by asking others to share info! Ask if they feel comfortable exchanging info.

      My friend group doesn’t include many (any?) people with comparable jobs/industries. Sharing with friends and family doesn’t help my pay equity conversations the way that it does with colleagues.

      I don’t let family know what I earn and I’m going to keep it that way. Too many emotional strings, they live far away and do widely different jobs.

      1. JB (not in Houston)*

        “I think there is a difference between asking someone else their salary and offering your own. If you want to have conversations about pay equity the place to start isn’t by asking others to share info! Ask if they feel comfortable exchanging info.”

        That’s an excellent point.

      2. Firm Believer*

        Thank you for this comment. I find it to be wildly inappropriate to ask someone what they are making despite this weird pressure that you should share. It’s perfectly ok to not want to share that information and it’s weird to ask someone that question. In the context of discussing it with consenting colleagues and friends that’s fine and has a legitimate benefit but that doesn’t mean you should go asking everyone and expecting an answer. Share all you want but I would not want anyone asking me how much I make and putting me on the spot.

    4. Roscoe*

      I think the difference with your situation is you are all HR people. That, to me, makes sense to discuss openly.

      If one of you was HR, one was finance, one was an engineer, etc, I’m not sure that it really makes as much sense. I mean, if you want to, by all means do so. But you knowing what an engineer makes doesn’t really do much for your ability to negotiate

      1. Willis*

        Right…I feel like at that point I could just google salary info for whatever field I may be interested in, rather than asking my friends in wildly different fields what they make.

    5. Momma Bear*

      One of the upsides to government roles is that pay grades and steps are publicly available and people in the industry know what “GS-15 step 5” means. In LW’s case, the people involved were not bothered by the discussion so LW’s mom needs to simmer down. I hear often that women don’t know their worth and lowball themselves in salary negotiations so yes, it matters and should be normalized.

    6. Meep*

      I am the extreme case. I have been with my company as a FT employee for 3.5 years (4.5 years total). Any time I mentioned asking for a raise, my mentor/manager would guilt me and make me feel bad for even implying it. “We are a small company that is barely getting by. I am not being paid what I am worth either.” Things like that.

      A year ago, I finally got my first raise and this woman had the audacity to gloat about how much she advocated for me and how our boss/the owner wanted to give me less. She even went around telling other coworkers that she didn’t feel I was grateful enough. It was a 6% raise after 2.5 years – which was a raise but still a slap in the face when you are being psychologically abused day in and day out and you are basically now only given COLA. It feels more like she stabbed me in the back and offered me a bandaid as compensation, all the while expecting me to fall gratefully at her feet, you know?

      Because a coworker who has worked here for 2 years informed me she had gotten a 12% raise several months back, I was able to realize that 1) my manager did not have my best interests at heart as she claimed – she was using the other 6% that was supposed to go towards me and putting it in her own salary – and 2) I needed to advocate for myself because there was clearly money in the budget.

      So back in July, I set the owner down and said I would like at least a 10% raise and 50% more PTO. It was granted without much fanfare (though she tried and is now seething over it) and I feel a heck of a lot more appreciated.

    7. Web of Pies*

      Talk about it! I have a friend in the same industry but a different role, we’ve got super similar levels of experience and expertise and I found out she makes TWICE what I do, talking about money with her has helped me raise my rates several times, and now I’m at the double rate she was when we first started talking about it (of course she’s now 50% higher than she was back then, haha). Even if it’s not a 1:1 comparison, knowing there’s more money possible can help you get brave enough to keep asking for more.

    8. Mitsuko*

      I don’t see any value in people discussing pay if they are in different industries. It is absolutely considered tacky in pretty much every cultural context I’ve been in (I’ve lived / worked in three continents). I left academia for industry, and if I mentioned how much I make to my colleagues still in academia ( unless I was specifically asked), I would definitely come across as bragging. Same with family, especially with siblings – it could only ever come across as trying to make them feel bad (partly because I live in a ridiculously high cost of living area, I quite likely make more than most of my friends or family, but people wouldn’t always take that into account). I agree it’s completely different in a professional setting in the same company, but in a social context, I’m surprised there are so many people who don’t think that’s offensive. (Oh and I’m a millennial).

      1. Frankie*

        I 100% agree. In the social context, the only people I know who spoke openly and solicited information about exact figures are those who make a lot of money. People who genuinely wanted to talk about their jobs or were interested in other fields asked for and gave wide ranges, in conjunction with common pros and cons.

  3. Hanani*

    OP1, 2-page single-spaced cover letters are the norm for faculty jobs in academia (at least in the humanities), and 1-1.5-page single-spaced cover letters are the norm for at the academic affairs staff jobs I’ve seen. I can’t speak for other disciplines or student affairs staff jobs, etc. A double-spaced cover letter would throw me, as would 4 pages. It’s perhaps one of the first times in academia that I’ve said a written document is too long!

    1. Hanani*

      And I see narafex’s comment about using double-spaced cover letters, which just goes to show how varied some of this can be! But not four pages.

      1. narafex*

        Ha, no, it was a typo on my part! I completely agree–single-spaced is the standard for academic cover letters.

    2. datamuse*

      Also in academia (faculty librarian, U.S.) and it’s about the same for us. Four pages would be a *lot* of information for an initial applicant screen. I don’t think I’ve seen one longer than two, ever.

    3. dr dv*

      Yeah, it’s the double spacing that seems odd to me. A 2-page single-spaced cover letter (rather than 4 pages double spaced) would seem totally normal in academia. But if it’s not quite academia (adjacent) then that may be very different.

    4. Time for a slightly different username*

      In my strange little corner of higher ed (IRP, North America), I’ve seldom seen cover letters longer than 1.5 pages single-spaced for staff positions, even at the director level. The few times I have seen an application with a longer cover letter, it’s typically come from an alt-ac candidate who hasn’t familiarized themselves with university norms beyond faculty spaces (which is a bit concerning, but yeah).

    5. Camelid coordinator*

      I agree. I’ve hired for two faculty-adjacent jobs in higher ed in the past few years and most cover letters were 1-2 pages, single spaced. Anything longer and I’d wonder about the candidate’s ability to communicate concisely, which is a key skill in a higher ed staff job. I’d have similar reservations about a 10 page resume. A long cv raised the additional question of whether they understood it was not a faculty position.

      1. BethDH*

        Yes, this. We just declared a job search round a failure because our top candidates on skills had trouble recognizing the way the role was different than faculty (not in day-to-day ways, but in things like spheres of influence and promotion structure). We almost weeded them out for that based on cover letters and CVs that were faculty norm but not appropriate on the staff side, decided to give them a chance thinking that changing those norms you learned in grad school can be hard, but we were right.

        1. Artemesia*

          There are people who take academic adjacent jobs and then are butt hurt forever not to have faculty status and perks — I have dealt with the staffer who doesn’t understand why they don’t have access to research seed money or conference travel money. So good to weed that out. Sometimes they have this fantasy that they can slide sideways into a faculty role by doing good work as a staffer.

      2. Hanani*

        Your comment about the length of resumes reminds me that I’ve seen a some alt-ac job posts in the US recently that ask for a “resume or CV” – those are totally different documents doing completely different things! I don’t know if the committee thinks they’re being inclusive or what.

        1. AdequateAdmin*

          I see this sometimes in my field too ) archaeology). I always feel like they’re fishing for CV, but don’t want to say so.

          1. Hanani*

            Oh interesting, any idea why? I wish academia would go the resume route, a highlight reel is so much more useful than a list of every conference presentation you’ve given since 2011. But then, I’d also like academia to just ask for a CV and cover letter to start. The whole packet of letters and statements and philosophies can wait for the long list, surely.

      3. Julia*

        Four pages double spaced is the same as two pages single spaced, so I don’t see why you’d be worrying about the candidate’s ability to communicate concisely with the former but not the latter.

  4. lyonite*

    I have a version of #5, only it wasn’t just me who was laid off, but pretty much everyone, and then the company was sold to another company, and the building has been rented out. I’m thinking I might as well wipe the hard drive and take it to the electronics recycling place at this point.

    1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

      That’s what I ended up having to do with an old work computer, after I left the company.

      1. Anon for this*

        OP #1, I feel for you! I hope things ease up for you. To all: I have a related question. Any suggestions for handling a similar situation with students missing class for a series of vague “emergencies” that they later describe (without my asking) as things that don’t seem to be urgent: comforting a friend who is bereaved (they could do this at other times besides my class); taking a makeup exam in another class (if I find a student has another class during a makeup, I reschedule). Because I’ve been understanding and accommodating, it seems to me lately that students are scheduling things during my class because they know I’ll be the professor who understands—this week alone, three students scheduled a makeup exam for another class and two job interviews during my class. Any suggestions on setting boundaries in this situation? Each of the students in question already blew past the two weeks of absences allowed in the syllabus, for non-emergency reasons; it’s a participation-heavy class, so their presence matters. I think they’re using the “family/friend emergency” phrase now to try to get extra excused absences. How to be compassionate while being fair to the other students who haven’t missed any classes?what do y’all think?

        1. Mid*

          I would keep being compassionate and giving people grace and time as long as it doesn’t create more work for you. Maybe they can’t actually schedule things during other times. When I was a student, I also worked A LOT, and my schedule was so tightly packed that if I needed to take a makeup test it would likely have to be during another class.

    2. Oodles of Noodles*

      I have an old work computer that I tried to return multiple times, but the “return period” is so narrow that I was never able to bring it back during the 3 hours a week they were accepting computers (seriously, I walked into the IT room, the guy had dozens of computers laid out, and told me he couldn’t take it and only 1 specific person could do it during 3 designated hours each week, which is tough to do when you’re working full time M-F on the opposite side of the city).

      After 2 years, I still have it, sitting in a corner gathering dust, in case anybody asks for it.

      1. Ssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

        That’s nuts! One person and only in a 3-hour window? That’s so bureaucratic.

        At that point, why not pay for a courier to pick it up? The company that is, not you, Oodles.

        After 2 years, it’s a write off, I dare say.

        1. ThatGirl*

          Yeah, that was how I returned my computer to the job that laid me off last year. Even though I *also* went in to the office briefly to pack things up.

        2. Berkeleyfarm*

          That is exactly how we do it with our “remote” employees that can’t come into a branch (or don’t want to).

          (Once it gets at the branch, we have a courier service to get it to HQ.)

      2. Observer*

        At this point I would send an email cc’ing any person who could conceivably have anything to do with this saying something like:

        “I have this computer since ~~Insert date~~. I tried to return the equipment on ~~insert date~~ and ~~person~~ could not accept the return. I have made multiple good faith attempts to arrange the return, but Company has placed a number of restrictions on returning the equipment that place an unreasonable burden on me. If Company does not either provide me a prepaid shipping label or otherwise arrange a pickup at a time convenient to me by ~~date 2 weeks from today~~ I will wipe the hard drive and dispose of the computer with ~~nearest recycler~~.”

    3. Nusuth*

      My roommate has a work computer from a previous job that she hasn’t been asked to return for almost a year now – a brand new, 16-inch MacBook Pro. The job was horrendous, way underpaid with insane hours and wild bosses (I remember her taking this computer TO THE BEACH to work more than once). Is it strictly ethical not to have reminded her old boss that she still has it? No. Do I fully support her taking advantage of their disorganization? Absolutely.

    4. LaLa762*

      When I was laid off from my first telecom job, roughly 100 years ago, and HR did not know to ask for my at home desk top set up – again, 100 years ago – I KNOWINGLY kept it.
      I needed that machine to look for and apply to jobs ONLINE. I certainly didn’t have the money to buy a new set up. (Seriously, this was 100 years ago. I had a dial-up modem.)
      And I didn’t feel bad about it at all. They laid me off and didn’t keep track of their assets, and I needed to find another job.
      OF COURSE if they’d remembered, I’d have given it back in a minute, but they never did.
      I eventually recycled it in…2006?

      1. Ssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

        Eons ago I read a blog where it said that if you lay off people to consider offering them the PC they’ve been using for personal use. I’m not quite sure what logic was – a parting gift, to enable job searching? I can’t think of any company that does that.

        Two jobs ago, though, if you had a work-issued cell phone and had been using it so long that the number was associated with your name and the warranty was expired, etc. they were letting retirees leave with the cell phone,

        I kept my work-issued camera when I was laid off a while back. I know they tracked the PCs but the camera? There was no tracking of that tiny piece.

  5. New Mom*

    I was actually thinking about this the other day for resumes, what should you do if you have a whole bunch of publications and/or expert guest podcast stints? Listing them all would take up a lot of space but it can be helpful to have in a resume.

    1. wbw*

      Not exactly the same scenario, but similar conundrum. I work in television production and you accrue a long list of credits/projects you’ve worked on as you get further and further in your career. I keep a full credits list (two pages single-spaced currently) mostly for my own memory and also just in case it’s needed in an interview process. On my resume (one page) I either list highlights tailored to the job I’m applying for or focus more on job accomplishments like a traditional resume would have vs. listing things I’ve worked on. (Note: Very common in TV for a ton of positions for a resume just to be a list of projects you’ve worked on.)

      1. Mimi*

        Would it be normal for you to have a website? I feel like a website page where you list all of your credits, and then highlights in the resume and a link, might be a sweet spot, but obviously you know your own industry better.

        1. wbw*

          Depends on the role for if that makes sense – my purview is more like a… office job, project management kind of thing, so a website isn’t unheard of but not an expected thing or the norm for folks in my part of the industry! But yeah, agree this is a great alternative deployment of the “if you really wanna know everything I’ve worked on, here’s a long list” problem.

    2. GammaGirl1908*

      I’d keep a full list, but when I tailor my resume, I’d add just a few highlights:

      Podcast highlights include:
      *Guest on X, Y, and Z. Expert contributor to A and B. Regular segment host on G and H.

      Selected publications:
      *Article XX
      *Article UU
      *Chapter YY

      I do that a lot anyway — I have what I call a “master resume,” but when I’m applying for a job, I include the relevant parts of what’s on the master resume.

      1. BethDH*

        I do the same, though I also give a general number: “guest lectured in x classes / year, including classes on a, b, and c.”

      2. Sara without an H*

        I’ve used this strategy for academic-adjacent jobs. (Academic jobs generally want everything — and I mean, everything–in the CV.) I picked out 2-3 examples on topics I thought would be most relevant to the job I was applying for and listed them as “Selected Presentations.”

    3. Storm in a teacup*

      I mention a couple of key abstracts on my resume and have ‘publications list available on request’
      then have a full list ready to supply written out separately if needed.

