it’s your Friday good news

It’s your Friday good news!

1.  “I have read your column, and recommended it to others, for YEARS. I’m so excited to say I finally have an update to provide.

I worked in state government for nearly two decades. Fairly draconian ethics laws in our state make it nearly impossible to find work in the industry for at least a year after you leave government employment. In our state, government workers received one or two days’ notice in 2020 that nearly all employees were going to 100% remote. Productivity and employee satisfaction skyrocketed. Most employees I know worked more than their normal amount because they were avoiding a commute. While time was lost to some household chores, time was gained from much less office chit chat and general screwing around. Fast forward about 14 months and staff is given less than one month’s notice that we are to report back to 100% in-person, no exceptions. This included no exceptions if you could not find child or dependent care or if you had family in your home that was not yet eligible for vaccination, such as (at that time) kids under 12 years old.

After trying fruitlessly to search for a job while working full time, I quit to focus full time on a job search and get out of the office where people were unmasked, unvaccinated, and not social distancing. My boss cried when I told her I was leaving. I gave a generous three weeks’ notice and she proceeded to give me roughly two months worth of work to complete. Needless to say, I wasn’t able to complete it all. (Ironically, if I was allowed to work from home, I wouldn’t have minded working extra to finish it for the team.) It is customary to allow employees to leave two to three hours early on their last day. She scheduled an end of the day wrap up meeting to let me leave 15 minutes early. Then she “accidentally” forgot to step out of her existing meeting to meet with me. I ended up leaving and handing over everything to the admin. She texted an hour later solely to ask if I’d turned in my keys and credentials.

I took my time and found something that seemed like a good fit. I carefully tailored my cover letter and resume to the job description. It was a non-profit, so I paid attention to the job description and listened in the interviews for buzzwords like “we’re like family” and “the work is its own reward.” I aced the job interviews. I credit it to your advice of remembering that while they are interviewing me, I’m also interviewing them and ensuring a good fit. They had three interviews and I accepted their offer of a fourth interview with people outside my section who I would work with a lot. I loved everything about the people and the company. They made me an offer which was substantially more than my government job. I’m a few months in and I am so happy. I have a reasonable, supportive team and a wonderful boss.”

2.  “Long-time reader here with my own good news to share (finally!) My boss, whom I loved working with, left my organization a few months ago to take a position with an organization we have both worked pretty closely with over the years. With their departure things started to go sour for me at work: I was shuffled around to several different supervisors and ultimately received very little supervision support. I found myself routinely underestimated and undervalued by the people who were tasked with managing me and by other leaders in the organization despite high votes of confidence from those whom I’ve worked with closely. It was extremely demoralizing and the final straw was when I was passed up for a promotion to take on my old boss’ role leading my team’s work – a position I am wholly qualified to do and was very excited about.

I jumped into a job search after that hoping that what everyone is saying about the “job seeker’s market” was true and found that I had a lot of interest! Thanks in large part to your advice, I tailored my application materials carefully and got interviews with 5/6 of the positions I applied for. It turns out my skill set is in high demand and that similar organizations to my current employer have a much more generous pay scale. Ultimately a position opened up on my old boss’ team at their new organization and they recruited me into the role eagerly. The whole team including their high level boss were enthusiastic about my candidacy and within a week of submitting my application I’d already been through two interviews and received a very generous offer. Despite the move being somewhat lateral for me, I’m getting a nearly 27% raise and working for a boss who values what I bring to the table and is willing to fight for my opportunities for advancement, which is basically priceless. Best of all, I’ll be able to continue my work that I’m so passionate about in a very similar type of role. I’m so excited to get out of a workplace that has fostered my self doubt and into a place where I know I can thrive and move forward.”

3.  “My turn to bring The Good News! I am a fairly successful working actor, but I have also held a string of more regular ‘civilian’ jobs as day jobs over the years. Lately I’ve been hankering for a change, as my current day job (while fully remote and hugely flexible for auditions) has turned out to be frustrating and unfulfilling on its best days, and downright infuriating on its worst days. This combined with a huge interruption of the theatre/television/film industry due to COVID, and I’ve been feeling really stuck.

