it’s your Friday good news

It’s your Friday good news!

1.  “I just got the ‘We are offering you the job!’ call I’ve been waiting for. I’ve been working two and more part-time jobs for several years, and it will be a huge relief to have just one employer and one set of goals, and benefits! And so much of my getting that call is based on taking the advice I’ve gotten here. The cover letter, resume, and interview advice strengthened my candidacy so much! I wrote the questions and answers on index cards, packed them with me wherever I went and held multiple run-throughs of my teaching demonstration. I also sat on hiring committees at work so that I knew what questions they ask every candidate, so that I could see how decisions were made. Doing so gave me some valuable perspective on the whole interview process.

The Magic Question would not have worked in my situation, as the last person in my role held the job for twenty years and was the only person in the role they’d ever worked with. Instead, I asked them to talk about what the successful candidate would be taking off of the director’s hands, as they’d been without anyone in the role for over a year. And after the interviews were over, sending out the thank you emails, then generally acting as if that was the end of it. I planned some fun little activities to keep my brain in today for the eight days before I got the phone call.

And this job is in the field I was hoping to get into! There are just a handful of these jobs where I live, and moving is not an option. Thank you Alison and the commentariat for all your help.”

2.  “I have two stories for you.

I remember a while ago (2-3-4 years?) you got a letter from a despondent job seeker (or their friend relating their tale) who was older, maybe late 20’s to 30’s? and I think had dealt with anxiety or other issues, and had never had a job and didn’t know how to start now that they were older. Back then it was certainly an employers market, to pick and choose and not be so generous or get alot of opportunities. I would love to get an update on that letter writer now!

This hit home for me as I had a younger relative in the same situation, with a history of severe social anxiety who would likely be a great worker, but the process of applying and interviewing was too overwhelming. About 10 years ago, I was able to coach them through an application process at a fast food place. They did everything right, even sent a thank you letter in the mail. At the second interview the manager lectured them about dropping out of high school a few years earlier and how the same things that make you a success in school are necessary in the work force and didn’t hire them. They were so disheartened that they never applied for another job all this time. I’ve been reading Ask a Manager for many years now and have absorbed so much, and with the changes in the workforce and everyone struggling to get employees, I was able to coax them out of their mother’s basement and test the waters. They have been handling their anxiety much better after a few years of therapy, and with my help navigating the application and interview process, they got a job! It is a minimum wage job but it is a job, and it is even a step up from fast food. There is still a lot of anxiety but there is hope too! I am so hoping that this time can be a chance for many of those held back by anxiety to look at the changes in odds and attitudes and to go for it and try for a job.

My other story is about myself. After getting promoted, I received an offer letter with a 10% raise. I combed through everything on the site about negotiating salary offers and asking for a raise and countered with a 14% raise and additional vacation time. I got it!”

3.  “This year, I was really frustrated by the unpleasant and dismissive working environment I was in and decided I’d openly apply for other roles. I was really nervous and was undermined at a few points by leadership, which made me both more determined and also more worried that I would never find something else.

After a lot of patience, cover letter writing, the worst interview of my life* and then some of the best (with AAM prep!), I’m so excited to write in and say that I had not one but TWO offers on the table that were both so good that it was really difficult to decide. I work in a field that is still relatively competitive despite the so-called ‘great resignation’ and the second offer was a role I thought I was not even qualified for. They negotiated salary, offered great benefits, and they interviewed me twice and offered the position, all in less than a week. I’m accepting that offer and so excited to be moving on to a better fit for me. I also used the AAM interview question about what the vision for someone in this role was and got such interesting and helpful answers!

* The worst interview was the worst interview because it was FULL of red flags. For example, the lead person in the interview literally stopped asking questions, visibly texted someone (it was on zoom so you could see the phone), and then said, ‘Sorry I was texting so I didn’t hear your last answer, can someone else ask the next question?’ But it was actually great because since I’m an AAM reader I knew immediately that I was going to withdraw from their process/didn’t need to take them seriously because I would never work there.”

{ 34 comments… read them below }

  1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

    Letter 2, just as one person knocked your relative off track, one person can put them back on. Well, you and the AAM community behind you cheering you on!

  2. jtr*

    LW2: I’m so sorry your relative had that experience! What a jerk manager!! I’m really happy to hear that both they and you have found success!

  3. Chief Petty Officer Tabby*

    For people with anxiety: there seems to be a high population of us in animal care, of all places! I suspect it’s because there are plenty of roles where you don’t have to talk to people and can concentrate on tasks that are rote (cleaning, for instance, is one where no one will look askance at you for doing it with your headphones in as long as you aren’t directly dealing with an animal), you can get a major dopamine boost from the animals themselves, and (at least for me) learning to be calm outwardly comes quicker when the animal is dependent on you not to freak out. I’ve gotten a lot better at dealing with situations and SITUATIONS since I started looking, many moons ago.