    4. Lab Boss*

      As one of my bulleted accomplishments under each position on my resume, I put “authorship credits: #” with however many times I got published (and have a matter list if it ever becomes relevant exactly what papers I got author credit for). In my current position I have a modestly prestigious first author credit that I give its own bullet point, followed by “additional authorship credits” on the next one

    5. Long time reader*

      Pit them on your LinkedIn page. Mention 1 or 2 on the resume and say here’s a link for the full list. If it’s an impressive number say that on the resume too.

    6. Artemesia*

      that’s why CVs can be 50 pages long — they list all the credits.

      wouldn’t it make sense to have a resume that mentioned publications and then provided a link to a full list. You could indicate X# books including YOURBESTBOOK, 81 journal articles, 12 podcsts – and then provide a link for the complete list.

    7. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      A few folks I know have the “extended resume/CV” on their LinkedIn or personal website. They have their publication/presentation section labled “Selected Publications/Presentations”, list the most “WOW” for that job and then at the end add a hyperlink with the notation “Full publication/presentation list can be viewed here”

    8. Nanani*

      If you’re in a field where publications matter, then longer resumes and/or using CVs instead is probably normal?
      If not, or if you’re switching fields or something like that, maybe just put in a few of the more relevant ones and mention others as they come up in the interview.

    9. marvin the paranoid android*

      Often the kinds of jobs that want to see publication credits will ask for a CV for that reason. But what I’ve sometimes done when it was more of a resume job is created an appendix with a separate list of things like publications. I’d put the highlights in the resume itself.

    10. TootsNYC*

      This is where I might have a short version for the “marketing resume,” and a longer, detailed one online (sort of like the “curriculum vitae” in academia).

      I think you can summarize for the one you send to other people, and then have a full list elsewhere that they can see.

  6. Xenia*

    #1 OP, a manager of sorts of mine has just had the worst string of family emergencies in a really similar vein. All I felt was sympathy and wanting to know what I could do to help, not thinking they were a flake. It sounds like you’re doing everything right (looping in supervisor, doing your job to the best of your ability, etc).

    My sympathies to you as well and I hope that you’re able to take the time to recover a little for yourself. A big string of trouble like this is completely exhausting.

    1. allathian*

      Yeah, I agree. I really hope that things improve for you soon, OP1! You’re long overdue for a drama-free period in your life.

      1. Anonym*

        Yes! And remember, OP, this period will pass. It is terrible (and I am so sorry you’re going through it) but as far as your work goes, it will return to normal after a while, and people won’t particularly remember that one period that OP was less available for a bit. Please don’t worry yourself with it.

    2. WoodswomanWrites*

      Same, my manager a few years back had an awful series of family emergencies. Everyone in our office felt only sympathy and wanted to help in whatever way we could. I send my best to you during such a difficult time!

    3. Not So NewReader*

      OP, people discredit themselves when they do this all. the. time. And the stories they share are also adding to the lack of their credibility ( 3 days off for a hang nail, really??!!).

      Your setting is the total opposite. Clearly you are a conscientious worker because you think of things like this.
      I feel safe in assuming you have built up a good rep with those around you. I can tell you first hand that their thoughts are, “OMG. It must be bad because OP would be here otherwise. OP is always here. hmmm. I will keep my ears open and see if there is a way I can help OP, even if it’s in a small way.”

      As an aside and from someone who knows, please find ways to take extra care of you. I went through a few years where I had a number of significant losses and upsets including losing my husband and my dog. Like you say here, I did not tell too many people what was going on because it all seemed so surreal. I concluded that the MOST important person who needed to know I was in trouble was ME. I needed to realize that this was an extraordinary setting and I needed to get some extra help for myself. (I am vulnerable to telling myself, “oh just push through it.” Don’t do this. Take care of you.) Taking care can mean anything that you think is meaningful to you. Among the things I chose were taking short walks daily and going for massage therapy. Now is the time to invest in you.

      I wish you the best, OP. And I hope pleasant things start coming into your life very soon.

    4. Guacamole Bob*

      To add to this, OP1, how you talk about these things will affect how the situation is perceived. You sound like a very reasonable person from your letter, and I’m guessing that comes across in how you talk about it at work.

      Think about the people you’ve known in your life who might be accused of “drama”. They wouldn’t send a note to a colleague mentioning a family emergency as a reason to re-set a deadline, and then when the crisis is over being responsible about communicating future deadlines, appreciating anyone who stepped in to cover, and making a plan to get caught up. They’d be missing deadlines and then getting defensive about it on account of the emergency, or way over-sharing, or casually mentioning grim and gory details in a way that makes them sound made up (even if they aren’t), sharing info that calls the person’s judgment about the situation into question, or dumping their emotions all over the office (and I don’t mean tearing up a little or seeming sad or sometimes needing a minute to pull yourself together). And they wouldn’t have lots of things start coming up suddenly after being a low-drama person for the first X months or years of the professional relationship.

      Not everyone judges every situation perfectly, but generally people can tell when someone’s going through a rough time versus being a dramatic flake. If you’ve been a reasonable employee and colleague to this point, chances are excellent that you’re doing just fine handling this at work.

      I hope things get easier soon.

      1. Guacamole Bob*

        To follow up: this is what reputation and political capital are all about.

        I recently had a family medical emergency and I handled it fine with my colleagues but like a flake with my manager – I sent him several different assessments of my availability in rapid succession over a few days and kept having to adjust in ways that contradicted what I’d already told him. I was trying to keep him informed, but really I was all over the place. In retrospect I should have just taken more days completely off instead of the partial work from home situation I muddled through.

        But, I’ve worked with this manager for several years, and I’m not usually like this. He had enough detail to understand why this situation was a little unpredictable, and when it was over I went back to being reliable, and so it didn’t really impact his view of me or our working relationship.

        1. WomEngineer*

          That’s good that you had built a rapport with your supervisor. I had a family illness/death during my senior design project, and looking back I wish I’d communicated better with the advisor. It feels hard to do when you’re new to a group, but I feel like it would’ve made a difference.

    5. Retired Prof*

      Just wanted to add that when you are living inside a catastrophe, it can become easier to catastrophize everything, including what other people think of you. My experience is that co-workers can be amazingly empathetic about your crisis. When I was frantically emailing from the ER to find someone to proctor an exam for my class the next day, it was the most self-centered ass in the department who instantly stepped up. If there are people in your professional sphere who think a family emergency is not a good reason for a delayed deadline – and I don’t think there are – what they think is unimportant.

      And gentle hugs to you, OP. I have colleagues who have lost multiple family members to the plague (on top of the more normal tragedies of life) so there are unfortunately lots of folks out there with complex family tragedies right now – you aren’t alone. Another reason not to worry about what people will think.

      1. OP 1*

        Thank you all so much. I’m in academia so that example about exam proctoring really resonated. We also tend to attract more generally flakey people and jokes about ‘the dead grandmother excuse’ than most, I think, so when I have an *actual* dead grandmother, etc etc… I start to feel a bit like a cliche.

        I’m hanging in, and only teared up once at the office this week (luckily when no-one else was around), so I guess that’s not bad. Thank you again for being so kind.

        1. Retired Prof*

          You can also think about when it’s a good idea to share some of what you are going through. During the year my mother was dying, I lived with her a third of the time, trading off with siblings. I had a long commute, not enough sleep, and was emotionally exhausted. My colleagues knew the situation and managed some administrative duties for me, and my students heard about it because we are a small, close-knit department, and were very forgiving when I could not meet my usual standards. Clearly it’s up to you what you want to share, but it’s an option.

          Maybe this will be useful: I used our EAP counselor once when things got really tough at a different crisis point in our family. When I described what was happening, and said I just couldn’t handle it all, the counselor asked, “Why do you think you should be able to handle it? This is a LOT – you are entitled to fall apart.” That one visit helped immeasurably in getting through things.

          I’m thinking of you and wishing better days for you.

  7. Risha*

    LW1 , I’m reminded of when my dog, my grandmother, and my mother all died unexpectedly within a three week span. (By the way, f-you, June of 2018.) No one ever questioned my low output that month or the large amount PTO I took, because sometimes in real life things just happen and generally speaking people understand that.

    I’m sorry for whatever has happened to your family.

    1. EvilQueenRegina*

      I’ve had one of those time periods myself when my aunt and grandfather were both seriously ill at the same time (f you winter of 2012, aka Winter of Discontent) – my manager and coworkers were aware of the situation and everyone understood.

      And even if there’s no “gossip network” in place, your supervisor is aware and can maybe liaise with these external people if it’s ever needed?

    2. SlimeKnight*

      I just wanted to add that this has been the worst year of my life (not an exaggeration). I have felt like I am barely keeping my head above water at work and I’m letting everyone down. But my work has actually been (almost) 100% supportive and understanding. The negative feelings are coming from myself.

      1. Marco Diaz's Red Hoodie*

        Big same. Ghost hugs to you, SlimeKnight, and to everyone else having the worst year / 2 years of their lives T___T

    3. roisin54*

      My dad and my uncle died within three months of each other, and I got cut a lot of slack for missing work and the occasional public tears shed and mini-meltdowns. My then-boss also skipped my annual evaluation, which should have taken place in the midst of all this (I work in a unionized public library and evaluations aren’t tied to raises, so it’s not a huge deal of we miss them.)

      My brother’s dog and my aunt’s brother-in-law also died that year, with all of this happening in the span of six months. Thanksgiving and Christmas were really somber affairs. (F-you 2019.)

    4. anonymous73*

      Exactly. I lost my mom in 2009 after being at my job for only 6 months, then lost my grandmother 6 months after that. My boss and team were very supportive in both cases, and 3 of them even showed up at the viewing for my mom.

    5. My boss rocks*

      Exactly that, when I was a child we had a period in which 7 family members died in about 11 months (some were from my mom’s side of the family and other from my dad’s) and remember my dad had the same worry that OP has because he missed a lot of work, he even had to “travel” with his uncle so he could de buried in his home town, and his supervisor assured him that after 6 years in the company and record of being an amazing employee and human being he could relax and know that the only thing worrying the team was that we were doing ok as a family after all the loss.

    6. OP 1*

      Thank you very much (and everyone here). The reassurance has made a huge difference. I’ve gotten very inside-my-own-head the last few weeks and needed the reality check.

      We’ll get through, but it’ll take time.

  8. GSI*

    Four pages is long for academia, but not impossibly long. Some academic jobs ask that your cover letter include things like teaching philosophy or grant application and research plans, etc. Those end up being a few pages and are expected to be. CVs that are one pagers that neglect requested topics to save space are rejected. I’d say two pages is normal/average for academia, with three being a bit long. That said, the best cover letter I’ve seen for an Associate Professor position was four pages long and was spectacular. The writer took us on an amazing journey that let us see her philosophy of research and teaching in a beautiful, unique way. She totally got the job. In some places (e.g. The UK), there’s no screening interview, or three interview rounds, etc in academia. The top 3 max 5 candidates out of a pool of up to 100 or more will be interviewed. The cover letter is often the only place where an applicant can connect the cold facts of a body of work on the (super long) CV, to a wider philosophy, the job at hand, and plans for the future. Remember a large percentage of an academic’s time, 40% or more, is open ended “research” which the academic sets themselves…you have to tell what your research plans are because they aren’t governed by the job itself.

    The issue is that the op said “academia adjacent”, not academia. Most academia adjacent jobs don’t function like academia both CV-wise and cover-letter-wise. You don’t need to go into research agenda if you aren’t setting self-directing your own research. I’d slightly worry that your PhD’d friend is Stockholm syndromed by their time in academia and don’t fulky realize/accept things are done differently beyond. If they could informally talk with some people in the field they want to enter into about this, they could get some perspective on how academia-like the process is.

    1. dr dv*

      Agreed. In my field 2-3 pages single-spaced is pretty standard. And the LW said that their friend’s cover letter was double-spaced, so it may be a perfectly acceptable length if she were applying for an academic position (but it *would* be weird to double space). She definitely needs to adapt the letter, though, to fit the industry she is applying in.

    2. green beans*

      Even then, those long cover letters would only be for professor positions – you wouldn’t expect a 4-page cover letter for a postdoc, a sr research fellow, etc.. etc…

      I honestly don’t really think of them as cover letters if it’s just part of the application packet for a professorship. It’s just the place where you address teaching philosophy, DEI work, research program, potential collaborations, etc.. as specifically requested in the application.

    3. Academic Chick*

      The full academic package for senior jobs might be longer, but those are research and teaching statements. They are not part of the cover letter proper. Their existence are even more reason to keep the cover letter itself short and sweet.

      1. Weegie*

        Precisely. I’ve had to complete statements that are between 2 and 4 pages long addressing how my experience fits the job description and/or ‘person specification’. The cover letter, if one is required (all the HE jobs I’ve applied for use a portal and occasionally a cover letter is not requested), is the usual one page and is essentially an abstract of that longer statement. As LW’s friend is looking for academic-adjacent work, it’s best to seek advice on the application norms in that field.

      2. peasblossom*

        Maybe for some fields, but in others it would be very unusual (and almost certainly an impediment) to have a short letter even for a junior position. I just don’t think we have enough information to be able to say that the OP’s friend is out of step here. She may be! but she also might be writing something appropriate to the position.

  9. Little Binger*

    #5 – most places will either still want it back or otherwise instruct you on how to deal with the data. Depending on the type of industry you worked in and type of data you potentially had on it, there will be people that will very much like to ensure the data is not floating around outside the company.

    1. Anonym*

      A great point. OP, I hope this perspective makes it easier to overcome the worry about the department looking like it dropped the ball. If the dropped ball involves some sort of data policy violation it would be much worse for them! Allison’s advice is actually the best thing to do *for* them.

    2. Smithy*

      You are absolutely doing this as a favor to your employer from the data management side of it more so than the value of the computer.

      Depending on the age of the computer and the nature of the work, it may even be the kind of thing where the employer is happy to do a remote wipe and then let you keep the computer. At one nonprofit I worked at, computers past a certain age would get wiped of any potential data and then given to staff who wanted a 4 year old Lenovo Thinkpad. So I think that for many jobs the computer itself is the red herring, but a company will care about not managing its data. And this is something that in 6-12 months could come up and hurt your boss/boss’s boss so there does remain value in doing something about this now.

  10. Pikachu*

    I talk about salaries with people in my field, but for those who aren’t, I don’t see the value. I have friends that are far wealthier than I am, and some are less so, and none of our jobs are comparable. Marketing vs. dentist vs. bookstore manager vs. stylist… what is there to talk about?

    1. Loulou*

      This is an interesting distinction that makes a lot of sense to me! Knowing my ofers’ salaries actually serves a purpose, but when it comes to friends in vastly different fields, that’s just curiosity.

      With that said, I do know how much a lot of my friends in different fields make, but it’s because they volunteered the information themselves, which I’ve also done. In an ideal world it would be fine to ask, but in real life, I would never ask someone “how much do you make” without many “do you mind if I ask…” caveats. I’m not surprised OP’s sister found it rude because many people, many places do consider that question rude.

