my coworker guilt-trips me when I won’t help, high-earning colleagues joke about my pay, and more

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

1. How much am I obligated to help a coworker who guilt-trips me when I don’t?

How much help am I obligated to give to a coworker who has a long history of struggling to manage their own life?

We have a coworker, “J,” who, because of the nature of their work and the hours of their shift, doesn’t always have someone who can easily cover them when they need to be out. We do have a bench of people able to cover, and filling in for physical illness, mental health days, and planned vacation or days off is never a problem.

Unfortunately J has a long history of failing to arrange to take their vacation time off in a timely fashion.

They push back when told they’re not giving enough notice for us to find someone to cover their shift and here’s the kicker — they often subtly imply but never outright state that they need the time off for mental health or family problems and imply that if you don’t cover for them you’re the cause of their further decline. The latest episode involved very little notice to fill a shift because they wanted to make plans with a child who they haven’t seen much of lately.

I understand they’re having a rough time (they always seem to be) but the last two years have been a dumpster fire for everyone. I take a lot of pride in being a team player and acknowledging that some people need different accommodations than others and our supervisor is fully supportive of me not making any great efforts for this person. But I’m a little weary of holding up what seems like a basic boundary, then being treated like I’m ungenerous for it by my coworker.

I suspect J may just offload a lot of their responsibilities onto others — but am I being unreasonable? Or do I just need to distance myself from taking someone else’s problems personally?

You’re not being unreasonable. But yeah, it sounds like you do need to distance yourself from J’s problems.

You don’t need to bend over backwards to cover J’s shifts. If they need coverage and you don’t mind providing it and can do it without hardship, great — go ahead and fill in. But if you don’t want to, for whatever reason, you’re not obligated to find a way to make it work.

It sounds like you’ve been taking that approach, but J tries to make you feel guilty, which is understandably rubbing you the wrong way. You can’t stop J from from trying to do that; you can only control your own side of things. That means you’ve got to make your peace with the realities that (a) J is going to keep asking for coverage at the last minute, (b) you’re going to keep saying no when it’s inconvenient for you and that’s okay, (c), J is going to try to guilt-trip you for it, and (d) J is out of line in doing that and you don’t need to play along.

It might help to have a breezy stock response when (c) happens — something simple like “that sucks, sorry I can’t help” — and just use it every time so you don’t have to invest much more thought or energy into it.

2. Higher-earning colleagues joking about our pay

I am in a career, public interest law, that typically requires people do a one-year fellowship (at least) at a relatively low level of pay before being able to qualify for other positions. I am a fellow in an office that does incredible work I care about with two other fellows. All of the other attorneys on staff make at least twice what we make. I get frustrated sometimes, but it is part of the process and I have mostly made peace with my low compensation this year.

Today, there was a “staff appreciation lunch” and another fellow and I went to get some food. As the group gathered, all three of the highest ranked attorneys in the office (who also make the most) made jokes about how they will give us leftovers to bring home because of our relatively low salaries. One person joked that we wouldn’t have to eat ramen tonight. Another said, “We don’t give you health insurance, but we will give you sandwiches.”

The thing is, I am experiencing some financial pains because of the low salary in this position. I’ll be okay when I begin my next position at a different organization, but it’s been a really hard time and I did not really appreciate people making jokes about something that is fully within their control to change. Our organization pays us poorly even compared to what other people in similar positions are paid. I want to tell my supervisors that they were being inappropriate, but it’s difficult to get up the courage, especially as someone who is on the bottom of the hierarchy. Am I overreacting? Should I just not say anything?

Unfortunately this isn’t unique to your office; those jokes are so, so common around interns and fellows. There’s supposed to be a “we all went through it and feel for you” vibe to it; the subtext is that you won’t be in that spot forever. (There’s a reason you don’t typically hear that sort of joke made around people who might be on more permanently low-earning tracks.) That doesn’t mean it’s harmless or that you’re wrong to be annoyed by it — I get why you are! — but realistically you’re probably better off saving your capital for other things. I could see bringing it up in an exit interview though (“the jokes about our pay were tough to hear when I was genuinely struggling”).

3. My boss is delaying my transfer

I am in grad school and will be starting my internship in the fall. I work in mental health and my masters will also be in the field. I am currently working in a role that I don’t hate but don’t necessarily enjoy within the field. I had to opportunity to have a paid internship in the same company but with a different department. I notified my supervisor that I have accepted this position (plus a pay raise) and have given over a month’s notice.

My supervisor told me today that I cannot leave my role until they have found a replacement (backstory, this position normally has two roles but it’s just me right now because they have refused to hire). I have been told that the earliest date I can move is two months from now, and if a replacement has not been found by then I will have to find a way to work both positions. Can they do this? I am extremely disappointed as this new role would give me more time off with my family and I was looking forward to having the summer with my child.

When you move jobs within a company, sometimes your current manager does indeed have the power to control the timeline for the transfer. Typically there are limits on that (like a few months, not a year). It’s not always the case, but a lot of companies do want the current manager to have some input into the timing; the idea is to do what’s best for the company as a whole since you’re staying internal. Sometimes the new manager might be willing to spend their own capital to push back; other times they’re not. In this case, where it’s an internship, there’s a good chance they won’t be.

If your boss won’t budge, one option is to talk with HR and say you’re willing to stay where you are for the next two months but not willing to work in both jobs if they haven’t hired by then. They may or may not be willing to intervene, but that’s a reasonable compromise to offer and you’ve got a decent shot at getting some help, particularly since it sounds like your manager is being unreasonable. Otherwise, though, usually your leverage to push back is how willing you are to walk away from the company entirely.