    And coworkers and interviewers tend to be very, very patient people who are used to first-time job applicants and anxious people.

    So, if you’re having a hard time getting a first or new job, try it. It might work for you!

    1. Chilipepper Attitude*

      There are a lot of people with anxiety in libraries too. In case it is helpful to someone, libraries are customer service providers. We don’t really work with the books, we work with people. Please join us, but know that it is a people interaction job, not a hide in the back with the books job.

      1. PlainJane*

        In one of my early jobs (part time, during library school), I worked with a full time cataloguer, who was delighted with her job… until upper admin said everyone would be doing desk shifts. I remember her spluttering, “If I wanted to work with people, I wouldn’t have become a cataloguer!”

        1. Chief Petty Officer Tabby*

          Yeah. There are quite a few jobs that might fit anxiety. My very 1st “job” (I was 12, too young to actually work) was as a library page because the head librarian noticed how well I reshelved books by the Dewey decimal system. I’d basically grown up in that library, and those ladies were aunts and caregivers, and taught me a lot. They guided my entry into the world of books so skillfully when my reading level and comprehension outpaced school by 3 or 4 years, and I am still grateful for them. They still remember my favorite books and genres, in fact, and I’m 46!

          So yes, if you can deal with people of all ages, you’ll have a chance to help nerdy kids do needy things and create a well loved safe space and second home for them!

        2. LW #1*

          LW #1
          I shelved books as an undergrad, and one day late in my senior year I was thinking I might want to go on to library school. But I had this thought that I should go out and work in the world first and get better with people, that librarianship is a very social endeavor. It took a few decades, but I did eventually get back to it.

          And seconding familiarity with the practice of having tech services librarians do some reference. Some say that that contact with patrons informs and improves your technical work.

      2. Leonineleopard*

        Can you suggest some books or other sources on this topic (people with certain health conditions and circumstances and how it affects their sorting (self-driven or otherwise) into various occupations?

        I have read some about people with disabilities of course being systematically excluded from occupations of all kinds, I would like to learn more about this more granular topic—when people have access to work, what work do they do and how do they understand that interacting with their health situation.

        Thank you!

        1. LW #1*

          Nesting fail – I was responding to Chilipepper Attitude’s comment that librarianship is a people interaction job.

    2. Junior Assistant Peon*

      I’m kicking myself for not getting anxiety meds a few decades earlier than I did. It was a simple process of going to my primary care doctor and getting a prescription. I had expected it to entail twice-a-week appointments with a psychologist, which I don’t have time for. If meds work for you, it’s a better option than making a career choice around your anxiety.

      1. Mid*

        I don’t think it’s wrong to try and find a career that works best for your strengths and weaknesses. And accounting for anxiety is part of that!

        I have ADHD, and I’m medicated for it, but I also won’t ever thrive in a job that’s highly structured and a lot of rote work. Choosing a job that works best for me means choosing one that works with my ADHD. If phone calls make you sweaty, picking a job that includes a lot of phone time isn’t the best idea. If working with animals makes someone’s anxiety better, all the better for them!

        Anxiety is a medical condition, and I doubt you’d encourage someone with herniated discs in their spine to choose a career that involves a lot of heavy lifting and behind their back.

  4. Chief Petty Officer Tabby*

    Oh, and you are unlikely to need to buy a professional wardrobe right away. So many places are okay with leggings and tees, or joggers, or jeans you might already have (my particular company actually recommends leggings!) that it will give you the breathing space to slowly get ahold of more business clothes. Dog daycare and animal shelters are the easiest, as they require the least skill going in.

      1. Chief Petty Officer Tabby*

        Both, actually! I am actually the chief roasting officer, too — when a dog gets beside himself, I’m the one that straightens him out! :D

  5. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

    LW3, good for you for spotting those red flags! If hiring isn’t important enough for someone to put their phone down, it’s likely that they’ll make a lot of bad hires.

  6. Jedi Sentinel Bird*

    LW2: that’s great you’re encouraging your relative. I find it kind of upsetting that somebody would say negative and unproductive comments to your relative. I hope your relative can work through the anxiety. Unfortunately there’s always going to be people who are jerks and say things that are either stupid or not worth saying. It kind of reminds me of a jerk manager I had who told me I would never amount to anything. If I just left it at that then I would probably be in a similar position like your relative. I think a lot of these jerks say stuff like this because they’re so insecure with themselves. At the same time it can be an advantage for somebody to say something like that right off the bat because then you know where you stand with that person rather than them tippy-toeing an acting kind of nice towards you when they are not . Sometimes you have to let it roll off your back and work through the challenges because coming out from the other side makes it much more satisfying when you finally find a place that is not toxic and is a positive place to work best wishes to you and your relative.