So I started applying for jobs, *without* the caveat that I needed to be available to audition (which has kept me on the low end of the pay and responsibility spectrum for the last ten years). I figure if I miss it desperately, I can always go back. After using your interview advice (it’s all an audition, kids), today I accepted an offer for a job at an organization whose mission I’m excited about, that I know I can grow into, that comes at a 55% (!) pay increase plus benefits (which I didn’t have in my current role). AND I used your advice to negotiate an additional week of PTO. I stopped talking! And it worked!

I so appreciate you and this resource for giving me the guts to show these opportunities how my skills could transfer, and I’m really excited to get started!”

Read an update to this letter

4.  “I don’t know what I would have done the last 2 years without your advice, and the insight and humor of the commentariat community. Your column gave me the reality check I needed, helping me understand that my workplace was NOT okay, and gave me tools to advocate along with my coworker for better pandemic safety, though this was ultimately unsuccessful.

Most importantly, the column along with your book was 100% what allowed me to move forward with confidence and belief in myself in an application process that, a few days back, landed me a job that is really perfect for my skill set and values — at a national nonprofit organization I’ve been wanting to work at for a long time. It was my first time negotiating salary, too — in fact, even thinking it would be possible — and it landed me a higher starting rate!

So I’m just writing to thank you and everyone who takes the time to share their thoughtful perspectives. (The wilder columns cheered me during dark times, too — from Hawaiian rolls to Christmas balls.) I don’t think this is an interesting enough update to qualify as Friday Good News, but, just know that I am grateful from the bottom of my heart.”

{ 28 comments… read them below }

  1. OrigCassandra*

    These are lovely. Thank y’all for writing back in!

    “from Hawaiian rolls to Christmas balls” made me think that we might need to create the ABCs of AAM. Cross-stitch samplers optional but kind of awesome really.

  2. ECE Policy Wonk*

    I’m interested in the “stop talking” advice… can someone point me to it? I may be getting ready to negotiate an offer and would love to have some good tactics up my sleeve.

    1. Mirve*

      I don’t have a link, but it basically is: “make your request and then stop talking”
      For instance. “I was thinking of a salary more like $X, could you do that?” Then stop and wait for what they say.

    2. Interviewer*

      I’m not sure where Alison mentioned it specifically but it’s a common conversation tactic that people will rush to fill awkward silences by talking. So if you stop talking, the other person will start. Same principle applies to interviews and negotiations. State what you want, and then be quiet. This gives them a chance to say yes to your perfectly reasonable request, or give you the information you need.

      My spouse is in sales, he calls it “the shove & smile.” Push the paperwork across the desk, smile at the customer, and don’t speak. He says 9 times out of 10 they will sign it.

  3. Important Moi*

    LW#1: Government workers can be their own kind of special. I am so happy for you….

    and the other LWs

    1. ContractsKiller*

      OP #1 here. Some are definitely their own kind! My former coworkers keep reaching out to see if there are openings at my new company!

      1. 653-CXK*

        My jaw dropped twice – first when your ExBoss gave you two months of work for your three weeks of notice, and second when she couldn’t be bothered to step out of her meeting so you could wrap up things. At least your NewBoss is much better!

      2. Applestan*

        OP#1….did your return to the office regardless of child care happen to be told to you, oh, in early May? Because if so, we work for the same state government and I am so excited for you!!!!!

        If not, well, then we work for very similar state governments and I’m STILL so excited for you!

        Multiple team members are literally a hair’s breath away from just revolting and walking out the door, and the department heads are powerless to move forward with remote work because…well, you know why.

        Kudos to you, and congratulations!

        1. Contracts Killer*

          Ours was late July. So BOO! that now we know at least two states did this. It was also so ridiculous that it was so close to the start of the school year, but they couldn’t allow people to even wait until school started.

          1. The Anon Fed*

            Spouse and I are both Federal Govt – but different agencies. I’ve had to go in through the whole duration (it’s what happens in a pandemic in healthcare – you have to go in regardless). Spouse initially had a hybrid return to office date in May 2021 – but that got pushed back for the delta wave. The push back was to Mid-January 2022, which has now also been delayed due to the Omnicron Surge.

            Just to throw out there – not all govt employees are being forced back into offices.

            1. AppleStan*

              Oh absolutely not all governments are doing that. But my state (I won’t speak for OP’s state) is a state that is very prominently “if we pretend everything is normal then everything is normal” and “people have personal responsibility for social distancing, wearing masks, and getting the vaccine, but in the meantime, please return to the office where you are definitely sitting less than 6 feet away on either side from a coworker who is unmasked and unvaccinated and we hope you don’t get COVID have a great day.”