4. Explaining to interviewers why I’m leaving my current job

After 16 years with my current company, I’m job searching and can’t figure out what to say if asked why I’m leaving. My concern is that the job I’m applying for is a lateral move and the job description is what I’m currently doing. How do I explain I’m leaving due to failing mental health and a dysfunctional company?

I used to love the company but in the last few years senior leadership has been more blatant than ever that they don’t care about the employees. Some examples include selling part of the company and having massive layoffs during the pandemic; constantly shifting priorities on the goals; leadership setting us up for failure, denying it when called out on it, and then abdicating all responsibility when the inevitable failure occurs; angrily refusing to hear management concerns about the Great Resignation; and admitting we pay less than others in the industry and refusing to address it.

I’m stuck on how to spin this without bashing the company, especially as I’m in the wine industry and everyone knows everyone and the two companies are direct competitors. Which isn’t a problem, moving between wineries is very common but results in a small world.

You don’t need to get into any of that! After 16 years, it’ll be enough to just say you’re ready for something new: “I’ve enjoyed my work and learned a lot, but after 16 years I feel ready to take on something new and I’m excited about this role because _____.” The question isn’t a call for you to unburden yourself; interviewers will generally accept any answer that sounds plausible and are just trying to make sure there isn’t a red flag there that they should follow up on.

5. People have terrible resumes

I’m just writing in to give my observations after seeing a lot of resumes lately. I’m currently on the hiring committee for three salaried positions and am kind of surprised at some of the things I have seen given the level of the roles.

* I am no stickler for a one page resume. Two pages, fine. But we are routinely getting bloated resumes. Three pages is very common (and most could have been two with some light formatting). One candidate’s resume was SIX pages long. SIX.

* Listing every. single. job. duty. under each role. And most of the additions are unnecessary. In some cases the line item is industry standard and expected for the role, so does not need to be explicitly stated. One example: under a previous role as a Health, Safety & Environmental Manager, the candidate had a bullet point that said “Safety Specialist.” Already very much implied if you have reached that level of your career in that field.

* Lastly, even for higher level roles with a decent amount of responsibilities, there is not a single quantifiable value to be found on the resume. If a candidate had some sort of control or input regarding a metric, I would expect to see some mention of how they affected that metric on their resume (e.g., “decreased incident and injury rate by 25% within two years”).

None of these candidates were ruled out by their resumes. But I wanted to share with your readers some of these issues and why they can put a candidate at a disadvantage. If your resume is bloated, it is harder for me to read it quickly and get a good picture of what you can bring as a candidate. And if it is an entire page of listed duties per job, that just makes my eyes want to glaze over, if I’m being honest. If a resume is missing achievements (metrics, KPIs), I have to spend part of our limited interview time going over that when I would rather skip to the part where the candidate can get into how they achieved them.

Interestingly we have noticed these issues pretty evenly across all age groups, which I found somewhat surprising. Hopefully by sharing my experience, at least a few can be enlightened.

Oh yes. None of this is a new trend; this stuff has been the case since I first started hiring millennia ago. But you’re absolutely right about each point; what you describe detracts from the stuff that could make someone a strong candidate and makes it harder for the person to get selected to move forward.

Related: my step-by-step guide to writing a resume

{ 443 comments… read them below }

  1. MK*

    Honetsly OP3, I think you should think about making other arrangements for your internship. Delaying your transfer till they fill the position isn’t great, but telling you you will have to work both roles if they don’t find someone is completely unreasonable. And I am concerned about how diligent they will be about hiring someone since they apparently think they have a fallback plan in working you to death.

    1. Casper Lives*

      I was wondering if LW can do that. Her manager is denying her a higher paying internship with better hours. And probably a better manager, based on this one refusing to hire. There’s a lot of pressure in the MH field to work underpaid for the patients.

      This manager wants to suck LW dry. If you can LW, take these two months to search for another internship. If your manager lets you go AND doesn’t tell you to work two jobs, great! If not, you’ll have options.

      1. Ping*

        That’s why LW should go to HR. The loss of income from the delayed start may be enough to force the issue. I know that at my old company the manager could only delay the transfer if no extra money was involved.

        1. Snow Globe*

          At the very least, LW should insist on being paid the higher salary starting at the time that the internship was supposed to start. There should be no lost income if the LW ends up delaying their start in the new role, since *apparently* it is benefitting the company.

        2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          This got brought up below, but there may also be a contact hours requirement from the university for the internship. Will delaying the start of the internship cause delays in graduation for OP? Time to check in with the university internship office and see if they could also help out here.

          But yeah – the current manager is a lazy shmuck who wants to not manage (and yes adequate staffing is part of the managers responsibilities in most companies). But in the end that’s not OP’s problem and they deserve the right to return the problem to sender.

      2. Kevin Sours*

        There is always pursuing an internship at a different company. OP#3 should be discussing that with their academic advisors yesterday in addition to any discussions they are having with their current place of employment. They present situation is communicating very strongly that they do not have either a path to get their academic work done nor a path to future advancement at their current company.

    2. KateM*

      OP already is only person where they need two. Does it mean they are already doing two jobs, and will be expected to do three??

      1. The OTHER Other.*

        I’m amazed a manager has made an intern a captive and apparently essential employee. IME, interns were rarely if ever entrusted with essential work and the fact that this intern is already doing the jobs of two people and would only be “allowed” to move to the other department if they did the work of three people…. Well, I question what this internship is teaching the intern. How to be overworked? How to feel trapped by an unreasonable boss?

        This is the best job market for employees we’ve seen in many years, and yet this intern is being treated as though they have no options except doing the work of either 2 or 3 people. If HR is no help, maybe the school can get the LW placed in the new department, or in an internship with a more functional company.