      1. Frankie*

        Agreed. It really depends on the context. My siblings and I all work in the public sector so our salaries are known to one another, but I don’t know how much even my closest friends make. I know that they made 50% more when they changed jobs or 100% more when they moved to a different field, but hard numbers, no. I don’t see the point of volunteering or asking for that data when we already know which fields are lucrative and which are underpaid.

    2. Loves libraries*

      Yeah definitely! And it can introduce an element of jealousy/resentment into otherwise peaceable friendships. If someone is earning double what their friend does, should they offer to pay every time they go out together? How much is a reasonable wedding/birthday/baby shower gift in this case? Etc

      1. Eden*

        It can cause issues for some people, I’m sure, but can work out well. Frankly I’d be happy to always pick up the tab with certain friends, though I know they wouldn’t appreciate it – having some figures out there on both ends helps us all calibrate how often to offer and how often to accept.

        1. Lab Boss*

          Agreed on this, it’s amazing what a little communication between friends can do. I’ve got one friend in particular who ALWAYS tries to pick up the check. I used to feel awkward about it until finding out that his annual bonus is higher than my annual salary- and, in the same conversation, him saying “I work a lot, I don’t have a family, why am I making this money if it’s not so I can do fun things with my friends?” And now I don’t feel nearly so awkward.

          1. Cat Tree*

            In one case, my offering to chip in extra for group food increased resentment because one guy thought I was showing off. He also suddenly felt entitled to judge my spending when he found out I made so much more than everyone else. BUT this guy was a tool in general and this was only one of many problems with him.

            1. Environmental Compliance*

              Yep. I have one friend that it’s a very peaceful back and forth, and one friend who likes to splash it around but also complain ad nauseum that they can’t afford anything, *of course* EC and Hubs bought a house first, *of course* EC can do XYZ, etc. That friend has the highest salary out of all of us by a not insignificant amount.

              You just have to know your audience and know when to dial the details back down, if necessary. Friend A and I (plus our respective spouses) are very open with details. Friend A and I will both avoid talking about salary (or, tbh, work in general) with Friend B, because it will inevitably end up with complaining/condescension from B.

              (And yes, I am migrating B out of my life, as this is their general stance on life in general.)

            2. Lab Boss*

              Oh jeez, that’s no good. The worst it’s got for us is me having to have a few conversations entitled “you make way more than me, but if I say I’ve got this bar tab you need to let me pick it up and not take my card out of the folder when I leave for the bathroom.” But even then they pretty clearly meant well and weren’t trying to make it weird.

            3. dresscode*

              My friend group includes a lot of folks who work in tech and one who works in manufacturing. The one who works in manufacturing has a good job and makes pretty good pay but he CAN NOT get over the fact that even though he has a MBA, my husband (who doesn’t have a college degree) makes more than him. That’s the nature of tech! My husband is also a veteran so his journey looks a lot different than other peoples.

              A few weeks ago that friend got drunk and was trying to take down my husband by saying that he guarantees that he has more in his 401k. We didn’t tell him but… he doesn’t.

              What ever makes you feel good about yourself, dude.

            4. Elsajeni*

              I think this is a key point — sure, some people get super weird or suddenly become tools when you talk about money, but that’s an issue with that person, not an issue with talking about money. You know, I hang out with some people who get VERY annoying about board game rules, so I don’t play board games with them much — but the problem isn’t “playing board games ruins friendships,” it’s “Fergus just can’t be chill about board games.”

      2. Joielle*

        Ha, yeah. Right after law school, my spouse and I both got lucky and landed pretty good jobs within 6 months, while many of our friends were still working as temps or trying to hang up their own shingle and really struggling. When my spouse got his first job as a lawyer, a friend pestered him into sharing his salary and then was mad about it because the friend had gotten better grades in law school but was making like half as much money. You can’t win!

        1. Joielle*

          My salary has always been public information since I work for the state, so if anyone really wants to know what I make, they can just look it up online. Never had any issues with that.

    3. Eliza*

      I feel like there’s value in knowing that kind of information in general, as a sort of snapshot of society and the economy; being able to put a face to what “a person who makes $X/year” looks like and how they live can be useful when forming your opinions on tax policy, means-testing of benefits, and so on. I’m generally happy to talk about what I make if it comes up in conversation; I’d only be more circumspect if I thought someone knowing what I make could lead them to try and hit me up for money.

      1. TiredEmployee*

        That sounds like you’re coming from a vantage of being reasonably well-off. It’s a very different feeling when you’re the one who earns a third of what the other person does. Especially if their assumption could be “they might try to hit me up for money”.

        Or going out to eat as a group and the highest earner suggesting to split the bill evenly, saying “it all works out over time” when they are a tall man with a large appetite and you are an average-height woman with a small one and it will only ever “work out” in his favour.

        1. Eliza*

          I guess I’d say that “reasonably well-off” is a relative term; I make less than the median income in my country, but I’ve had friends who were homeless and friends who made seven figures a year.

        2. bamcheeks*

          I dunno, there are obviously friendships which only work when particular topics are avoided by mutual consent, but I think salary should be in the same category as “me and Rachel don’t talk about [particular political topic] because it’s touchy for both of us but we get on otherwise” rather than a blanket “friends shouldn’t talk about this”. If you can’t talk frankly about money with any of your friends because it’s too touchy, that sounds like a “get friends you actually like and trust” problem.

          1. Despachito*

            Oh, I cannot disagree more on this point!

            Perhaps you did not mean it that way, but it looks to me as if “a friend” is only a person who caves to all my demands irrespective of how it may make feel them.

            Which I absolutely do not think is true! Being someone’s liked and trusted friend does NOT mean that “the friend must be OK with whatever I come with, otherwise they are not a friend.”

            I think friendship is – among other things – also about not wanting to force the other person to do what they do not want to do, and to be fully prepared to accept “no, I won’t talk about this”.

            I also think it is valid for all people, but even more so for friends who I consider one of the biggest assets one may get in life.

            1. ecnaseener*

              I don’t understand how you reached this interpretation. Bamcheeks said that you might have certain specific friends you never talk money with. You seem to be ignoring that completely? and acting like Bamcheeks said all your friends should “cave to your demands” to talk about money.

              1. Despachito*

                I read it again, and you are right, I partly misinterpreted it. It was perhaps more of “it can be a touchy subject with SOME of your friends, and it is OK, but if it is with ALL of them it is possibly more a “you” than “them” problem.

                But I still think that while the thing may indeed be “I” am reluctant about talking money in general, and therefore it IS a “me” thing, but I wouldn’t interpret it as meaning that I do not love or trust my friends enough; I am positive that I have every right NOT to want to talk about something without it being measured by love and trust.

                Like, I would never, ever, discuss my sex life with any of my friends, yet it is completely unrelated about how much I trust them or love them. It would feel deeply uncomfortable and that’s enough for me.

              2. Lizard the Second*

                I disagree, I think Despachito interpreted it absolutely fairly. When bamcheeks said ‘that sounds like a “get friends you actually like and trust” problem’, that feels like a slam against Despachito’s current friends, just because none of them want to discuss money.

                If my friends didn’t want to discuss money, or sex, or politics, that doesn’t mean I don’t like or trust them, ffs. I don’t need an audience for everything single topic under the sun.

                1. Bamcheeks*

                  I think a personal distaste for talking about it is a different thing to what I meant! I was really responding to the idea that if there’s a massive difference in income between friends the richer one will be thinking the poorer one will be trying to hit them up. Like, if I thought that about a friend or I thought a friend would think that about me, that would be a cue to reevaluate the friendship!

                2. Despachito*


                  I am wondering – did I say anything that made you think my rationale behind this is that I am afraid that friends would hit me up for money (or vice versa)?

                  Because this was never my concern. My friends never did anything similar, and it is unthinkable for me to ask it from them (apart from real emergencies, such as flood, but in that case we usually helped / offered help to the affected friend before they even had to ask)

                  My concern was a different one. I know that some friends have a much tighter budget than we do, and if I mentioned my pay I would feel like I am boasting. I do not know whether they would take it that way (likely not) but it would still feel very inappropriate for me to do. (Moreover, I hate when anything is too money-centered, and I’d rather avoid that in friendships)

                  And here we are talking about FAMILY, where the dynamics can be a lot different. You select your friends, but you don’t select your relatives, and I can see how in some families revealing your salary could lead to emotional blackmail you’d rather avoid.

                  Not saying this is the LW’s case, of course. Just that the reasons for being rather secretive may be various, and there would be no good to force the person to tell me or to side-eye them if they refuse to.

                3. Lizard the Second*

                  Oh, I see what happened – I assumed bamcheeks was replying to a comment by Despachito, but bamcheeks was replying to a comment by TiredEmployee.

            2. TechWorker*

              Yea, I disagree you need to be able to discuss everything with every friend, but it is also *nice* to have friends you can discuss things with and have things in common with. I think it would be not much fun if all of your friends earned significantly more, or if all of your friends earned significantly less. (With the obvious caveat that if you are rolling in it for some reason then that has different issues and most people won’t have a bunch of sympathy).

              I knew a guy who left my company (by most standards, well paid, certainly out of *my* university friends I am towards the top end, and we were at the same ‘prestigious’ university), because his friends were all working in more lucrative careers and he couldn’t keep up with their spending.

        3. Liz*

          I don’t know, I think that might depend very much on the friendship groups and the level of openness around other aspects of finance. I’m very much at the poor end (work part time due to disability, salary is £9k, able to get by with help from family) and most of my friends are better off. I still find these kinds of conversationns helpful because it helps me reframe my expectations.

          For years I saw anything over £25k as silly money, totally impossible for me to get to. In my 20s, I used to beat myself up because I saw some of my better of friends beginning to buy houses and I just didn’t get how it was possible. But by being transparent about money, I was able to make sense of the world rather than just feel angry at it. I saw that I actually KNEW people who made £25k, even £30k, and I saw that they were normal people. I saw that some people afforded their houses due to horrendously high mortgages. I found out that our close friends, whose household income is roughly 4x ours, have very little in savings as their combined mortgage and childcare costs are around £20k per annum. It has all helped me reframe what may be achievable for me in this world, where I may exercise autonomy, and how I can make choices that help me prioritise the things I want in life, and not compare myself to others with such a sense of despair.

          1. anon for this*

            This is a really wisdom-filled comment.

            I learned a lot from talking about money with an older group of women: women who’d been through divorces, alcoholism, alcoholic partners, long illnesses, etc. One woman who’d had the house and the boat and the parties and lost it all and now lived with a roommate in subsidized housing (she had had an alcoholic spouse who also had a terminal illness, and between alcoholism, illness, and divorce all the money went). I was talking with them while I was having my first child, and working in education, and realizing that on my salary I couldn’t pay for retirement, housing, and daycare — with my spouse’s salary, yes, but in part what came home to me is how easy it is for everything to change in an instant. To top it off, I was working side-by-side with some finance bros: I knew they were not smarter than me but damn they made so much more. So frankly I changed my whole career and mindset about money, because with a new person to support (a non-adult) I had new priorities. I am very grateful for the conversations with these older women and also grateful for the conversations with the finance bros, who were pretty decent guys. It opened up my eyes quite a bit.

        4. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          I have a similar viewpoint as Eliza. I’m in one of those socially valuable but underpaid roles and it really helps fire up my friends/family who earn more than me to look at what roles we value as a society as reflected by their pay vs. mine. There is something about knowing someone that makes it more real for people.

          1. Eliza*

            Also, for what it’s worth, when I made the “hit me up for money” comment, I was mostly thinking of a relative who’s a compulsive gambler. I find it easier to let him think I have no money as opposed to just not very much money.

    4. Anon100*

      It’s tricky, especially out of college, in my opinion. When I graduated college and started my first job, I had one set of friends (including me) working at very low salary govt /nonprofit jobs where starting salary was $25-35k/year. I had another set of friends who worked in tech/finance, where their yearly *bonus* was more than my year’s salary at the time. I talked salary with the first set of friends, but definitely not with the second set.

    5. Cat Tree*

      Yeah I have mixed feelings about this. I make significantly more than most of my friends. With the exception of one friend who is a lawyer, I always make the most in any group I’m in. When the topic comes up I always feel like I’m bragging, although it probably doesn’t come across that way and is largely due to my socialization as a woman (which is still a problem, but a different one). But I’ve had some bad experiences with people feeling resentful so I’m hesitant to share now. If someone is in a completely different industry, knowing my salary won’t help them advocate for their own salary anyway. I still think the whole topic should be less taboo but I think within-industry is a higher priority.

      1. BethDH*

        It’s also just hard to give a number about salary without also giving other numbers about my personal life that would make it relevant to friends. With people in my field, they want to know because it’s relevant to their career trajectory. With friends, for all the reasons people have been saying above like feeling guilty about someone getting the check, I’d also need to share things like my student debt level, my family planning, and my close family’s health for them to know what my relative wealth is like in the ways that affect them.

        1. Despachito*

          Yes, this is a bit the point I am coming from.

          When I mentioned my friends with a much tighter budget – their family owns a few houses (and a house is a pretty big asset, so someone could say they are in fact richer than us, and would be probably right), but as I know them well I also know how taxing for them is to maintain those houses (due to a specific family situation, they could not sell or rent any of them), and that, as a result, they have much less money to spend on the necessities of life, let alone fun.

          I was able to figure that without knowing the precise number, and I somehow think that if you avoid money talk altogether or limit it to really necessary situations, everyone would be much better off.

          (I absolutely understand why you feel the need to explain this background to those who don’t have it, but I think it shouldn’t even be necessary – good friends will figure out what I did without too much detail, and those who would think “she certainly is rolling in the money, so why not let her treat me” are not real friends.

          (For the record, where I am from, it is not usual to pay the tab for everybody – not that you cannot do it if you want to treat someone but the most common way is that everyone pays their own consumption. It creates a much less potential of being afraid to order an expensive dish I fancy because it would exceed the friend’s possibilities. And it means more tips for the waitstaff, too :-))

        2. Joielle*

          Yeah, agreed. We don’t usually talk exact salary numbers with friends but we do have a general sense of what everyone makes, and we make the most by a small margin. But we don’t have kids, we only have one car, we don’t have a lot of medical expenses or anything like that, and we make other decisions that save money… and we spend that money on things like travel, concert tickets, art, and a total money pit of a big historical house (and of course boring things like retirement savings, and STUDENT LOANS which are expensive). I’m sure people think we’re absolutely loaded because of the things we do choose to spend money on, but the bigger factor is that we don’t have a lot of the expenses that other people do.