              So, you know, I get where OP is coming from. We neighbor a state that goes in the complete opposite direction, still productively serves the public, yet has somehow found a way for people to not have to be in the office.

              I myself have always had to be in the office, and I’m OK with that. And I do understand why some people *have* to be onsite — most common example is correctional officers. Kudos to those whose employers are doing all they can to minimize the spread when they have the opportunity.

        2. The Rat-Catcher*

          Applestan, I guess OP isn’t in your state but I might be. May 3rd announcement, May 17th report to the office date? :)

  4. Funfetti*

    Yay Op#3! Former theater kid here – and yessss to everything is an audition. So true – no wonder you nailed the interview. Congrats!

    1. OP 3*

      and the best part is – once a have a solid six months under my belt of learning the ropes and building up capital, i’m pretty confident i’ll be able to go back to working in TV/film and be able to balance both. my new job is in an arts-adjacent industry which helps a lot!

  5. Gary Patterson's Cat*

    “Most employees I know worked more than their normal amount because they were avoiding a commute. While time was lost to some household chores, time was gained from much less office chit chat and general screwing around.”

    This is what I keep saying about WFH. I do not mind working a bit longer in the evening if I don’t have to be in my car driving for 2+ hours a day. Plus, I’m glad to take my cats over office water cooler talk, and just all the banal in-office stuff.
    Can WFH be abused? Sure. Not saying it can’t. But I think those cases are far less than some managers and CEO’s think and I’d challenge them to look at total output and overall meeting of deadlines instead of the hourly “if I can’t see you working you’re not” byplay. Being in the office for 9 hours a day did not always equal 9 hours of actual work a day either.

  6. Meep*

    It is kind of amazing all these “good news” updates are “I found a new job.” Says it all really.

    1. FridayFriyay*

      LW #2 here. The whole time this saga was happening to me I kept thinking, there’s no way my employer understood the reckoning happening in the job market or they wouldn’t treat me like this and expect me to stay. They acted shocked – SHOCKED – when I put in my notice, and stunned that I could make more money elsewhere or that I’d even want to. Major disconnect happening there.

  7. Brett*

    “Fairly draconian ethics laws in our state make it nearly impossible to find work in the industry for at least a year after you leave government employment.”
    I hate how these ethics laws handcuff public employees to their jobs as an overkill response to revolving door issues. They are worse than non-competes. I had the same situation several years ago, and luckily found a promising role (that I am still in) far away from government in agriculture. It definitely made me hang onto that job far past when I should have left, after year 6 with no raises and no COLAs.

    1. Contracts Killer*

      OP #1 here. Yes, the laws are really overkill. At least in our state, it isn’t from when you leave that agency, it is when you leave state employment — period. You could work for, say Motor Vehicles, then work ten years in Education. You would still need to wait a year after leaving government employment before you could work for a regulated motor vehicle company. It is crazy. You compare it to non-competes and to my knowledge, no one has ever challenged the ethics laws in court, but I assume the analysis would be similar. At least in part, I think there haven’t been a lot of legal challenges because regulated entities are hesitant to even consider hiring former government employees because they don’t want to be on the bad side of an agency that regulates them.

      1. Brett*

        “At least in part, I think there haven’t been a lot of legal challenges because regulated entities are hesitant to even consider hiring former government employees because they don’t want to be on the bad side of an agency that regulates them.”

        That was exactly the case for my old employer. I had an interview with the company who provided my employer’s prescription benefits. They were locally based though (well known nationwide provider), and when they ran the ethics law past their lawyers, the lawyers told the hiring manager to not even interview me. The company actually came back and told me this directly. They wanted no part of any legal challenge because they didn’t want to risk a lawsuit with one of their customers that could not only affect their relationship with my employer but with similar local government entities. I had multiple other cases where I had an interview pulled suddenly after disclosing that I was under the constraints of the ethics law.
        (Our law was a lot like yours. It applied anywhere in our government for multiple types of contracts and any vendor. So even though I only reviewed two RFPs for a specific type of software and emergency equipment, it applied to our prescription benefit provider or to other local governments who had MOUs with our government.)

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