        1. OfOtherWorlds*

          My reading of the letter is that only the new role is an internship, the old role is as a regular employee.

    3. MoMac*

      I absolutely agree. The issue is that she is paying money for her field placement course and she is required to do those hours. Not doing so will mean that she has paid money for a class she cannot pass. I would be very clear with HR that your boss is undermining your education and that your only option if they do not follow through with the transfer, is that you will be leaving the company and your boss will still be without you as a worker. Do not let them mess up your internship. And no, you cannot do two jobs at once. The point of the internship is to focus fully and intensely on the learning opportunities in your internship. You cannot do that while juggling two jobs. Get in touch with your field placement office now and let them know that you may need a new internship. Your boss is a terrible person.

      1. Again With Feeling*

        This!! The fact that LW is paying money to her school makes this even more egregious. HR would be my first stop, followed immediately by looping in the school’s field placement office. The school has an obligation to LW and should intervene or find her a new placement if she can’t get this resolved with the employer. Also, if the employer doesn’t make it right, the field placement office should know that this is a crappy placement that mistreats student workers.

      2. Tired Social Worker*

        This right here. I work in the mental health field and we have several open positions we just can’t fill because no one is applying. I would sit down and talk with HR about how this manager is hurting your education and the impact this will have on your ability to keep working for them after you earn your advanced degree. If they have you working two jobs and want you to do three what will they do when you are not there at all? Sometimes people need to be shown how short sighted their decisions are.

      3. MCMonkeyBean*

        Yes! And also, I agree with Alison’s answer that it’s not uncommon for a manager to have some say in the timing of a transfer, but I disagree that the internship makes it even harder to fight. To me it seems like the boss should have less say, since the internship is presumably a short-term position right? If it were going to be her job for the next several years then sure pushing that back a month or two might make sense for the company. But not if the job is much more temporary than that.

    4. Cthulhu's Librarian*

      Personal rule – NEVER intern with an organization you already work or volunteer for. If the internship is unpaid, you’re telling your employer they currently overvalue your time, because most internships have a cost to you (ie, credit hour cost in the program you’re part of). You’re functionally saying ‘I like you so much I would pay to work for you.’

      Even when the internship is paid, I still dislike it – you’re usually not learning anything new by working for an organization you are already part of, or anything you couldn’t learn by asking for cross training, at least. You definitely aren’t growing your professional network, because you’re dealing with the same people who already know you. And you’re probably missing out on learning if there might be something else related to your field of study you might enjoy doing.

      1. eastcoastkate*

        I think this is very much dependent on the organization and the internship- an internship can provide very valuable exposure to other areas of the organization, project work across a variety of settings- and not every organization can you do that in roles that aren’t internships. You definitely could grow your professional network in an internship that you couldn’t do otherwise especially if it’s a large organization where you are encountering teams and leaders you weren’t working with previously. Sometimes interns get exposure to higher-level leaders or initiatives that they wouldn’t normally. A paid internship (should be paid) at somewhere you’ve worked or volunteered previously can still be a very valuable experience.

  2. Coleen*


    For the first time ever I disagree with Alison. It is never ok to make fun of someone below your pay grade especially when they’re an intern and to say that it’s just the way things are and to save your capital for another day is imo tone deaf and the root of this problem.
    You rightfully felt slighted and it’s utterly unjust that there are still organisations out there benefiting from the hard work of people, but not paying them fairly under the guise of “learning the ropes”
    And don’t get me started on unpaid internships. Ugh!

    1. Coffee and Walnut Cake please*

      I would ask where is the cake. If you’re not giving us bread then give us cake!!

    2. Cat*

      There is HUGE privilege behind the assumption that financial hardship is temporary and tolerable. If it’s all you’ve known in your life, you have zero reason to trust that it will get better and every right to be angry. Students, interns, and early career professionals deserve dignity at all salary tiers. There is no camaraderie when you’re poor/first gen with people who act like their temporary budgeting and reliance on parents’ money is equivalent to your lifetime of hardship.

      1. bamcheeks*

        Yes, I was thinking they. There’s also a massive difference between temporary low-income when you’ve got wealthy parents who a) don’t need any help themselves and b) can bail you out if you have any unexpected emergencies, and “temporary” hardship when family members depend on you and you’ve got no safety net. Joking about low pay is one of the way well-paid professions alienate and exclude anyone who isn’t from a similar background.

        1. UKDancer*

          Yes this is critical. I was poor when I started out in my job and lived in a crappy flat in a bad part of London and had to struggle. But when I had an emergency I knew I could ask my parents for help because I had middle class parents who could do that to an extent (not massively but enough for odd unexpected expenditures). It’s a lot harder if you’ve got parents who can’t afford to help or no parents at all.

          And while there is in some industries a sense that a period of relative poverty is a thing everyone goes through before they establish themselves and become successful, it’s awfully privileged for people to assume that it will be a temporary thing.

          1. Lily Rowan*

            I would describe that as broke, not poor. (Because that was my same situation, and I understand I have never been poor.)

            1. UKDancer*

              Yes you’re probably right. It felt like poor at the time when I was waiting for buses in the pouring rain and couldn’t afford the tube. It’s hard to see it as temporary when you’re going through it. In retrospect, definitely it was broke rather than chronically poor.

        2. Just Another Starving Artist*

          A tangent, but this is one of the things I think that gets lost in conversations about student debt amongst people with law or medical degrees. There’s an assumption that it’s not a big deal because they’re such high-paying professions. Except they aren’t always. And the debt often means you find more people without safety nets looking for the money-job so they can pay things off quickly and people with safety nets are the ones who can afford to do the low-paying advocacy work. Which results in a lot of tone-deafness in advocacy spaces. It’s not great.