    1. BubbleTea*

      I had a maths teacher who told me I’d fail GCSE maths.

      Being a contrary sort, I now TEACH GCSE maths, as a side job.

  7. Chilipepper Attitude*

    As always, many thanks to those sharing. I got my own good news friday story but I still love to read these!

  8. Llama Princess*

    I am in a similar position to the person described in LW2. History of depression and other untreated mental health issues, older jobseeker. Spotty work history, barely existent as well. Degree is still ongoing, very slowly part time. I moved to a new country last year with a much better healthcare system, but I don’t yet speak the language. I got a lot of my neglected issues sorted very quickly here.

    But best of all – I just started a new job last week! They wanted a part-timer who speaks English, as the small startup has so many backgrounds English is the easiest common language. The work is interesting (and roughly related to what I’m wanting to do), my supervisor has been incredibly supportive even though she doesn’t know that I’ve had problems(maybe she could read between the lines on my CV, but I’ve said nothing). She’s been emphasising that I get to agree to the work and no one can make me work more than I want and that if anything makes me unsure or uncomfortable, to just tell her and she’ll sort it. And it was one of my volunteer roles that I put on my CV that got me their attention. So my really bad work history wasn’t relevant at all! It’s a bit of a niche role in that it suits me, and that I’m well suited to it, and they wouldn’t find many that would. It’s not permanent, but it’s perfect for me right now, and that gives me hope.

    I’ve been debating writing in for this but couldn’t get started. Just to share with others that might be similar, you never know what you’ll find out there!

    1. Industrial Tea Machine*

      Llama Princess, this internet stranger is so happy for you! I love that you have a supportive manager, interesting work, and you’re building up your CV all at the same time. I hope that job continues to serve you well, and that finding the next job when you want/are ready for it goes smoothly.

  9. Chaordic One*

    I’m seeing some similar things with different kinds of people who might usually have a more difficult time getting hired. In spite of their not matching the stereotype of what might first come to mind for someone in their position, they are getting offers and getting hired. People who are older, overweight, obviously LGBT, people of color, people with criminal records. A lot of them are getting offers and it is kind of a benefit of the current hiring climate. It’s sad it has taken something like COVID to create the environment that has led to their being hired, but I’m glad it is happening. Also, a lot of them are not great jobs, they’re kind of lower middle-class jobs but they do have benefits.

  10. Hamburke*

    I’ve always thought it would be really helpful for young/inexperienced people to be able to sit in on the hiring side of an interview, with commentary from an experienced interviewer. LW1 reinforced that perspective!

    1. Squirrel Nutkin*

      Absolutely, perhaps also partly to relieve some pressure on themselves. I was an unsuccessful job seeker for YEARS in a very competitive field who thought I was a total loser in my career. It was really eye-opening to me when I finally did get a job to get on hiring committees and see the interview process from the other side. It actually made me feel a LOT better to see that in a employer’s market, sometimes the hiring committee loves multiple candidates but just can’t hire them all, and that when they reject someone, it’s often more about the employer’s needs at that time than anything awful about the rejected candidate.

    2. LW #1*

      Being on hiring committees did several things for me, especially as an internal candidate:
      Learning what kind of boilerplate questions my committee might ask
      Seeing what my search committee sees
      Finding out that the committee really wants to do its best and make a good decision for the organization
      Seeing how a search committee makes decisions
      Making me understand what the committee is allowed to consider when making their decision.
      Making me understand that all my answers should be tailored to what makes me the strongest candidate for the job, and to not be misdirected by generic questions like “Tell us a little about yourself.”

  11. Bookworm*

    At the end of yet another long week it is always nice to read these. Thanks again to all the LWs for sharing and Alison for posting!!

  12. Just Me*

    LW3, I had an interview that was so similar to yours.

    I never regretted not taking the job.

  13. Squirrel Nutkin*

    Congratulations, all, and especially to LW#2’s brave relative for trying again!

  14. Qwerty*

    I’m not the person in the letter (re #2) but am just like them. I survived serious abuse and neglect that left me with terrible mental health issues in my teens and 20s. When I was finally ready to enter the labor market in my late 20s, no one would give me a chance.