      2. learnedthehardway*

        I completely understand. I make more than some of my client contacts, as an independent consultant. I don’t discuss compensation with them. They don’t need to know, and most people in perm roles really don’t appreciate the fact that while I might make double or even triple what they do in a good year, in a bad year, I would make significantly less. I also don’t have benefits, bonuses, perks, vacation pay, future growth opportunities, work/life balance or unemployment insurance that they do. I

        I’ve discussed fees with contacts who do what I do – it’s important to make sure that I’m not underselling myself, charging out of scope, or undercutting other people. But that’s very different than discussing income.

    6. AdequateAdmin*

      I don’t always mention my salary precisely, but a typical range for my field and position (archaeology). Archaeology tends to be underpaid in contrast with the education requirements. Ex. You can’t count on a solid permanent position without either a master’s degree or 5+ years experience with a bachelors. I do this as kind of a ” hey, I’m complaining about barely topping $50k with a master’s, not $100k” because people hear the “ology” portion an assume it’s a prestigious well paid field. Basically, I want people to understand that my field is often underpaid and we’re not just whiners.

  11. John Smith*

    #1. The only time I would mention more detail is if there was some push back or refusal. A few years ago I had a traumatic loss of my partner (suicide) and mother (car crash) the following day and I asked my employer for extended leave due to bereavement. When they said no, I explained the circumstances and was given the leave I asked for.

    So sorry for your loss. Time does heal so make sure you give yourself plenty of it. Best wishes, and btw, you are far from being a snowflake.

  12. learnedthehardway*

    OP#4 – There’s a difference between badmouthing / dishing dirt on an employer and explaining the factual circumstances of what led to the organization’s implosion, but it’s a very fine line and easy to cross. If you don’t feel very confident that you can stay on the correct side of the line, then your best bet is to keep things high level and stick to what the organization has explained to you. It’s not surprising that a lot of organizations suffered badly during COVID, particularly non-profits that were dependent on donations.

    I would always be wary of people who simply want details / gossip in an interview – either they’re nosy (and will spill the beans about what you said) or it’s a test of your discretion.

    1. Iron Chef Boyardee*

      it’s a test of your discretion

      That’s a good point, one the OP or anyone else in similar circumstances should keep in mind.

    2. Smithy*

      While I entirely agree with all of this, I also think that if the OP is comfortable there are ways of using very very discrete “sharing dirt” as a way of perhaps articulating what you want in your next position.

      That might be a board that’s more engaged or a senior leadership team that is more empowered to shift and adapt based on internal/external challenges. I don’t think that you need to add much more than the public statements, but sometimes by making it more personal about what is in the public statements that speaks most to you can feel more personal or “spilling tea”.

      Additionally, if you genuinely feel like the failures of your organization came from having a wildly disengaged board or a senior leadership team with no decision making power or whatever – then it can only help you avoid a similar spot. Even if the circumstances at your last job were more once-in-lifetime terrible.

    3. Shan*

      Yes – and even after you’ve been hired. My last company flamed out pretty spectacularly, and everyone in my fairly niche industry knew about it. On my second day at my current company, I was introduced to my new CEO, and when he heard where I’d come over from, he said “Whew! Heard that was a real blood bath!” I don’t remember exactly what I said, but it was basically acknowledging that was true while also not adding to it. To this day, I always try to give a very balanced picture when people bring it up. I’m never going to act like everything was sunshine and and rainbows, but I also don’t give salacious details. I don’t want my new bosses thinking I’m going to go around telling everyone how incompetent they were if one day it happens to us.

  13. Scicom101*

    LW3: If their field is anything at all related to communication or writing (even outreach to a degree), four pages will get their application tossed in the recycling. If they have enough relevant experience, even unpaid experience, one page should suffice. Never say anything with two words when one will do.

    1. Lab Boss*

      I agree with your point, but now I’m laughing at the idea of a hiring manager so disgusted by a 4 page electronic cover letter that they print it out strictly to physically throw it away :D

    2. L.H. Puttgrass*

      “Never say anything with two words when one will do.”

      I’m guessing you don’t work with many academics. :)

  14. WoodswomanWrites*

    #3, your friend’s four-page cover letter has me rolling my eyes. There is so much easily accessed advice out there, including yours, about limiting the length of cover letters. Although my own cover letters for my last three jobs were two pages, that length was relevant because the the positions themselves specifically focus on persuasive writing skills. For people in other professions, that would have been too much.

    I’ve been in the position of reading many applications for a job opening, and a four-page cover letter would be a ding against the applicant when there are many others that are concise and compelling and require a lot less effort to review.

  15. Jase*

    #4. You just need to paint it in the light of not planning for a worst case scenario. A lot of businesses weren’t and honestly how could you. Non-profits are interesting because the more they hold back the less effective they can be. Talk positively about the work they accomplished, their goals and hope how you can continue doing good work.

  16. Tali*

    #1 To counter your inner voice that says, “I’ve destroyed my professional reputation, that I sound like I’m just making excuses for procrastination, and if I just explained what the emergencies were, everyone would understand.”… I don’t think explaining the details would help! If they are wild enough to fit a soap opera, that is not likely to convince anyone who thinks you’re making it up. Imagine the incredibly invasive lengths of proof you’d have to provide this imaginary suspicious coworker to get them to believe you, MORE than what has satisfied your manager. Does this weirdo actually exist anywhere in your gossip-averse office?

    Sometimes it helps me to follow the little critical voice to the frightened knot at the core. I hear lots of guilt and obligation towards your work; not forgiving yourself when you hit a hurdle; perhaps some stress from your family situation leaking in and blowing up your work situation to equal proportions. Perhaps some journaling about this might help you feel better, as it sounds like part of you knows that you’re doing all right :)

    1. Generic Name*

      All of this. Sometimes our attitudes towards work are related to how we grew up or other stuff from our personal lives. If you were taught to “always be nice” or to cater to everyone else around you, that programming follows you to work, and it’s hard to even realize it’s happening. I hope you are doing okay in the midst of all your family tragedies.

    2. OP 1*

      Oof. Your second paragraph almost had me tearing up, so that definitely hit the mark. Guilt and obligation, oldest-daughter ‘must fix this for everyone’ programming, all of that. Yes.

      We’ll get through, but I have to admit that it’s all testing the limits of my resilience. I guess I just have to accept that it’s okay to be in survival mode for a little while.

      1. Tali*

        Definitely been there! It is very hard to learn to forgive yourself for not meeting your own impossibly high standards (which no one else knows or cares about). Let’s embrace the magic of the word “oops”, that’s all you have to say when you make a mistake: “Oops” and then you get to move past it and start fixing it or do the next thing. You don’t have to dwell on it or punish yourself or make it up to people, just one word and you get to move on.

    3. PT*

      It can also help to be self-deprecating in situations like this. “I’m so sorry, this is all so melodramatic!” often people will say, “Oh no it’s fine, it’s just a bad coincidence! What terrible luck you’ve had this last month! Don’t worry about it and take all the time you need!”

      The fact that you’re concerned about looking like you’ve caused drama, will cut the idea right off at the knees.

    4. Willis*

      I had a really tough time last year, not for any particularly dramatic reason other than those that impacted basically the entire world. I felt like I was failing most of my clients and other companies we were working with. But, it’s amazing to me how many of them still have a positive impression, give warm feedback, want to work together again, etc, etc. Sometimes it really sucks to be your own harshest critic!

  17. Mangled metaphor*

    #5. It’s on whatever passes for your company’s IT department to keep track of the assets issued to employees working from home. If those employees subsequently get laid off (I’m sorry you were) they should have been the ones to get in touch to arrange the return of equipment. What you are doing is prompting them, there is no need for _you_ to be embarrassed by _their_ oversight. Even in the midst of a crisis a big corporation, dealing with regulations, should already have had a policy in place for the return of company assets. Please try to shake off any second-hand embarrassment – this is all on them, not you.

    I hope your personal life situation improves and your professional one gets back on whatever track you are aiming for.

  18. Elle by the sea*

    I have worked in academia for a long time and have seen successful candidates who submitted 4-page cover letters. But then, I applied for industry jobs with a 4-page CV, which is generally not advised. I couldn’t cut it shorter, because I quit academia in my 30s and I had been working in related jobs since my early 20s. Apart from that, all industry jobs I applied to were interested in my publications as well (I’m in tech), so there was no way I could fit everything into one page. But in general, I would say even in academia, 2 pages are the norm. Usually they include in the job description how long they want cover letters to be.

  19. Infrequent Commenter*

    LW1: I’ve had one of those years too, to the point my boss had to sternly tell me to take the leave I was owed as I thought it would look bad to take more time out after being away for repeated family / personal disasters. My colleagues were just concerned for me, and I’m sure yours are too.

    I hope things get better for you.
    I hope things

    1. BugSwallowersAnonymous*

      I had one of those years too – just one ridiculously, dramatically sad thing after another :( I think most people are understanding and compassionate, especially if they’ve gone through something themselves that feels over-the-top bad (which I now realize after going through my own bad year – you really never know what could be going on in someone’s life).

  20. Dark Macadamia*

    LW2, if I told my sister I had just gotten my dream job and she asked about my salary, I’d find it really off-putting. Not because it’s inappropriate but just like… that’s not why I’m excited about the job and not what I’d care about discussing with her? She and your mom are still wrong but I can understand why they might be weirded out, depending on how the rest of the conversation had been going.

    1. thee epidemiologist*

      This is really dependent on the individual family though. My siblings and I talk frankly about money and I wouldn’t find it odd for them to ask about my salary.

      1. TechWorker*

        This is weird cos my siblings and I all discussed our starting salaries and my younger brother was open when he got screwed over by his company (he is underpaid for sure) and we were giving him advice… but I don’t know how much my older brother earns nor have I shared my precise salary. Mine is more than double my younger siblings and my older brother *probably* earns more so I do make sure that we treat them when we go out! (Which got some mild objection but if I feel comfortable treating anyone it’s my sibling who I know is much less well off!)

      2. anonymous73*

        This. I don’t have any siblings, but if one of my best friends asked I would have no issues telling them what I made. I think it depends on the place it comes from…is it sincere, or based in jealousy or rivalry? Are they interested in your field, or genuinely curious about your profession? There needs to be context about the relationship, not just a blanket “no you shouldn’t talk to you friends/family about how much money you make.”

      3. Cold Fish*

        I might pause at a friend asking but if my siblings asked I wouldn’t blink an eye. I’d almost expect them to ask and probably be a little thrown if they didn’t. But my family doesn’t tend to shy away from financial discussions of any sort.

    2. Not really a Waitress*

      If one of my sisters asked how much I made, I would be furious. BUT It also depends on where the question is coming from. My sisters would be asking for selfish reasons. But if you are looking at in terms of evaluating market value, or parity, I don’t see the problem with it.

      The irony is, I work in the private sector, but all three of my sisters are considered state employees and due to sunshine laws, I would be able to access their salaries. If I wanted to.

      1. JustaTech*

        Yeah, I’ve never shared my salary with my brother because he would immediately and forever be hounding me for money and that’s just not going to happen.
        Among my cousins it would be a bit weird because some of them are in careers that aren’t that high paying (teaching, mostly), but we absolutely talk stuff like salary negotiation, promotion negotiation, dealing with less-than-honest boards, etc.

    3. AY*

      My dad always warned my brothers and me never to talk about specific salary figures. We do talk about investments and retirement funds pretty extensively, but I think it’s a good thing that there’s some mystery about the actual underlying numbers. Like, I know my brother is married to a doctor, so I know their household income dwarfs mine. I don’t see any benefit to having a precise number, particularly when I’m not in the same industry. My other brother just got a new job with a substantial raise, but I don’t have any idea what the amount is. I don’t need to know to be happy for him, which is my only role in this situation. Other families differ!

    4. Naina*

      I worked some truly insane dream jobs and both times my dads like second question was the salary. Which makes sense, thats a big part of work too.
      With friends it depends on how close we are but the salary is an important part of deciding how good a job is too.

  21. Dark Macadamia*

    LW2, if I told my sister I had just gotten my dream job and she asked about my salary, I’d find it really off-putting. Not because it’s inappropriate but just like… that’s not why I’m excited about the job and not what I’d care about discussing with her? She and your mom are still wrong but I can understand why they might be weirded out, depending on how the rest of the conversation had been going.

  22. Paperdill*

    I have been permanently deployed from one department to another early this year. I have TRIED to return a mobile phone, remote access token and PPE gear to my department but due to so many reshuffles and restructuring no one will take responsibility for them or know who I should hand it to. My attempts to get it to the right person or department or place result in it being handed back to me days later with “this is yours”. I don’t want them. Especially the RAT. These are important, expensive, potentially compromising things and I CANNOT return them!

    1. learnedthehardway*

      I did work for a client a few years ago, for which I was issued a laptop. My client contact ended up leaving, the contract ended, there was a department reshuffle, and in the end, the agency that was managing the payroll for contractors like myself ended up losing their own contract with the business.

      At that point, I had no contact in the business, and after making a few frustrating calls, decided that they would get back to me if they wanted their laptop back. It’s been five years. My kids used the computer for awhile for games and homework, but we all eventually forgot the password. It’s now a rather expensive paperweight.

  23. Despachito*

    LW 1 – just chiming in to say that I think you handled it perfectly.

    There is absolutely no reason to go into gory details, and definitely nobody will think you are a flake!

    The only reason I’d be concerned would be if the employee has a long history of avoiding work, which is definitely not your case!

    So please take your time to handle the emergencies, and I wish you a long quiet drama-free period afterwards! And I am convinced your coworkers will feel for you and support you.

    1. Generic Name*

      Yup. If you have a “family emergency” every time you have a deadline or you have one every week, then you would look flaky. But pushing back a minor deadline once is the opposite of flaky. It would have been flaky of you had missed the deadline and ignored people when asked about it.

  24. Nails*

    I don’t know if this is valuable, but as it seems to be different, here’s where a 4-page cover letter is acceptable. I work in an academia-adjacent job where the four-page cover letter is somewhat expected – but we’re very clear about why and what goes into it.

    In this role, people are expected to provide clear evidence for each of the hiring criteria. So if the role description says: “candidate must demonstrate evidence of leadership skills,” you aren’t supposed to write a breezy cover letter with “Hi, I’m a great communicator and team player who can also be a leader too, leadership is my passion :) I have long flowing hair and I like horses and have lots of friends, I’m very interesting and also passionate. I went to school :) call me! xoxo.”

    Instead, the convention is that you write: “Demonstrations of leadership skills: 1.) recruited, managed and led team of five people to successfully repel attack on laboratory by 25 aliens, with no casualties. 2.) was voted chair of committee on Related Professional Outreach by jury of expert peers and directed a successful diversity initiative. 3.) Leader of volunteer fundraising initiative that solved equipment shortage, generated $100,000 in income and received praise from external stakeholders.” One paragraph for each requirement.