          1. pancakes*

            Yes. In my city the people who can take those jobs are very often either coming out of several years of biglaw work, or married to someone in biglaw, or have family money. Or some combination thereof.

            Very minor in comparison, but it’s also annoying when the public interest firm passes on your resume without a word but adds you to the mailing list of people to hit up for money at fundraising time!

            1. AnonToday*

              Also, I’m tired of charitable organizations where I apply for assistance adding me to the donor email list. I feel like they’re just doing a bait-and-switch offering free services but then expecting me to pay for $250 gala tickets or whatever. And typically, these aren’t the kind of organizations that help people get out of poverty and into a high tax bracket. They’re helping people survive or get public benefits.

              1. pancakes*

                Oh my, I bet. I think sometimes it’s not so much that they expect you to pay for the pricey ticket or make a donation but that it’s easy to add job seekers to the list of people the org counts as supporters and does “outreach” to. It makes their numbers look a bit better if they don’t get more granular there.

          2. moonstone*

            Yeah – I recently stopped talking to a former friend, for various reasons, but one of them was that she was a middle class white person whose parents paid for her college degree and everything, but she was one of those hipsters who thought that anyone who worked a white collar job was a pretentious wealthy person while those who worked in the arts or advocacy were more down to earth. While I could see where she was coming from…she was really off in her assumptions, and failed to see the irony that the reason SHE could go into the low-paying arts was because she didn’t have debt or family to support. Meanwhile, all of my friends who are doctors and lawyers support their parents and siblings financially and some are first generation college students.

            1. pancakes*

              Whew! It is unfortunate that many young people in college and grad school don’t yet have a sense of how many people with arty / public interest / advocacy / media / other desirable but relatively low-paying jobs have family support or some other source of support, and I don’t have a sense schools are doing a great job addressing that. Particularly the high-profile and/or high power jobs.

      2. Emmy Noether*

        yeah, there’s a thing I think of as “middle-class student poor”. Like, sure, the budget is tight, living quarters are cramped, ramen are frequently involved. BUT there’s the reasonable expectation that it’s temporary, and if there’s an emergency there’s family money to bail one out. The level of stress is much different than actual poverty.

        It’s sort of like camping. It’s really fun to do it for a while, but only with the knowledge that there’s a house to go back to afterwards.

        1. TechWorker*

          Yep!! A friend who I love dearly but clearly has a blind spot on this once told me that she didn’t think minimum wage was that bad because after all she lived on around that during her first year of work (which was possibly some kind of internship or had limited hours, I don’t remember). She regularly went back to her parents for Sunday lunches and I am 100% certain they would have bailed her out if she needed it (they are pretty wealthy and generous with it). It’s just not the same as actually living on minimum wage as your entire wage.

        2. Sloanicota*

          Yeah and (note that I Alison’s answer was sympathetic and realistic) I didn’t always realize what a privilege it was too be healthy during my intern-poverty years. For someone managing a chronic health condition this is brutal, even deadly,

          1. Emmy Noether*

            Oh yes, youth and health definitely help! Also having no dependents that rely on you.

        3. Chas*

          Exactly. I quite often think that a lot of people have never been poor, but they’ve been temporarily broke and think it’s the same thing. So then when people bring up issues like minimun wage not covering cost of living, they come out with suggestions that helped them get through the temporary broke period, without realising that the problem is that people are already doing all of those things and more and STILL can’t afford to live without help! (Or that their suggestions require an up-front cost that someone living paycheck-to-paycheck can’t pay, or time and energy that someone working 2 different min-wage jobs doesn’t have, etc…)

          1. CommanderBanana*

            ^^ This. Also, the narrative around being a broke student is very different when the understanding is that it’s a temporary situation and sort of a rite of passage…when you’re middle-career and still struggling financially, it’s a very different feeling.

            1. NotBatman*

              Yes. And even that narrative props up some toxic behavior. When I was in grad school one of the supervisors (making 90k a year) sent a “joke” email suggesting that the grad students (making 15k a year) go dumpster diving if short on funds. This happened 3 years before I started, and 6 years later every new student was still being told “Do not go to X, X is not your friend, here’s the email forward that shows you why.”

          2. whingedrinking*

            There’s also the fact that something may be possible, but that doesn’t make it no big deal.
            So lots of people won’t literally die working over full-time at minimum wage – they’ll just be stressed and miserable and so will their dependents. And they have to live that way because…? Has God decreed that he will smite humanity if there aren’t people struggling to pay rent in some of the richest countries in the world? What horrible consequence would ensue if those people got better pay? Oh, a billionaire won’t be able to buy another superyacht? Oh no.

        4. Lily*

          I had a roommate in college who would talk about being “poor”. And he’d go on international vacations with his parents during school breaks. Dude, you’re not poor, you’re slumming.

      3. Lily*

        Seconded. Lifetime of hardship + first professional job fter university saying I needed to “pay my dues.” B**ch, I’ve been “paying my dues” for 26 years, I’ve more than earned the right to have a decent meal and be able to sleep at night without waking up in a panic about money.

        1. ferrina*

          This. Many of my colleagues don’t have any idea what it’s like to be food insecure and have to fight your way into a system that no one ever told you existed (as opposed to growing up having support, information, parents who will help you). It’s real, and it has a lasting impact.

          Lily, I hope you’re getting a fair compensation now!

        2. Verthandi*

          Seriously! The hazing mentality can get sucked into the nearest black hole.

          Hardship bad habits are hard to drop after you’ve finally climbed far enough up that you can affford better.