    Until someone did. Finally. After years of trying, when I was in my early 30s. I volunteered to work in a politician’s office and was offered a very poorly paid, part time position. I used it as a springboard into a career track job and 5 years later, I earn into the 6 figures and manage a team. I just kept getting promoted after starting on the lowest rung. I expect a couple more promotions before my career becomes more about lateral moves.

    I look back now and think it’s hilarious that I was rejected for so many jobs and couldn’t even get a job in a shop because I hadn’t worked in one before. Of course, retail is a skill in its own right, and perhaps I’d have been terrible at it. But, lots of those employers needing the skills that have led me to success in my current role really missed out. Now I know that I’m excellent and better than a large proportion of the population at a few marketable things. I also know how much luck has to do with it. On a different timeline, I’d be a minimum wage worker right now.

    I think we should foster more of a culture of giving people chances in career track jobs. I was long term unemployed because I experienced horrible things and was treated very poorly by many people as a young person and it impacted me on a deep level. It was never because I wasn’t good enough. And frankly, a lot of the people I have worked with over these years aren’t any smarter than the other long term unemployed people I’ve known – I’m convinced that most people could do quite a lot of career track jobs that just will not let people in without a degree and x years of experience and luck.

  15. Liz*

    I can relate a lot to LW2’s relative. Chronic mental health problems and one incredibly toxic job which led me to believe I could not do any better resulted in 7 years of unemployment. Just the SUGGESTION of having to go back into work would bring on panic attacks.

    There were many things that helped, but one of the big ones was an extremely well respected and successful friend of mine who took time out of her busy schedule to take me out for lunch and give me a pep talk. She told me that I WAS capable of holding down a job, I WOULD be ok in work, and that my shitty job was not the way things were supposed to be.

    7 years on from that and I’m now a graduate psychologist and have been working for 4 years in a mental health charity. I’m not far off qualifying as a therapist where I’ll be helping people with similar struggles to my younger self. I do feel immensely privileged to have had the help I’ve had along the way (I was able to move back in with my parents and my dad helped me out with tuition fees) but my plan is to continue paying it forward by helping others who need that same guidance.

    It’s not all wine and roses. I still struggle at times and there is a good chance I have undiagnosed ADHD, but the waiting lists are YEARS so I won’t be getting any help with that any time soon. But I’m an in infinitely better place than I was a decade ago.

    Thank you LW2 for being that supportive person who stood by a vulnerable individual and gave them the boost they needed. So many people don’t get how hard it can be when you feel the cards are stacked against you. It sounds like you really helped change a life.

  16. AnxiousButThriving*

    I felt the anxiety one very much, I am glad they get the chance they needed.

    I wanted to highlight that it really can happen to anyone: I was relatively normal levels of interview and social anxious, until I had a bad (police) experience with a supervisor in my early 20s that left me with a crippling anxiety of interviews (“what if I end up with someone like that again? What if they ask me about it? are they safe?” etc.) that years of therapy did not manage to shift.

    I have degrees from top universities in my country, and luckily already had an early first job offer that I could take, and my first manager was a supportive woman who worked closely with and mentored me in my first few months; so I got good work experience and promotions for a few years.

    But when I retrained and changed career track, the anxiety came back, full force. I was getting plenty of job interviews and interest but was having panic attacks either before or (!) during them. My savings were draining in front of my eyes for months.

    The pandemic came to my rescue: I took an emergency COVID testing role (no interviews required!)

    Once I was out and working most days in a very non-hierarchical environment, I felt able to do some phone screens, and had an hour long chat with a kind, thoughtful team lead remotely. That was a game changer: so much less scary, because I could sit there with my notes and my tea in my own safe space and relax. I didn’t get that job, but they made a temporary position to try me out as well as the candidate they did hire.

    I worked remotely for over a year, and they made my role permanent.

    One afternoon I had to call my manager to say I hadn’t done any work yet that day, without feeling able to go into details of why (trigger event; I was briefly suicidal, managing it fine, but couldn’t spare energy to work or ask for leave until then) and he was kind. Then I knew they really had my back and I haven’t needed a day off since.

    When we came back into the office for a couple of days a week it was fine because I already knew the people well. Now they’ve promoted me, I get challenging work and autonomy, I have a great relationship with everyone on my team, and when I need to focus I can just stay at home and be productive from there :) remote work forever!

    1. coffee*

      Go you! It’s great that you’ve been able to push forward and get yourself a job.

      I am tentatively suggesting that you might find EMDR therapy helpful – Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprogramming Therapy, which sounds like a bad sci-fi plotline but is a legitimate therapy that really helps with the anxiety associated with traumatic events, particularly when remembering those events triggers your fears again. Best wishes.

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