    Only candidates who can evidence a majority of the requirements pass the cover letter threshold and proceed to the next stage. When you do this for 10 necessary and 5 desirable criteria, you arrive at the conventional required cover letter, which is usually 2-4 pages. The assessors will then quite literally go through each letter with a checklist and score it against the requirements. The example I gave above would score 3 (3 pieces of acceptable evidence) and pass the “acceptable” threshold. Stating that you’re a “natural leader” would score 0 (no evidence detected) and giving one wobbly example of leadership (“I have leadership experience, having line-managed a team of two”) would score 1 (an attempt was made). For a job with 10 necessary criteria, a passing score would be, say, 20. So as people worked this out, the cover letters became longer and longer as applicants tried to collect the highest score.

    However, LW3’s friend absolutely is NOT applying for a job like this. Know how I know? because anyone who IS applying for a job like this would be wildly customizing the cover letter to fit and would be slotting their podcasts, etc. into various buckets. If they showed their cover letter to friends, it would be to say frantic things like “do you think directing a company is enough evidence of leadership?” and “do I have enough bullet points under being a team player????”

    1. ecnaseener*

      That’s super interesting, thank you for sharing! I have questions:

      – This is called a cover letter, and not a personal statement? essay question on the application?

      – Why letter format at all? I’m guessing the reason for regurgitating the resume like this is so you can easily check your boxes instead of combing through the resume, that I get, but it doesn’t sound like you need an actual long chunk of prose. Why isn’t it a bunch of separate application questions? (Just curious whether there’s a reason to it beyond tradition, not telling you to go change it all up lol!)

    2. anonymous73*

      I will admit I know nothing about academia expectations, but that seems odd to me in any job. Who has time to read through a bunch of 4 page cover letters? Isn’t this essentially what an initial interview is for?

      1. uncivil servant*

        I work for a government organization and this is exactly how our cover letters are structured. HR does the initial screening, and yes, it takes a ton of time. This is why it can take months to get through the initial screening round. The benefit is that forcing candidates to spell out their qualifications like that does cut down on applications, or at least that’s what I’d imagine. Also, a lot of postings don’t have so many required qualifications that it leads to a four-page document.

        We have to assess every qualified candidate, so you can’t just select a random number of the best applicants.

        In some hiring processes, they skip the “cover letter” and just have a list of screening questions, usually accompanied by a yes/no box to check.

        1. anonymous73*

          Seems like a waste of time IMO. People can make themselves look awesome on paper, but until you meet with them face to face, you really aren’t going to know if they’ll work in the job. Yes meeting with people for interviews takes time too, but that 30 minute meeting can tell you a whole lot more about someone than a 4 page cover letter.

          1. Nails*

            Ah, but a competency-based cover letter isn’t about looking awesome on paper – in fact, you can’t do it if you don’t have accomplishments, because you can’t hide behind style or gratuitous use of a thesaurus. You have to provide evidence of every category to meet a score.

            One prevailing idea is that it’s more inclusive and diversity-friendly. It doesn’t matter what your protected characteristics are, if you’re disabled, what school you went to, what polish you have, what social class you are, how well you can bluff, how good your eye contact is, whether your name is considered attractive, how many interview coaches you paid for or books you read. It matters that you achieve a passing score, based on your experience. Democratic.

            It’s bonkers but it works in the context.

    3. Rebeck*

      This is how the majority of the jobs I’ve ever applied to work, too (government, academic and education in Australia). You address the selection criteria in your cover letter, and with half a page to a page (in education at least one page) per selection criteria, six pages single spaced doesn’t sound overly long to me. For my current job there were eleven SC, which is excessive, but most roles will have at least five to six.

  25. 653-CXK*

    #5: When I was let go from ExJob, they took the laptop right away, but I shipped back my monitor and other peripherals to them at their expense (as I was working from home two days a week).

    Two things I did: (1) I took pictures of the items I was shipping back – to ensure everything was in working order, and that I was shipping back what they required so they wouldn’t come back and hound me for missing items, and (2) I wrote a checklist with all items on them.

    1. Jack Straw from Wichita*

      Speaking as someone with a partner in IT hardware… you were appreciated by the staff who unboxed these items! The horror stories he has of the state returned equipment arrived in would fill a six hour cocktail party.

      1. anonymous73*

        I once received a “new” monitor from our IT person. It was laying flat (screen side down) in a box that was way bigger than it needed to be, with about 3 pieces of bubble wrap to “protect” it. I’m honestly shocked that it wasn’t damaged on the way to me.

      2. 653-CXK*

        I always do my best to keep IS/IT happy :-)

        When I initially WFH, I got a gigantic monitor, a docking station and other items, which I had to trudge home on local transit. I had used them for about three years and did my best to keep them dust free and smudge free.

        Furthermore, I documented everything that was there – model number, serial number, etc. – before I sent it so IS/IT would have a record of what was received and match it against their records. It just made it faster and easier for both sides.

    2. Venti vanilla latte breve*

      #5 – i left my last job almost a year ago. They sent me a box only big enough for my work laptop but not my printer. I have reached out to my former boss several times but never heard back regarding the printer.

      I haven’t figured out how to get it hooked up to my new laptop, so the printer is currently a very heavy paperweight. :/

      1. Usagi*

        I might suggest keeping any record of you reaching out about it! They might/probably wont bother you about it, but I had a previous employer threaten to take legal action against me because I still had my work computer a year and a half after I left. I basically told them to shove it and showed them all the emails that I had sent asking what I should do about it, and they did a 180 and suddenly were my best friends, offering to send me a PREPAID BOX!!! (you’re so lucky we’re going to pay for the shipping for you! It’s so easy! Just put the computer in and drop it off at UPS! We’re even including packing materials!).

        Anyway, better to be safe than sorry.

  26. bamcheeks*

    I have always worked in public sector jobs where every job is graded with a £4k salary band (so, you know an A grade job is £17-22k, a B job is £21-2600, a C job is £25-32k and so on), and because knowing salaries and labour market information is part of my job I can make a pretty well-educated guess at the incomes of most of my friends in related fields– not specifics, but I know that a teacher or a nurse with fifteen years’ experience is probably around the £35k mark, give or take specific leadership duties or responsibilities they’ve taken on, a GP salary is £50-80k depending on the type of contract they’re on.

    Private sector salaries vary a lot more, and I don’t really have any similar insight, so I am ENDLESSLY FASCINATED by them and I wish everyone would talk about them more.

    1. TechWorker*

      Haha, the only friend with whom I shared my exact salary is someone in the public sector with similar-ish level of management responsibility where she was interested to see how far behind public was vs private.

    2. brightbetween*

      I’ve always worked in the public sector as well, and there’s a very different culture here because all our salaries are publicly available to anyone. As long as you know my title/classification (which is on my email signature and business cards) and how long I’ve worked here (which is only important if it’s less than 4 years because that’s when our step increases top out), then you can find how much I make by going to our HR website.

      I had a friend who was promoted to an unclassified management position (top 2 levels of the org) after being here for 15 years, and she had to negotiate her salary. She was like “I don’t know how to do that!”, because it’s just not done in this industry except at the highest levels. Your salary/benefits are what they are.

  27. Despachito*

    Re salary: it is really “read the room” situation, I guess.

    I am personally very reluctant to talk about my salary and that of other people. I might find it useful if it is in my area of specialization, but if it isn’t, I’d feel it like prying in someone’s intimacy, almost if I was asking someone of their sex life. I know some people discuss this with their friends and do not find it strange, but I feel strongly against it.

    So this might be what your mom and sister are coming from. I absolutely do not say my perception is the only one possible, and I see the merit several people mentioned of “being in the know” what the trends are, but I’d still feel very uncomfortable and put on the spot if a friend – even a good one – asked me directly about my income.

    Perhaps the solution would be not to ask the person directly “how much do you make” but “what do you think a reasonable pay range for this position would be”? And proceed according to their reaction. I’d personally NOT ask just out of curiosity but just if the result could have any relevance to me.

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      Same – I know there’s value in the discussion at large, but that doesn’t mean I want to participate in it on a personal level.

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*


        Plus, there are individuals in my life who would absolutely use one’s salary as shorthand for one’s value, a mindset that disgusts me and I’m loathed to facilitate/enable/participate in.

        1. Despachito*

          This is why I loathe the expression “Joe Smith’s NET WORTH is…”. I know it is just a phrase but I cannot help myself to imagine Joe Smith being sold in a supermarket or on E-Bay…

    2. Hlao-roo*

      I am personally pretty comfortable talking about my salary with most people, and I strongly agree with you that’s it is a “read the room” situation. I match other people’s comfort levels when I share (my exact salary when they share their salary, a range when they share a range) and I only share with people I trust not to be strange/resentful about it.

    3. Tali*

      Yes, very similar to talking about sex, it’s one of the things you don’t talk about in polite society along with religion. Of course close friends and family may discuss these things but it’s not crazy or weird to avoid them with most people.

  28. PrairieEffingDawn*

    #5- I probably wouldn’t say I *just* realized I still have my work computer if it’s a desktop, since a desktop computer isn’t something you lose track of like a laptop. I’d probably say something like, I still have my work computer and I’d like to return it. I was waiting for return instructions but haven’t seen any come my way so please let me know how I should proceed!

    1. Colette*

      Eh, I could easily forget about a desktop I wasn’t using – you unplug it, set it out of the way under the assumption the company will ask for it, and then you forget it’s there.

      1. PrairieEffingDawn*

        Fair enough but it sounds like the OP didn’t actually forget it was there, they’ve been thinking about it! So I think it could feel better to just be as straightforward as possible about it.

  29. Humble Schoolmarm*

    Salary: I agree Alison that there’s nothing inherently wrong with talking about how much you make and I don’t object to telling people what I make. On the other hand, talking about money is a very complex cultural thing so I think LW should realize that many people are going to have strong feelings about being asked if their culture says it’s taboo.
    For example, in my part of Canada (and a unionized position with a contract), if you’re talking to someone with a different job, salary falls under the same rules as religion and politics: you can talk about your own, but asking someone directly is weird. If you do feel the need to ask, the “if you don’t mind me asking…” preamble is more or less required.

  30. I should really pick a name*

    This is all about context.
    I actually think it’s rude to ask someone their salary unless that’s actually the topic of conversation.

    Feel free to share your salary, but that’s their personal information and you shouldn’t be asking them for it outside of a few contexts:
    1. It’s a coworker. This changes the calculus, because now it’s about empowering each other with information.
    2. Your friend is in a similar industry, for a similar reason as #1. This should be preceded by you sharing your own salary.
    3. They’ve made it clear that they’re comfortable with that kind of question.

    When dealing with friends/family, sharing salary information can potentially lead people judging your spending habits, or jealousy issues, or unsolicited advice about salary negotiation.

    If you’ve never spoken to your sister about salary before, then yes, I think it was rude to ask if it was solely out of curiosity (and if it’s more than curiosity, you need to make that clear).

    1. Gracely*


      My sibling and I know roughly what the other makes, but that was largely a function of us each checking in with each other to make sure the other sibling was making enough to get by, and as a reality check for each other on the trade-offs of working for someone vs. working for yourself. Context is important. So is the motivation for asking–pure curiosity can come off as rude; wanting to know because you want to know they’re happy or making enough for their needs is a bit more acceptable.

      My very close friends and I have a rough idea of what we each make (we’re all in different fields) and if someone gets a big raise or cuts back on work then sometimes they’ll say what they’re making now, but we don’t straight-up ask “so what do you get paid?” because as long as they’re doing okay, we don’t need exact numbers.

      If someone is asking you or you’re asking them because of interest in switching to that field, then it’s much less weird to ask, but I’d still probably start with “so what’s the ballpark for someone in your position” not “so what is your salary?”

    2. socks*

      I don’t think of salary information as super personal the same way a lot of people on this thread do, but I’m also a little surprised at the stance that it’s rude to ask family/close friends personal questions. I get why you wouldn’t *want* to talk about certain things with certain people, but in an otherwise positive/close relationship, I feel like talking about personal things is pretty normal???

      1. I should really pick a name*

        Personal stuff is fine.
        Money is something where you really need to know how someone feels about it, or you can make the relationship complicated.

        1. socks*

          Oh, sorry! Looking back at your comment, I definitely conflated it with some of the others talking about how money is super personal. The hazards of pre-coffee commenting.

          I still don’t think asking is *rude* even if in some situations it might be *unwise*, but your comment makes a lot more sense now.

  31. RebelwithMouseyHair*

    OP1, I agree with Alison. If you generally stick to your deadlines and are competent, one time when you have to renegotiate a deadline will not matter.
    When I worked at an agency, I would outsource work regularly. My best outsourcer, who always produced faultless work and mostly handed it in well in advance and never late, had two mishaps in the many years we worked together. Once she landed in hospital and her daughter sent in the file, with a note to say “Mummy says it’s not finished and she won’t bill it”. In the file, there were two terms that were highlighted, as if they needed to be checked. I checked, they were fine. The rest of the file was fine, although I maybe added in a comma or two when normally I could die of boredom proofreading this outsourcer’s files because there was never anything that needed editing. I wrote back to say “tell Mummy her work was brilliant as usual and to bill her normal amount”.
    Then another time she sent a message to say her computer had died on her and she’d need some extra time. The client was happy to wait another 24hrs and she produced the goods, up to her usual standard. No problem.
    Then she came to Paris for a long weekend with her new BF and since our office was right by the railway station, she popped by to have lunch with us on the Friday. After a glass or two of wine, she confessed that actually, she hadn’t had a computer problem that day, she’d had a mega argument with her husband as they were in the middle of a hostile divorce. I told her it wasn’t a problem, things can happen, and one mess-up was not going to compromise our working relationship. Because her work was really good, she was worth it even if there was a glitch once every five or six years.
    You can flake out, that’s what makes us human. And no need to tell everyone what happened. It doesn’t sound like they’re asking, and from what you say I imagine it must be hard to dwell on all the tragedy too, anyone but a clueless gossip can totally understand that you don’t want to talk about it at work.

    1. ecnaseener*

      This is a great story, but I also want to say that even for a just-okay performer, pushing back a deadline once every five or six years is still probably fine!

      1. kiki*

        Yes! I want to highlight this, just because I struggled a lot as someone who was very harsh on my self and felt like I was never good enough to deserve leeway. That caused problems because I would push myself beyond what I could realistically deliver given the circumstances and wind up failing to meet expectations, but if I had just been honest about what I needed, people would have totally understood and moved the deadline, taken me off the assignment, allowed me to take PTO, etc. It’s blowing a deadline and not telling anyone until the last minute that causes the most business issues.

        1. ecnaseener*

          Yes, exactly – it’s relatively easy to say superstars deserve [understanding, leeway, second chances] but the bar doesn’t have to be superstar-high to deserve some of that!