      4. pancakes*

        I agree, Cat, and you’ve put it very well. I would say that besides trust in the process, most people who aren’t hugely privileged simply can’t afford to live in the cities many of the most prestigious internships are located in without being paid fairly. Which interns generally are not. I see other commenters have talked about this and want to emphasize it nonetheless. Even with roommates, people are working a 2nd and maybe a third job to pull that off, and those other jobs typically also aren’t going to give any healthcare benefits to someone on a part-time schedule.

        I think the higher-income employees in letter 2 were being jerks. It’s the line about sandwiches to make up for the lack of healthcare benefits that really struck me as off, and subtly crude. Or not so subtly, amidst other, related comments. It’s overly casual about workers without healthcare, which for many people isn’t an abstract or fluffy concern. If the interns don’t seem to have visible health issues, that does not signify that they don’t need healthcare.

        To be clear I don’t think it was necessarily intentional. It could be that the higher-paid employees feel awkward about the disparities in pay and benefits, and inclined to babble as a result. I think they should sit with feeling awkward about those disparities rather than try to put it back on the interns like a game of hot potato.

        1. AnonToday*

          Not providing health insurance also screens out interns whose health requires them to have health insurance. Yes, the ACA lets parents keep children on their plans till age 26, but not everyone finishes college by age 26. And not everyone has parents with insurance. There are plenty of chronic conditions (such as diabetes) where you absolutely, positively don’t want to be uninsured but you still have a long working career ahead of you.

          1. pancakes*

            Yes. Not everyone with parents who have good insurance has a good relationship with their parents, either.

      5. The older sister*

        Although I was doing responsible, mid-career HR-related work for a for profit educational company, I was employed as a long-term temp contractor without any paid time off or benefits; my pay barely covered my expenses including a ridicuous health insurance premium. Although I was doing the same work as the regular employee next to me, I was not “allowed” to attend monthly department meetings (which included catered lunches) since I was not an employee. After I was excluded from a “meeting” which was purely a social event to thank the staff, a well-meaning colleague told me that there were plenty of leftovers in the break room and help myself. I snapped back that I would not be treated as a leftover if I was not to be included in the event. When a better paying job with benefits came along, I quit without notice.

    3. Cmdrshpard*

      Alison didn’t say it is okay to make fun of people that make less than you. She just pointed out that these types of jokes are common.

      “That doesn’t mean it’s harmless or that you’re wrong to be annoyed by it — I get why you are! — but realistically you’re probably better off saving your capital for other things.”

      Something can be not okay, but also not a battle worth fighting for.

      1. Coleen*

        You are correct, I misread that. Still my point stands that the circumstances of such internships and the financial hardship that come with it, just to get a good reference and the inkling of hope to maybe getting a full-time job are demeaning at best.

        1. Huh*

          But it’s not just to get a good reference, it’s to learn. That’s the major point of these kinds of roles and the reason for the lower pay; interns and fellows are learning and being trained and those things take more resources than it does to manage someone who already has the knowledge and training.

          You’re making less money because the knowledge and skills you’re gaining are part of the compensation for the work. Same was college students have roommates or work a part time job, people who are in learning roles may need to do the same. It’s a trade off you take into account when accepting the role and whether it’s the right path for you.

          I’m not saying all people managing these kind of learning roles are doing a great job, but your point that they’re “just to get a good reference and the inkling of hope to maybe getting a full-time job” is just not the case.

          1. Fellowship survivor*

            I’d argue that employers should be willing to train entry level workers without requiring them to take low paid fellowship roles first. You can learn on the job in a fully paid position. The fellowship system is exploitative – organizations benefit while young employers suffer. I completed a post doc fellowship and it was completely unnecessary, I could have learned what I needed on the job but I had trouble getting my foot in the door. Employers often won’t hire junior employees unless they already have experience through low paid or unpaid internships/fellowships. It’s an unjust and exploitative system and especially hurts those from less privileged backgrounds

            1. Huh*

              I never see this argument when apprenticeships for trade jobs are talked about, but when it comes to “professional” jobs it’s “an unjust and exploitative system and especially hurts those from less privileged backgrounds”. Every type of job that requires on the job practice and hands-on mentorship is going to need a low-paying entry level training period. Part of the compensation is the knowledge and training you’re receiving from more senior and experienced people. Why is that ok for a plumber in training but not academia? An electrician but not a lawyer? Or a doctor?

              If you’re not getting the training and mentorship that makes up for the lower-pay, that’s a different story. That’s not how this method of experience and training is supposed to work. But if it’s done properly, it’s not exploiting anyone.

              1. pancakes*

                Why exactly should any of those jobs have to be low-paying? Training and mentorship are valuable, and they do not become less valuable when accompanied by livable wages. Workers who are being told to accept lower wages on account of getting training and mentorship from their employer are being exploited, from where I sit. Those investments are a benefit to employers as well — they’re not a one-sided benefit that accrues only in the interns and walks out the door when they as individuals move on. Livable wages make for lower turnover, better morale, and better retention of institutional knowledge in the workplace, for a start.

                1. Huh*

                  Again, because the employee wants more time and attention from their mentors and managers than a normal job affords. It’s like taking a college course instead of trying to teach yourself, you’re paying for someone to train you and for their more extensive knowledge.

                2. pancakes*

                  Maybe I am misunderstanding the type of program you are talking about, because I wasn’t thinking of workers who need instruction that intensively. Not every trade apprentice will, correct? Some of them will be refining their skills rather than starting with little to none? It is also a benefit for employers to guide training for the skills that would best serve their needs, and to have workers with more rather than less skill refined under close instruction. You seem to keep thinking of this as a one-way flow of benefits from the employer to the trainee and that is just not the full picture.

              2. Fellowship survivor*

                One of the big differences in trade apprenticeships vs “professional” fellowships is the amount of formal education that a person has before starting. Trade school is usually much faster and less expensive than university or graduate school and some people may be able to apprenticeship with no formal training at all. Whereas someone who has 4-10+ years of college and grad school should have sufficient education to be able to start contributing immediately while they continue normal professional development on the job (although there may be some exceptions for certain professions like medicine). So fellowships are often not truly necessary and are a way for organizations (especially academia) to get cheaper workers who don’t have other options.

                However, of course apprentices in trades should also be paid a living wage but it’s clearer that the apprenticeship actually teaches them critical skills while for many “professional” fellowships, it’s really more of a resume builder or way to get a job rather than actually necessary for learning. Plus individuals in professional careers typically have tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt from college and grad school and have lost years of earnings from spending time in school instead of working while an apprentice has a lower or no education cost and is paid during most of their training. Someone doing a trade can end up in a much better financial position than someone who has graduate education with much less financial investment up front.

                1. AnonToday*

                  I have seen quite a few trade apprentice recruitment posters with starting wages higher than what a fully-qualified non-fellowship job pays social workers, nonprofit organizers, etc.

                2. pancakes*

                  That’s been my impression as well, AnonToday. Those jobs often seem to have pension benefits and other benefits that nonprofit jobs often don’t.

    4. Fikly*

      Using your capital on this could likely mean losing a good reference, which as an intern you desperately need.

      To say you need to spend the capital comes from a place of privilege and is incredibly tone deaf to the realities of living in such limited financial circumstances.

      Welcome to the real world, where people need to pay their rent. We’re not saying what’s happening is ok, we’re saying you have to survive it.

      1. Coleen*

        But you’ve just validated my point. If you have to be afraid of tarnishing your references for speaking up when faced with things that are iffy, then the system isn’t working and someone making those internship rules needs to take a long, hard look into the mirror. Just because it’s always been done this way, does not make it ok and a change is necessary

        1. Went*

          So what’s your advice (specific, actionable advice) to the OP? How is it different from Alison’s in the post? And how will it result in a better outcome for the OP?

          1. TechWorker*

            Perhaps the actionable thing OP can do here is vow to push back against these sorts of jokes once they are in the group of people earning more.

            1. UKDancer*

              I think this is the key thing. There’s a very limited amount the OP can do now to change this because they have limited capital. The best thing to do is to remember what it feels like and do better when you have the power.

              When I started in my career I had a low salary and lived on beans on toast for periods of time. I’ve not forgotten how this feels so I do everything I can to make sure my staff are better off, and I am aware that I shouldn’t make jokes about the subject especially given the current cost of living crisis in the UK meaning everyone is struggling.

            2. Harper the Other One*

              In addition, if there is a manager/higher up that the OP feel comfortable mentioning it to, a passing mention of “you know, when you’re living through the low wages of an internship, those jokes intended to build camaraderie fall flat” is a possibility.

              But I agree, the most powerful action will be when OP remembers this later in their career and makes conditions better for interns.

              1. pancakes*

                I’m not sure the jokes are meant to build camaraderie so much as they’re the sort of jokes people who aren’t good at making jokes tend to reach for. Or jokes people who feel awkward about income disparities tend to reach for, etc. To be clear I don’t think anyone who wants to say something about them in an exit interview needs to make up their mind on why the jokes were told; it’s perfectly fair to simply say that jokes about low wages and benefits fall flat for people living through them.

            3. After 33 years ...*

              When I was a grad student, I and colleagues were subjected to this a lot. On one memorable occasion, after we had not been paid for a month, we received a note saying “Your money has arrived”. Our mailboxes were filled with Monopoly money.
              When I became an Assistant Professor, I still got some of those comments from senior colleagues. I didn’t appreciate them much, but I didn’t have tenure.
              When I became a senior person, I responded to the first such comment by indicating how badly our grad students were being paid, what the real costs of living were, what areas of over-exploitation existed, and what we might consider doing about it. We still encourage grad students to claim extra food (and other things as well), but no jokes, please. There are better ways of recognizing a problem than making fun of someone.

            4. Lw 2*

              Hi! I’m the letter writer and I think that’s absolutely what I’m going to do. I will never ever make this type of joke ever in my professional career and advocate for better pay in for all folks working in my industry at all levels

              1. Another health care worker*

                If there’s any system of anonymous feedback at the end of your internship, and you feel confident that it’s actually anonymous, you could call it out politely there. I have done this as an underling several times and it’s never come back to bite me in any way. In 2 cases I remember, it also led to change.

            5. Clobberin’ Time*

              The actionable thing OP can do is remember that law is really a small world built on relationships, and these jerks have just shown their character to someone they may need to deal with as an equal (if not more!) in the future.

              Making fun of the intern isn’t so hilarious a few years down the line when the intern is now helping a firm decide whether to hire you, or is in-house and a decision maker for selecting outside counsel.

              Just saying.

          2. BethDH*

            I agree with you, but I will say that one thing OP can do now is help their colleagues in similar positions feel how not okay this is. I often heard these jokes as a grad student and just felt ashamed — like I wasn’t sufficiently committed if I was struggling and not happily living on ramen and that kind of thing.
            I had a fellow grad student who made a point of mentioning the ridiculous assumptions under those jokes privately to a few of us (none of us could afford to offend the perpetrators) and it just helped me not feel ashamed or like I was living in a different reality.

        2. Dust Bunny*

          That doesn’t make it any more tolerable for the OP to take this on, though.