  32. wear floral every day*

    LW1: I am so sorry with what you are going through! I have been in your shoes couple of years ago. There was a period where three of my close relatives were hospitalized at the same time (my dad, my husband’s dad and brother) for things not related to each other. At the same time my kid was diagnosed with an autistic disorder, and we needed to go through a lot of medical appointments, testing etc. It was a stressful period where I had the same thoughts as you do. It helped think that I had been a resilient, reliable employee for a decade. If someone wanted to make an unfair judgement of me, so be it. It might help you if a trustworthy collegue or your manager is informed about what you are going through and can step up in explaining to others that you need deadline extensions etc.

  33. Slinky*

    OP#3, I think it depends on exactly what “academia-adjacent” means. I work in academic libraries, and I have seen some absurdly long applications from high-level candidates (the worst was a 5+ page cover letter and a 14 page CV, but 3+ page cover letters and 7 page resumes are not uncommon). I honestly find this to be way too much and strongly prefer a candidate who can edit, but it’s not out of the norm for the field.

  34. Jack Straw from Wichita*

    OP4, in the past I’ve questioned wanting to work for a place that used my interview to fulfill a morbid curiosity.* My situation was a bit different, a teaching interview where the first question they asked was about the student at my current school who was shot and killed two days prior, but still… if they’re using your interview to get gossip, that’s not my kind of place.

    *fully realizing, as a fellow pandemic laid off person, you may not have that luxury

  35. prof*

    For #3. I’m an academic and I’d always been taught a hard 2 page limit. But, that rule seems to be broken a lot in applications for smaller, teaching oriented colleges. 4 is a lot, 3 wouldn’t get an eye batted.

    But also…double spaced? That’s weird and actually that cover letter is probably only 2 pages really so. Honestly this part stands out the most as not usual.

    1. Carlie*

      Yes. Students are told to turn in papers double-spaced so there is plenty of room for the evaluator to write comments/corrections/critiques. That is not a good visual prompt to hand to your academic (adjacent) hiring committee!

  36. Old-Lady*

    Letter writer #2.
    I’m confused.
    So your sister told you about the job she wanted and the salary she hoped to make while looking for a job.
    Then, when she gets her dream and is telling you all about it, but it is wrong for you to ask if she got the salary she had hoped for?
    Some people talk about money, some people don’t.
    Some people talk religion, some don’t.
    Some people talk sports and some don’t.
    Some people talk politics and some don’t.
    You kind of have to feel that out.
    If she told you the salary she wanted before, I really don’t see what the problem is asking if she got it.
    It’s almost the continuation of a conversation.
    Your Mom may be from a generation that didn’t talk about money, even in the family.

    1. Koala dreams*

      Yes, I feel that the lesson here is more “sister is weird about salary conversations”, and not applicable to other people. If people start a conversation about salary with you, it usually means they are open to salary conversations. Your sister could have given a more tactful answer.

  37. Mim*

    LW1, I think you are fine here though I totally understand your anxiety about this! I’d feel the same way, logical or not.

    If it helps, I think you may be underestimating how much just one single family emergency or disruptive event can linger or cause recurring interruptions or absences. While the convergence of a series of unfortunate events might feel like an unbelievable movie plot, for all your co-workers know it could just be a sick parent whose underlying illness or injury has resulted in multiple procedures or ER visits or whatever in a short period of time. This is so common, and nobody needs to know about the series of improbable stuff that has landed on your plate.

    1. NotRealAnonForThis*

      I’ve found that my own baseline for “this is absolutely insane and no way did this happen IRL” has been completely reset over the course of the past 28 months, and its only partially pandemic related. Nobody at work has been phased by it, rather, have just supported whatever is needed at the moment.

    2. Loredena Frisealach*

      Yes, one family emergency has meant months of treatments, appointments, and so forth. Not at all uncommon!

      1. James*

        Plus additional stress on the rest of the family, which can create secondary effects. Caregivers are notorious for not taking care of themselves.

  38. Roscoe*

    In terms of the pay question, #3, I really agree with the last part. As I’ve gotten older, I feel I talk about it far less openly with friends, unless the friends are in a similar role or industry.

    So if I’m a teapot salesman, I may discuss my salary/bonus/commission with a friend who is a coffepot salesman. But I’m likely not discussing it at length with a llama groomer, or a VP of finance. Because realistically, those don’t do anything for me, and its just personal info. Whereas discussing it with a coffepot salesman can help me evaluate whether my rate is good or bad.

    Aside from that though, money is one of those things that different people have different ideas about discussing openly. If you want to discuss it, that is fair. But you also shouldn’t push others to do so if they don’t want to, even in the same office.

    1. Lacey*

      Yes, I discuss salary and rates with other graphic designers, but it’s pointless to talk about it with my friends who are nurses or elementary school teachers.

  39. Trisha*

    For OP #3 – if it’s for the Canadian Government, it may not be too far off. Our job posters read like the what’s what of job hiring. They will often list education requirements, 4-5 essential qualifications and 6-10 assets. You need to put that stuff in your cover letter – along with language profile, location, security clearance, vaccination status, and a few other things, because you don’t know which one of those they are using as screening criteria. Generally the board screens for various pieces at various stages so they don’t sit down and read through the entire cover letter to see if the person would be an over all good fit. They screen through for location, language and education, and then maybe one or two of the essential experience. Then they might go back to screen on an asset if they have too many candidates.

    1. Chili pepper Attitude*

      This is where a good Hiring management system where you fill in the details like those on a form would be handy!

      1. TechWriter*

        In my spouse’s experience, he had to do BOTH. Submit a cover letter listing all that stuff, THEN go through and enter basically all the same stuff in fields. Sometimes twice, if the ad was for multiple hiring pools.

        This was also for INTERNAL hiring pools. It’s ridiculous and entirely its own kettle of fish that can’t really be compared to hiring in other sectors.

    2. Curious*

      We need to tease apart two issues — a general cover letter versus an application requirement (which may be addressed in the cover letter).
      For example, in the context of applying for a Senior Executive Service position in the U.S. Federal civil service, the applicant will be required to address a set of executive qualifications, and a set of technical qualifications, in a narrative statement. That narrative –which, depending on the circumstances may or may not be included in the cover letter — may need to extend beyond two (or potentially even beyond four) single-spaced pages.
      By contrast, absent such a requirement, a cover letter of more than two pages would be unusual, to say the least.

    3. Canadian Fed*

      Yes, that’s what came to mind for me too. The last couple of competitions I’ve applied for specifically stated in the poster that your cover letter should provide concrete, detailed and specific information about how your education and experience meets every one of the stated requirements, and the advice I’ve gotten at every step in my career has been to write cover letters as though the selection board is completely incapable of making any connections themselves and you have to spell everything out for them. My cover letter for the last job I got hired for came out to about three pages single-spaced.

      I get that this is not the norm in other places, but if OP or anyone else who googles their way here is applying for the government of Canada, I recommend not worrying that your cover letter might be too long, and instead spelling everything out in excruciating detail to give the selection board every opportunity to check as many boxes as possible.

  40. Shiba Dad*

    #4 – talking about previous job’s dysfunction can be tricky.

    Eleven years ago, I bought a house six blocks from the office where I worked because I planned to stay at the job. I left that job five years ago. There were many things that drove people out the door of my that job (call it “ABC”), but a big one was that ownership decided that employees had to pay for their spouses to be covered by health insurance. While it didn’t affect me, it did raise some employees’ insurance contributions hundreds of dollars a month. I started looking for a new job when some of my coworkers left. ABC is a small company (about 30 employees at the time), so losing experienced workers meant more work for those of us who remained.

    I had a couple of interviews and did get hired, but those companies had already hired former coworkers. They had some idea what was going on. I really didn’t have to talk too much about why I was leaving.

    If I was asked why so many people were leaving by customers or companies we were subcontracted to, I usually mentioned the insurance situation. People understood that. I avoided going on an hour-long rant about issues big and small by going that route as well. I REALLY wanted to go scorched earth at times. Granted, there were relationships that allowed me to be more open about what was going on, especially if these folks were noticing a decline in our performance.

    I think in your situation Alison is spot on. Where it could get tricky is if you are asked what you learned from what happened at your old job.

  41. G*

    I’ve had a lot of success with 3-page single-spaced cover letters. Meaning: interviews granted for reach jobs, praise for the letter from hiring managers.


    I’m a public interest lawyer, so each section is a mini-narrative about a case or law reform campaign. It’s not a comprehensive accounting of my entire professional life. The reader can just scan the headings and skip to the resume if they’re not into it. Personally, I think I’d be interested to read a cover letter like mine from candidates if I were hiring lawyers — I’m always wondering about the courtroom drama or strategic thinking or inspiration behind people’s succinct little bios.

  42. Essess*

    For OP #2, I feel that discussing pay with others in the same field/area as you is beneficial for avoiding wage gaps and helping to ensure pay equities. HOWEVER, it really is none of the business of family and others that don’t have an actual need to know your pay and is very rude to ask in that situation. In that case, they are just being nosy and prying into personal finances which should be private. Sharing with friends that are not in the same field is setting up negative feelings when some friends start making more than others and then expectations set in for the higher wage earners to take on more of the costs during get-togethers or get hit up for loans because they have too much information about your positive financial situation.

    1. Observer*

      You’re doing a lot of projecting here. If you noticed, it was the OP who asked and it doesn’t sound like they were trying to pry.

      And while I don’t think anyone ever owes others information about their finances (absent legitimate financial involvement of that other person), why do finances have to be so private that it’s forbidden to even ask? I mean, the OP and their sister are close enough that they had a good idea of what Sister was hoping for.

      1. Essess*

        The OP asked if they had overstepped. The OP asked the sister what the salary was, but the OP had no reason to know it other than curiosity unless the OP is in the same field as the sister. That is the definition of prying.

  43. Lacey*

    For LW2 – I think the time when it’s inappropriate to discuss salary with family or friends is when it gets into bragging territory.

    My husband and I are just financially stable in our very inexpensive living area. We don’t make a lot of money. We have friends who are doing very well for themselves in a notoriously expensive part of the country. That’s lovely.
    We work in entirely different sectors and obviously in different areas – so when they start talking about how much dough they’re raking in, it’s not professionally useful, it’s just bragging. That’s the faux pas.

  44. Workerbee*

    OP#1, when you look at your statement: “I had to ask for an extension on a small project (not a big deal, does not impact a contract or anyone else’s work) based on “family emergencies” and got it without problem.” —the fact that you’re still stressing and worried says to me how well and truly we’ve been indoctrinated that work is more important than the rest of our lives! Sometimes we get it blatantly and overtly, sometimes it’s far more subtle, but it permeates our sensibilities. I hope you can take a moment to breathe and that your unfortunate soap opera resolves itself quickly and as harmlessly as possible.

    1. Purple Cat*

      +1 to all of this.
      And I’m willing to bet OP#1 is a woman.
      Maybe it’s the use of the word “flake” which feels gendered to me, but also because society expects women to be pleasers making us stress out far more about these things than men do.

      1. OP 1*

        Heh. Busted. Woman in academia, oldest daughter, and so forth. The culture in this sector is not terribly understanding about gaps in productivity, even though we give a lot more lip service to accommodations now.

  45. Eldritch Office Worker*

    “I can’t speak for them or their ways” is such a good summation of my feelings on academia. It’s such a mythical world to me.

  46. MicroManagered*

    If you heard that a colleague needed to push something back because of a family emergency, you wouldn’t think, “What an excuse-making flake!”

    OP1, I’m actually curious: WOULD you think that if you heard this? Or like, did your parents talk to you this way? I find when I think something like this about myself, concerning work, it comes from somewhere. (Usually my parents being very harsh and judgmental around my needs as a kid.) May be worth thinking about…

    1. OP 1*

      If someone came to me with the same list of events? There is a part of me would assume it was an elaborate excuse before I reframed to give them the benefit of the doubt. If they just said ‘family emergency?’ Not at all.

      (But I’m in academia, and the usual joke here is about exam season being the highest-risk time for family casualties among the student body. I guess it gets under your skin eventually.)

      My parents were not very understanding about small lapses (imagine the joke about parents and the math test – ‘99%? Shame on you! What happened to the other 1%??’) and I’ve been fighting against that inner voice most of my life. Therapy’s helped, but obviously not perfectly.

  47. EPLawyer*

    #1 — you asked for a extension on a project which was granted. Your supervisor is looped in. This is all OKAY. Your supervisor has probably filled in the outside stakeholders that there is a delay (without giving your personal reason which is none of their business). Delays in projects happen even if there is no family emergency. If it is didn’t affect any contracts or anyone else’s work it probably didn’t even register on the radar.

    I’m going to be a bit blunt here, people aren’t thinking about you nearly as much as you think they are. As I said above, the delay is probably not even on anyone’s radar because it had so little effect on anything else. Give yourself a little grace.

  48. Kate*

    Why did letter 4 make me think of the NRA?

    Academic here and 2 p single spaced is standard, and probably close enough to the non-academic standard one that it would be a good compromise.

  49. Bernice Clifton*

    I see the value in discussing your salary, especially with coworkers or peers, but I also am fine with people choosing not to share what their salary is.

  50. James*

    OP #1: I had something similar happen–my kids had a number of issues one right after another, ranging from typical childhood illnesses that require them to stay home from school, to in one case brain surgery, all within the span of a few months. I was apologetic, but my managers were pretty clear that they were more concerned with the health of my family.

    If you’re a good worker, and give as much notice as you can, and it’s not a constant thing, folks will chalk it up to “Things happen”. At least, in any healthy organization. Part of the human condition is dealing with illness and emergencies, and bad things come in clusters.

  51. M*

    OP2, I think it’s absolutely fine to discuss salary with friends (of course with Alison’s caveat that different people may not feel comfortable with it, so read the room). It also can help people have some more perspective on what the market looks like and what they can/should accept. For instance, my partner works in a field that I’m looking to start working in, and their workplace overworks them and pays them poorly and the benefits suck (no PTO, no sick time, insurance that’s meh at best). I recently interviewed for another similar workplace that starts that same position at about $4,000 more per year than my partner makes, has 8 PTO days and longer breaks for holidays, and has stricter COVID protection protocols. My partner is using the info I’ve gathered to try to negotiate for better salary/benefits moving forward, since these organizations are very similar other than how they compensate their employees.

  52. TootsNYC*

    There is a thing some of us do where we worry people will think X about us when we would never think X about them in the same situation. Sometimes just asking yourself, “What would I think if Respected Colleague Y did this?” can recalibrate your brain away from that.

    The Golden Rule is, “treat others the way you would like to be treated.”

    But the converse is also important: “Treat yourself as well as you treat other people.”