    5. Madame X*

      Alison did not say that it is OK for the colleagues of LW2 to make these jokes. She actually made it pretty clear that it is not OK. The conundrum, is that it is probably not in the best interest of LW2 to admonish their supervisors before they complete their fellowship. There’s literally nothing that they could do about it to change the culture of this office, and likely this industry, while they are in the very vulnerable position of being a fellow.
      Realistically, the only way LW2 could bring this up to their supervisors without risking their current position is at the exit interview. The LW2’s more immediate goal is to secure their references and a position as a lawyer.
      The only thing I would add to Alison‘s advice is that when the letter writer is in a more secure position, that they try to create an environment that does not encourage these types of thoughtless jokes.

    6. Not So NewReader*

      The examples of comments given here so a serious lack of basic respect.

      I also respectfully disagree with Alison. I think that something can be said, even if it’s “That’s NOT cool!” mutter in a stage whisper.

      Or one of the favs I have seen here, is the question can be asked: “People are struggling to make ends meet. Food and shelter are issues. Please explain how that is funny. I don’t get it.”

      While it maybe a systemic problem, each person in the system is perpetuating the problem. I don’t buy this, “Well it’s the system we have” as if the speaker is powerless to make a change.

      As far as “having capital”, OP, watch out for things that cause you to believe your power is robbed from you. We have more power than we believe. I’d like to note that there is a difference between “pay me a better wage” vs “don’t make jokes about my low pay”. Remember you are not asking for a pay increase which is a whole ‘nother discussion. You are asking for them to be respectful of your work efforts and respectful of your compensation.

      My vote is to spend the capital- as it may be- for me, I would take a chance. That is absolutely disgusting to listen to and they need to stop it. I have listened to this crap too many times.

      1. Sloanicota*

        If OP did choose to speak up in the moment, I think there are probably some scripts that could make the point while maintaining her relationships. Maybe something disarming and ultra-earnest like, “thanks for recognizing how hard this period is, I’ve really been struggling this year (maybe you can name something specific you’re dealing with) and I’m eager to join the field in a full time role” … or there’s probably a better way to say it, and ‘thanks’ when you don’t mean thanks can go awry hmm.

        1. As per Elaine*

          Leaning into the awkward is also a possibility. If OP is a white woman, especially if conventionally attractive, bursting into tears at the next cruel “joke,” in front of as many senior people as possible, might go a long way if she can manage it. She doesn’t need to fake the hurt she’s feeling, just show it in a way that maximizes awkwardness for everyone involved.

          (Though definitely judge the tone of the field before going this route — if it’s male-dominated and OP is likely to be judged “flighty and emotional” for a teary outburst, it’s probably not worth the reputation hit.)

          1. Loulou*

            OP should definitely not do this!! Of course someone would be viewed as overly emotional if they had a “teary outburst” about almost anything in front of senior staff, particularly this (yes, tasteless) joke.

          2. LateralMove*

            Omg NO. Bursting into fake tears is never going to be the right way to address a work problem. Public interest law also tends to be female-dominated, and a room full of women lawyers is not going to be impressed by an intern playing damsel in distress. (Source: former public interest law fellow)

          3. Avril Ludgateau*

            If OP is a white woman, especially if conventionally attractive, bursting into tears at the next cruel “joke,” in front of as many senior people as possible, might go a long way if she can manage it.

            I don’t know if this is a lampshade on “white woman tears” but no. No.

          4. Nameless in Customer Service*

            No, so many times no. Most people judge crying in the workplace more harshly than just about anything else short of actual violence, and the reputation for “weakness” could follow her well into her career.

          5. RagingADHD*

            Oh, my god. NO.

            Obviously you have never set foot in a law firm, much less worked in one. An admin who burst into tears over a crappy joke would be permanently considered unreliable and probably be first on the chopping block when it was time to shuffle teams or have a new senior partner pick their staff.

            But a baby lawyer who dissolved over their free lunch because somebody mentioned that they were broke (just like all the other baby lawyers), and hurt their wittle fee-fees? Just show yourself out, you’re done.

            If the senior attorneys were berating them, calling them names, yelling, threatening to fire them — then crying would reflect badly on the seniors (though some places would still give a bit of side-eye to the person who cried). But this? Jeez louise.

            Talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face.

          6. bluephone*

            If we want to set back feminism by like 200 years, then sure, that’s a great idea.

        2. singularity*

          A script LW#2 could use is to simply ask, “Explain the joke to me, I don’t understand how this is funny,” in as sincere and earnest a tone as they can.

          Or, I find that a flat stare with a neutral expression sometimes does the trick, especially when held for just long enough to be uncomfortable. You don’t need to say anything. Get the other interns to do the same. If these people have any social skills whatsoever, they will notice.

          Obviously, this depends entirely on whether or not these people in positions of authority would see this response as evidence of an *attitude problem* versus a subtle way of pointing out the inherent inequities at play in making jokes at someone else’s expense, especially when the people making the jokes have the power to make it better and simply choose not too.

          1. Shirley Keeldar*

            “Explain the joke to me; I don’t understand why not having health insurance is funny.”

            Just a tiny tweak to make the “comedian” squirm more.

            1. pancakes*

              I don’t think that does invariably make people squirm in the sense of feeling regretful. Some people who are jerks are just going to double down on being jerks, in which case it doesn’t seem helpful for the target of their jokes to affect being more rather than less vulnerable.

          2. New Jack Karyn*

            I’m not sure that making the senior people uncomfortable is all that wise a move, when the OP is still in a lower role, and hoping to be hired on next year.

            1. LW 2*

              Hi! LW 2 here- just a quick clarification- I have a new position lined up for next year with a different org!