    1. I should really pick a name*

      I prefer to adapt it to “treat others as they wish to be treated”, but if you don’t know how they want to be treated, treating them how you would like to be treated is a good starting point.

      1. Marco Diaz's Red Hoodie*


        But also, “treat yourself as well as you treat other people” is so, so hard T__T;;

  53. Purple Cat*

    I’m really enjoying reading the back and forth opinions on the “salary discussions”.
    What’s fascinating to me is that most people aren’t stopping to think about WHY they think it’s “rude” to discuss. The people in power decide what’s “rude” or not and it infiltrates through society in so many nuanced ways, but mostly by our parents “teaching” us what’s “proper”. It’s only “rude” to discuss money because knowledge is power and the best way to keep people down is to keep them uninformed. I’m glad to see the trend shifting and I’m sure there’s a clear demographic shift around the openness of talking about money.

    1. Colette*

      That’s not the only reason. Generally, ettiquette is about making people feel comfortable. Sharing information about salary can cause problems – if one person makes more than another person, the lower-paid person may feel like the well-paid person should pay for more, for example. (Or vice versa – the more well-paid person may feel like they need to pay, but not actually be in a position to do so.) Focusing on salary also is used by some people as a proxy for worth – it’s easy to feel like you’re not doing as well as someone else because they make more money.

      That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t share, but you be conscious of the possible repercussions.

      1. UKDancer*

        Yes. I think for me it’s more that it’s not good to discuss in social settings because it can make people uncomfortable. If I earn less than my brother and he goes on about the large yacht he bought with his last enormous bonus I am just going to feel miserable when we have lunch. Etiquette should be about making people feel at ease and supporting a good atmosphere.

        I would have much less difficulty discussing my salary in a professional setting. I am currently mentoring a young trainee and I have discussed with her what I am earning and the sort of things she should consider when looking at job offers.

    2. I should really pick a name*

      I put a significant difference between sharing salary for the purpose of knowing if you’re over/underpaid, and sharing salary just as general conversation.

      When it’s just chatting with friends, it can cause a lot of problems. Jealousy, a sense of judgement about your financial choices, requests for money (“you make so much, so you can afford it, right?”).

      1. Green tea*

        I can see that perspective, and agree that in our current culture, it feels rude and can lead to discomfort. However, I also feel like if we could create a cultural shift on that, most people would benefit, but especially lower-paid people. The current social system basically hides higher-paid people’s wealth from lower-paid people which can have especially negative impacts on lower-paid people.

        People tend to feel unspoken social pressure to keep up with their peers’ spending. A higher-paid person might enjoy doing a weekly brunch, or an annual vacation with friends and still save a lot of money left over. A lower-paid friend may feel like they’re not saving as much as they’d like but their sense is that it’s ‘normal’ spending since all of their friends are doing it. Another lower-paid friend may just always decline, and effectively be excluded/make their friends think this friendship isn’t a priority. It’s embarrassing to proactively say ‘I can’t afford to go out to brunch, can we get together at someone’s house instead?’ because you feel like your limitations are spoiling other people’s fun.

        If close friends/family have a rough idea of their loved ones’ income and expenses, it makes it way easier for everyone to better plan activities that work for everyone. It also removes some of the social norms around spending as lower-paid people realize that their friends may be spending more money than them, but they’re in a very different financial position and so lower-paid friend shouldn’t feel pressured to keep up.

        1. I should really pick a name*

          I would prefer to move toward a culture where someone can just say “Can we go somewhere less expensive” without feeling they need to justify it by providing personal financial details.

          1. Green tea*

            …cool, that would address exactly one of the issues I pointed out. There’s no reason why people shouldn’t discuss finances, other than wealthy people decided it’s rude.

      2. James*

        “Jealousy, a sense of judgement about your financial choices, requests for money (“you make so much, so you can afford it, right?”).”

        That’s the honest truth…. I get into arguments with coworkers about the meal/lodging stipend on a long-term project. They have their way of dealing with it, I have mine. My coworkers are single, I’m married with kids; we have VERY different lifestyles and priorities–and as the youngest person, it seems that these conversations are always about how my lifestyle and priorities are be definition wrong.

        If a conversation about money when we all know for a fact we’re being compensated the same is that uncomfortable, imagine how uncomfortable adding a difference in negotiating can be.

      3. Willis*

        Right. Comparing salaries within a company is good for equity reasons and sharing among people in the same industry but not necessarily the same company is good cause it lets you somewhat crowdsource information about what market pay is. There could be good reasons to share more broadly among family or friends but I also think some people just want to know out of nosiness and judgement, competitiveness, or someway to benchmark (in their minds) whether they’re doing better or worse than you at life. And in those cases, MYOB.

        I think the same is true about a lot of stuff – health, relationships, overall finances, etc. There may be times it’s really useful to share personal information about yourself with friends and family and times when people have weirdo reasons for wanting to know. It’s not a one-size-fits-all answer.

        1. Willis*

          And also – I do a lot of demographic and economic research for a living. If you really want to know what the average pay is for some industry you’re not in, or what income levels are in your area relative to your own or whatever, you can look that stuff up relatively easily. You don’t need to know the income of your specific friends to judge that.

    3. James*

      “It’s only “rude” to discuss money because knowledge is power and the best way to keep people down is to keep them uninformed.”

      I disagree. In American culture there’s this whole trend of trying to be aristocrats–we’re all just temporarily embarrassed millionaires, that sort of thing. This can be seen in a lot of things that Americans do that seem weird to the rest of the world. The reason Southerners drink sweet tea? Tea and sugar were expensive back in the day, so it was a way to show off. The reason we have lawns today? Because only the rich could afford to maintain them–it was a sign you’d made it in the world to waste that much space. The history of suits makes for an interesting read, as does the history of food (it’s not entirely tied to this trend, but the trend is definitely there). The reason we don’t discuss money? Wealthy people had a prohibition against discussing money, considering it gauche. Only those unsophisticated neuvo-riche would have the bad manners to do THAT! This, like other things, got transmitted to the middle class in garbled form, resulting in a prohibition against discussing salary.

      (Oddly speech patterns tend to be the reverse–the language of the lower classes trickles up to the upper classes. Clothing does this to some extent as well.)

      I’m not saying companies don’t take advantage of this cultural trend. I’m just saying it didn’t originate with mustache-twirling cartoon villains plotting about how to keep workers stupid. It originated with idiot wanna-bes aping those they considered their betters in an attempt to show that they fit in with the higher classes.

        1. James*

          One’s true and one’s a lie. One is based on facts and historical knowledge, and treats everyone involved as humans; the other is based on perception and biases, and treats an entire category of humanity as inherently evil. One is an attempt to understand the system and therefore has a chance of succeeding in changing it, the other merely superimposes preconceptions onto the system and therefore never actually addresses the system.

          Ultimately I suppose it’s up to whether any of that really matters or not. For my part, I find these to be rather significant considerations.

          (For the record, I’m not saying Purple Cat lied. I’m saying they were lied to.)

    4. Firm Believer*

      No, that is not the only reason it’s rude. Trust me, no one that makes less money than me is going to be kept “down” by knowing my salary. There is plenty of information and data online to arm people with salary information for their peers without my girlfriend knowing how much I individually bring in. It is not my job to share private information in order to educate my buddies. This is 2021. Asking people what they make outside of a workplace setting is not a necessary thing.

    5. Tali*

      Ooh I really disagree! Salary discussions should absolutely happen in the workplace and among workers in the industry. But discussing money in social settings is not some conspiracy from our parents or The Man to keep us Down. You forget that this is not just about money coming in, it’s about money going out too. It invites discussion on shared expenses like meals and trips, on gifts, on the rest of your life and what you choose to spend money on. How often have we heard statements like “why have a child/pet if you can’t afford it”? It allows commentary on all our monthly expenses–one should share one’s own first before asking of others.

      I would argue that sharing individual salaries with friends and family often increases interpersonal discomfort, and does not encourage reflection on the societal inequalities that create the salary gaps. I think the conversation will be more effective if we discuss the salary of the average CEO or teacher without interrogating our friends and family.

  54. Anon for this*

    OP #1, I feel for you! I hope things ease up for you. To all: I have a related question. Any suggestions for handling a similar situation with students missing class for a series of vague “emergencies” that they later describe (without my asking) as things that don’t seem to be urgent: comforting a friend who is bereaved (they could do this at other times besides my class); taking a makeup exam in another class (if I find a student has another class during a makeup, I reschedule). Because I’ve been understanding and accommodating, it seems to me lately that students are scheduling things during my class because they know I’ll be the professor who understands—this week alone, three students scheduled a makeup exam for another class and two job interviews during my class. Any suggestions on setting boundaries in this situation? Each of the students in question already blew past the two weeks of absences allowed in the syllabus, for non-emergency reasons; it’s a participation-heavy class, so their presence matters. I think they’re using the “family/friend emergency” phrase now to try to get extra excused absences. How to be compassionate while being fair to the other students who haven’t missed any classes?what do y’all think?

    1. Reba*

      Yeah, it’s really tough to balance being understanding with knowing that your class is deprioritized (or that students think that you will fold!). If the course policy has been clearly communicated all along, I basically think that you should apply your course policy. The students have made choices that have trade-offs! Perhaps you could offer one substitute assignment that makes up for some of the missed work (somehow without making more work for you?). But you can only grade what they give you, whether that’s participation or an alternative. Other options would be issuing incompletes. Or, if there has been a LOT of struggle in the class, and it’s not too late, you could encourage people to switch to pass/fail. Some professors are even going pass/fail by default, those who want a letter grade can ask (too late for this term maybe something to think about?). If they come to you to negotiate “I need a B at least” you can also try to coach them in crafting a win/win negotiation strategy :)

    2. Purple Cat*

      I think you have to separate the “bad actors” from your general policy.
      Taking makeup exams during your class, job interviews during your class, those aren’t emergencies and shouldn’t be excused. For an otherwise good student who hasn’t burned through their time I’d be hard pressed to say “comforting a grieving friend isn’t acceptable”.

      It sounds like you want to be generous, but also that you’re being taken advantage of, so you might just have to implement a firm policy. 2 absences allowed, grades docked after that. Period, end of story.

    3. Becky S.*

      I’m a recently retired 30 year comunity college adjunct. I never had an attendance policy; I found attendance takes care of itself. In general when students miss a lot of classes, they do poorly, something I discussed the first day. “If you want to do well in college, treat each class like a job you want to keep”
      I had deadlines as to when work was due, and students knew those dates ahead of time. Tests had to be made up before the next class. This college had a test center so they could make up tests at their convenience. I regularly had a 50% D & F rate and that was almost entirely students who missed a lot or stopped attending. Occassionally I had a student who missed a lot and did very well, but that was rare.
      Since this was a community college, many students were ‘trying out’ college, OR trying to go to college while working FT. The drop out rate after the first semester was higher than a 4 year school.
      I did sometimes make exceptions…. one student’s husband had a heart attack so she went to the ER with him. My standard was ” what would be acceptable in the workplace ? “

    4. Koala dreams*

      To begin with, you need to have a policy. Preferably, it would be set by the department or the school, but otherwise you’ll have to create it yourself. So many schools don’t have policies and in that situation, it’s up to the negotiating skill of the students. That’s unfair and encourages sob stories. If you have a clear policy that you go over in class, it’ll be much easier for you to push back, and the less outspoken and less confident students will have a better chance of getting absences accepted.

      I also think it’s nonsense how teachers always expect students to prioritize just their class over everything else. It’s good that you have a more realistic idea.

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

      I would like to put some perspective for you.
      The “comforting a friend who is bereaved” excuse. Here is the thing, College suicide is so high this year. so many college students are taking their own lives and struggling with mental health ( I know, I work at a university counseling center). The student may have said they were “comforting a friend who is bereaved” when they meant they were staying with a friend so the friend wouldn’t kill themselves. I don’t know about your university but many have requirements that professors are mandatory reporters and they may have been scared that if they told you they were helping a friend in this situation that you would contact the friend or student life or police. So I would leave that one alone.
      For the makeup exam. I can see how that can be problematic. But you say that if you find out the student has a class at that time you reschedule. That doesn’t mean that other professors do. From my experience, some professors don’t really care. I would have a conversation with people stating that they shouldn’t schedule exams for during your class.
      For the job interviews. We all know that it can be extremely hard to schedule job interviews when you are not in school. A class time may have been the only option for the student, otherwise they may have missed out on a great opportunity (or even just a job they really need right now). It sucks that it happened to be your class but it’s going to happen. Afterall, isn’t the end goal for your students to become successful?

  55. Overeducated*

    I am married to an academic on multiple search committees, and have several friends from my field applying for academic jobs right now, and my sense is the arms race in qualifications for the shrinking number of tenure track jobs is also impacting the length of cover letters. I see friends discussing whether 3 pages is appropriate for a new grad on social media, while my spouse says the cover letters in their current searches are mostly in the 2 page realm, but there are ones ranging from 4-8(!!!) pages.

    And…it sort of makes sense. If you have to decide between breaking the two page “norm,” and leaving out some of the experience you think will set you apart from a mountain of amazing candidates with more publications than anyone on the search committee, which are you going to risk?

  56. JM*

    3 of the 4 of us in my main friend group work government/education jobs where our salaries are all public information, so we really don’t mind talking about them. It’s taken the 4th who works in the private sector a while to be comfortable with it, but he’s gotten so used to it now that he freely talks about his salary with other people too.

  57. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    #4 – it’s also ok to say that there were a number of different, unrelated things that all hit at once – the “perfect storm” situation – without giving any detals.

  58. RagingADHD*

    LW3, talking about salary is like talking about sex — it’s perfectly fine if everyone’s down with it, and in principle it’s better for society if people feel free to share. But at the same time, people have all kinds of personal feelings about privacy and reasons why they might not want to share at all, or not with you, or not right now, or not in this context.

    Since you can’t psychically tell who is or is not down with it, it’s not a good idea to jump right in bluntly. You’re going to make people feel awkward.

    Put some vague references or “what do you think about” and “would you feel comfortable” around it before getting into the details or asking direct questions.

  59. Ssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

    I worked for a firm where each laptop or desktop had a STAT number (for “station”) and it was carefully tracked as the inherent monthly cost of that machine was charged to your business unit.

    If you had unused STATs, it was to the benefit of your business unit to round them up and return them to IT to reduce the overhead of your business unit.

    I’m assuming other companies operate differently if they let assets go uncollected for months or years.

    But if they paid for warranties and the warranty is expired, there may be less of a rush to collect assets.

  60. Rhodo*

    For me, it depends on the social circle. I have the distinct feeling that there’s a bunch of different incomes/industries going on in my groups of friends. It’s off-putting to me to discuss income with friends, we’re friends because I can depend on them and we have the same interests, not because we’re in the same tax bracket! I was shocked when a friend volunteered exactly what her raise was at her company, because it was equal to six months’ gross income for me. Made things super awkward between us, but maybe that’s on me.

    1. Firm Believer*

      It’s not “on you.” Your feelings about sharing or not sharing are not invalidated because someone else feels comfortable sharing it or because someone is telling you that you should. I would be very put off if a friend asked me what I made. It’s weird.

      1. Rhodo*

        Thanks. I did not respond with my own income, but it baffled me that she didn’t just leave it at ‘I got a raise at work’ to which I could joyfully reply, ‘Good for you!’

  61. agnes*

    #1 Giving more information would be drama. Asking for an extension on a minor project because of some personal issues that have arisen isn’t.

  62. Firm Believer*

    I think some of these comments regarding salary are kind of missing the fact that there are two different discussions here – whether or not it’s appropriate to discuss salary with the point of equalizing people in a workplace AND whether or not it’s fine to ask peoples salary in a social situation. The later in my opinion is not appropriate. That’s really all the letter writer was asking. No one should feel some sort of social pressure to share their incomes with anyone who decided they are curious.

    1. Fierce Jindo*

      A sister is different from many other social situations, though! Families and friendships differ, but personally, I think it’s normal to have financial discussions with close relatives and close friends.

      1. Firm Believer*

        But it’s still intended for the purpose of nothing more than curiosity. I make WAY more money than my sister. She’s aware I make a lot more, but probably has no clue by how much. I’d like to keep it that for a million different reasons.

      2. Essess*

        And I consider it the opposite. Close relatives and friends are more likely to feel entitled and expect to be able to ask for financial assistance if they know how much money you make and then put you in a difficult spot if you don’t want to. They are more able to apply the pressure of relationship combined with knowing your exact financials.

  63. MCMonkeyBean*

    I think it’s likely you are worrying more than you need to, LW#5! This doesn’t seem like a big deal to me. As far as regulations and security and stuff, I think the most important thing would be that they should cut off your access right away. But coordinating the return of physical equipment is cumbersome and I think it’s probably fine if you just reach out now and be like “Hey, not sure if you know that I still have this? What do you want me to do to get it mailed back to you?”

  64. Ozzie*

    Income discussions vary GREATLY between people I’m talking to. My parents know what I make just from discussions about work – not directly speaking about income. I have a friend I met through a former job who, we have an idea what we both make (in general terms) and the quality of our benefits, because we’re always keeping an eye out for opportunities for the other, but we’re not going to waste one anothers’ time with something that we wouldn’t benefit from. Some closer friends, we have an idea of what most of each other make – either specifically or generally – but we’ve all been friends for a *very* long time so it’s just kind of come up as lives change as we get older, and we’re always rooting for one another. (and we all work in such vastly different fields) Sometimes this causes tension, mostly due to unsolicited advice (these things happen, it’s nothing I would consider unusual), but otherwise it’s whatever.

    Weirdly, the place I have NO IDEA what other people make, is at my job. And boy, do I wish we were more open about it. (I don’t think my direct manager knows what I make even, due to how raises have been structured and who I have received the news from) It really just makes me think that there is very little logic to people’s pay, in possibly the most problematic sense. And that’s the feeling I’ve gotten from the company at large as well… Not talking about pay at work just doesn’t benefit workers.

  65. Fierce Jindo*

    Academic here. In my social science field, a cover letter for a faculty job can be four pages in exactly one scenario: when a job asks *only* for a cover letter, CV, and writing sample—not a separate research or teaching statement.

    Even then, four pages is on the long side, and is almost certainly too long for a candidate who doesn’t already have significant postgrad experience.

    Letters that long are almost always *boring* because they’re trying to summarize everything, instead of giving a few core talking points with some killer examples.

  66. Anon no Dog*

    One exception to the sharing what you make thing – If your family is super judgy, only share with the people who won’t judge you based on your salary and lifestyle.

  67. Ben Marcus Consulting*


    Even in academia, your cover letter should be limited to a single page (maybe a page and half). Reasoning being, you have ample opportunity to showcase more about you via published works and a CV. Your CV can be as long as you need it to be. I have clients that have (no-kidding) 200 page CVs because everything goes on; my formatting template for CVs now includes a table of contents to better aide in reviewers to find the information they’re looking for.

    1. Fierce Jindo*

      In my field, for jobs that ask only for a cover letter (not other research and teaching statements), it’s hard to imagine a one-page cover letter that would be competitive.

      The typical range in that scenario is 2 pages for a more junior person and 3-4 for a more senior person.

  68. Observer*

    #1 – I think I’m going to take a slightly different tack than most others. I HIGHLY doubt that you’ve destroyed your reputation or anything like that, especially if you have a good track record.

    However, depending on what you’ve told people and what people in general know about you a bit more information might be useful. Like, no one needs to know the details, but if people don’t know you it might be useful to know, for instance, that “hospitalization or things that have a high chance of leading to it” is the kind of thing that falls under “family emergency that warrants pushing off a deadline” vs “the guy installing my new fixtures changed my appointment”.

    Again, if you have a track record and have not been an entirely closed book about your life, then people already know that. So when you say “family emergency”, “something serious came up that I really need to take care of ASAP”, or things like that, most people understand that you really got stuck with an urgent problem that couldn’t be put off. I just wouldn’t minimize if you get asked about stuff.

    And by “don’t minimize” I don’t mean that you need to share details with anyone who asks anything. More like if someone asks how things are coming along you wouldn’t want to respond with an airy “Oh, everything is just fine.” You’d want to respond with an answer that acknowledges the seriousness of the situation, even if you don’t want to share specifics. Like “It was a close call, but I’m glad to get back to the TPS reports” (for past issues) or “We’re doing our best to deal with the issue. Thanks for asking.” Pivot back to work conversation.

    People who are decent and sensible don’t really need more than that.

  69. Koala dreams*

    Talking about salary with co-workers is a short-term advantage, while talking about salary with friends in other jobs is a less immediate gain, but still valuable. It’s especially valuable to talk with friends in different fields since you’ll have a difficult time evaluating online information when you don’t know the field.

    In my experience, it’s easier to discuss salary with friends in other companies, as opposed to co-workers, especially if you work in different fields. (Not that I find it too difficult to talk with co-workers either, but the potential for hurt feelings is bigger.) Nobody expects a non-profit to pay the same as a for profit, and nobody expects a cashier to be paid the same as a carpenter, or an accountant the same as an engineer. So the stakes are lower and the conversation more relaxed.

    Usually you can get a feeling for what’s appropriate if you think about your friend’s attitude about other financial discussions. What are their attitudes about mortgages, student loans, tax payments? With some friends you don’t talk about finances, other friends love those discussions.

  70. Katt*

    #2, I’d say talk about salaries! Where I work all salary bands are public so if you know what level someone’s at then you have a rough idea of what they’re making.

    Ngl, it can be a tad bit awkward if some of your friends’ careers haven’t started or taken off yet, and you make double or more what they make. I like to talk about money, budgeting, finance, investing, and etc., and I do sometimes have to consider the financial position of the person I’m talking to because it’s easy to be tone deaf about that kind of thing without meaning to… Also, not everyone likes to share salary info. I don’t care for the secrecy and I’m open about it, though, which I find kind of helps some people be more comfortable being open as well. Don’t push, obviously (which is so hard as I LOVE to pry, genuinely out of pure curiosity and rarely do I have any other reasons), but sometimes if you’re openly talking about it then other people will start to discuss it too. A lot of people were just raised with the mindset that you don’t discuss salaries. Once you break that wall, it becomes a little easier.

  71. nozenfordaddy*

    I agree wholeheartedly with the response to OP2, but also I make significantly more than most of my friends/family (due to my job being a highly paid technical field and my social groups being full of amazing artists and teachers who should make more than they do) so I’ve had to temper my basic desire for pay transparency and my desire not to make people.. weird about how much I make.

  72. n.m.*

    Re: letter 1, personally I don’t really want to know about my colleagues personal emergencies!! At least beyond how they affect my projects. It’s one thing if they talk about it with me while socializing, but when they ask for an extension or time off, I just want to hammer out the concrete stuff and get back to work.

    Re: letter 2, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with talking about salaries with friends/family. It’s not as concretely useful as talking about it with colleagues. I also think if someone has a good personal relationship then they should be comfortable saying “oh I don’t personally want to share that” if they don’t want to.

    1. James*

      “…but when they ask for an extension or time off, I just want to hammer out the concrete stuff and get back to work.”

      I always like to know a little bit, for two reasons. First, it shows that you treat your people as humans not automatons, and that you take a genuine interest in their well-being. Second, and related to the first, it helps me plan. If it’s “I broke my arm while riding a bike” I know I can’t pull this person into a field sampling event; if it’s “I may have cancer and need a day off to check” I know that they’re not going to want to handle a lot of stress at work–or, depending on the person, that the kindest thing I can do is load them up to the point where they don’t have time to worry, it all depends on the person. I suppose a third reason is that I can explain things to folks for the person. If someone asks why they need an extension I can say there’s a real reason for it, and be both convincing and honest, which helps protect the employee.

  73. Crazy Dog Lady*

    #2 I was raised that is rude and disrespectful to discuss your salary or how much things cost. I’m in my early 50’s. I’ve mostly gotten over not talking about how much things costs/how much you paid for something, but not the salary part. A lot of people just can’t handle someone else doing well and things can get ugly quickly.

  74. YesItIs*

    To LW#5. Yes I agree to contact your old job and have THEM make ALL arrangements to have the computer sent back prepaid by them. Make sure that they send the correct type of box(es), packing material, tape, shipping label(s) and they arrange for pick up. Do NOT let them even hint that you should drop it off at the office or at UPS or another mailing service.

    When I was in a similar situation, I was first told to bring it all into the office. The person at HQ handling (?) this suggested that I bring all the equipment into Manhattan from my home in Westchester. I explained many times how this was impossible. Then they sent me a couple of boxes to assemble, tape, and a couple of packing “air bags” that needed to be blown up. The straws to blow them up were included. I told them in no certain terms would that work. I also sent the air bags and straws to my former manager for her amusement. She could not believe it.
    They finally sent a delivery service to pick up my laptop, printer, accessories (mouse, keyboard, token, wireless headset, external drive, etc.) The guy showed up with a single moving dolly. No boxes. He proceeded to balance the printer and laptop on the dolly and as he left, he was leaving a trail of small accessories. I have no idea how long it took for him to get to his vehicle, but I was LMAO at the spectacle.

    They also expected me to return the cable box I was using while WFH to the cable company office. I told them very clearly that I was not spending my time and gas money to return it. They had it delivered; they should arranged to have it picked up. Nine and a half years later I still have the cable modem.

  75. YesItIs*

    To LW#5. Yes I agree to contact your old job and have THEM make ALL arrangements to have the computer sent back prepaid by them. Make sure that they send the correct type of box(es), packing material, tape, shipping label(s) and they arrange for pick up. Do NOT let them even hint that you should drop it off at the office or at UPS or another mailing service.

    When I was in a similar situation, I was first told to bring it all into the office. The person at HQ handling (?) this suggested that I bring all the equipment into Manhattan from my home in Westchester. I explained many times how this was impossible. Then they sent me a couple of boxes to assemble, tape, and a couple of packing “air bags” that needed to be blown up. The straws to blow them up were included. I told them in no certain terms how that never work. I also sent the air bags and straws to my former manager for her amusement. She could not believe it.
    They finally sent a delivery service to pick up my laptop, printer, accessories (mouse, keyboard, token, wireless headset, external drive, etc.) The guy showed up with a single moving dolly. No boxes. He proceeded to balance the printer and laptop on the dolly and as he left, he was leaving a trail of small accessories. I have no idea how long it took for him to get to his vehicle, but I was LMAO at the spectacle.

    They also expected me to return the cable box I was using while WFH to the cable company office. I told them very clearly that I was not spending my time and gas money to return it. They had it delivered; they should have arranged to have it picked up. Nine and a half years later I still have the cable modem.

  76. Mitch*

    I served on the hiring committee for a leadership position at a small college. Many candidates submitted multi-page letters. The longest was 9 pages! No one on the committee read that entire letter. (My apologies if this is a double post. I’m having problems with my laptop.)

  77. It's Me*

    LW #2 – To bridge the gap of “it’s okay to ask” and “other people may take offense at me asking because of culture”, maybe try starting with “Do you mind if I ask what you’re making?” That’s what I do with my friends. I’m also very, very, very open about my own salary. The less of a big deal I make about sharing, the more people around me tend to follow to their own levels of comfort. Also, it feels less intimidating to offer information when you know it’s going to be reciprocated.

  78. CW*

    #2 – The only times I wouldn’t talk about pay would be:

    1. Among your current coworkers
    2. If you are interviewing and and the employer did not bring it up first.

    Now, if it is the latter, and the employer insists you bring it up first, then do your research otherwise you will either price yourself out or lowball yourself. None of which would be the desired result. This would be the only exception to the rule.

    But among friends and family? Totally fine. Everyone in my family knows my pay, and they have been respectful about it. Now with my friends? The topic hasn’t really come up, but not because it has been avoided. We just never came around that topic, but maybe that will change one day.

  79. EmmaX*

    LW3: I had a hiring meeting this week to review candidates an academia adjacent position (in a University but not for a faculty member). That’s way too long. Just WAY TOO LONG.

    Yes, Academia regularly has 20-50 page CVs because people are required to list every single paper they published and presentation and student/post-doc/technician, but a cover letter is still a cover letter.

    For Academia, 1-2 pages is appropriate for a cover letter. Anymore and it’s just obvious they don’t have the ability to understand and highlight the important parts.

    Addendum: I just asked a colleague who has reviewed the applications for well over 50 academic hires (so over 1000 candidates) at all levels (University leadership down to undergrad lab technician). Their advice was that the standard cover letters were usually 1-2 pages as it does take a while to get into the meat. But the other advice was “Why double spaced? No-one wants to flip that many pages”. So your friend should do some formatting and get it to 1.5 pages.

  80. LMM*

    LW4, it sounds like if we didn’t work together, we worked in really similar situations. The nonprofit where I worked imploded pretty brutally between the pandemic and the racial reckoning that took place after George Floyd’s death. If anyone asks, I pretty much use Alison’s script – I can’t tell you more than what has been shared publicly – when people ask.

    I would LOVE to tell everyone who asks all about the horror show that place was. It’s an org that is very much in the news once a year, that time of year was a few weeks ago, and it’s really horrifying how much people praised it and its “return from the pandemic” when there is just absolute carnage in its wake. So upsetting.

  81. PermaTemp*

    I worked with doctors who were also in the promotions process at a nearby university, and they often had CVs well over 70 pages.

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