          3. SoloKid*

            These kinds of “earnest confusion” replies make me cringe. Of course you know it’s meant to be a joke, and of course it isn’t funny. They will likely reply with “it’s a riff on how you don’t get health insurance.” I wouldn’t risk thinking I’m a dunce and can’t make a direct statement.

            Jokey crowds respond best to jokes in return (and is a type of understanding social skills). “It IS hard to get by without health insurance and I obviously hope to be in a position where I can make fun about not having it!”. And +1 to Alison’s advice to comment on the exit interview is great as well.

            1. MCMonkeyBean*

              I think asking people to explain offensive jokes can be effective in many situations, but I don’t think it makes sense in this particular case where the “joke” was basically just… stating actually true things.

        3. pancakes*

          I don’t quite like the idea of leaning into being ultra-earnest, nor unable to tell whether jokes are meant to be jokes. Intentionally feigning a lack of soft skills uses up additional capital, and it isn’t necessary. “I need you to help me catch up to what seems to have just happened” is not a position of strength to speak up from. “I see what just happened here,” on the other hand, is.

          I also don’t quite agree that “watch out for things that cause you to believe your power is robbed from you. We have more power than we believe” is going to work for many people. It’s not as if we all enter the workforce with equal power to lose or mismanage or invest over time. People who are early in their careers, people who are switching careers, students, people who are being paid low wages, and various other workers do not have the power to change any aspect of their workplace they want to change, including in some circumstance the tenor of humor there.

      2. socks*

        We, collectively, have more power than we believe (as the recent surge in unionizing shows), but that doesn’t necessarily translate to every individual having power to push back on their own. That goes double for individuals in entry-level roles/internships. The LW can decide whether pushing back is worth it in the context of their company culture, but we shouldn’t be pushing them to martyr themselves.

      3. Emilia Bedelia*

        I think being honest would go a long way. Perhaps if OP has a person that they feel most close to, or one who seems the most sympathetic, they can say something like “I know it’s intended as a harmless joke, but the low pay for the fellowship is actually a major challenge for me, and it is not very funny to hear jokes from people about how low our pay is when I know that you all are paid a lot more. I’ve enjoyed working here otherwise, and I know you’d never want to make people uncomfortable, so I just wanted to raise that as something to think about when you have fellows in the future.” OP could also tie it to something relevant to the organization – for example, if they have some DE&I programs or some kind of “feel-good” company mission, they could say “I was thinking about that DE&I initiative, and it reminded me of something that happened at that lunch meeting…”.

        If OP can cultivate a tone of “This is awkward to say but of course you’d want to know because you’d obviously want to correct it”, in the same way you’d tell someone they have their shirt on inside out, it will sound more like they are making an earnest suggestion to improve the company and not whining about a joke they didn’t like (not that they are doing that, of course!).

    7. ResuMAYDAY*

      Alison was merely pointing out that it happens, it’s in poor taste, but at the end of the day it’s not an actionable infraction. They aren’t making jokes based on the OP’s gender, sexual orientation, physical or mental state. All HR would/could do is pat OP on the head, steer them back to their desk, and make a mental note that the OP is delicate about low-brow water cooler humor.
      There are situations in the workplace that employees, as grown adults, are expected to figure out on their own. This is one of them.
      This feels especially insulting to the OP because they are hurting financially. If they weren’t, I’m willing to bet the OP would have rolled their eyes, enjoyed the lunch, and gotten on with their day.

      1. As per Elaine*

        Personally I think it’s especially hurtful because the people making the jokes are the ones who would have the power to improve OP’s situation.

        1. Just Another Starving Artist*

          Would they have that power? They could certainly advocate (and they should, though given their behavior here, they likely won’t), but depending on who actually determines salary, their power may be limited. Getting positions that are considered transitional apprenticeships up to a living wage is often a multi-year, field/industry wide battle.

          1. pancakes*

            Ok, but there is going to be someone with more rather than less power over that somewhere in the workplace, in contact with it if not present in person.

    8. Just Your Everyday Crone*

      I think the unpaid internship issue is apt here, too. Even though it’s not unpaid, it might exclude less-privileged people without a safety net (e.g. parents willing and able to provide support), which seems like an especially bad look for an entity that serves such populations.

    9. smh*

      I don’t think Alison said it’s ok. She said it’s common. This happened all the time when I was in grad school (just graduated). I was making at best 20k/yr and the faculty would joke about us needing to attend meetings/seminars to eat pizza rather than ramen or w.e.

      1. Emilia*

        I agree it’s par for the course in academia. Joking about poorly paid graduates or postdocs tend to feel acceptable because most people who became professors had to go through this as well and it’s seen as a rite of passage. It’s not great, especially for postdocs (by the age people are doing postdocs they often have families to support so it’s really much worse than having to eat ramen and shack up with friends as a grad student), but still a bit different from the OP.
        The situation with OP seems worse to me… The professors don’t usually have the power to change grad or postdoc salaries, which are usually set at the institution-level / government grant bodies etc. But here the OP states that the people making the jokes can in fact change their salary, and that the OP is paid worse than other people in similar roles. That, to me, makes it much worse.

        1. Calliope*

          It sounds like similar roles at other orgs. I doubt the staff attorneys have any opportunity to change what the fellows are paid. The fellowship probably isn’t even funded through the org.

    10. RagingADHD*

      In case you haven’t noticed, people in low-paid positions nearly always have to take flak, because they can’t afford to walk away or risk their future prospects. This is not okay. It is reality. Lots of things in reality are unfair and not okay.

      Unless you are personally handing out well-paid entry level positions with a professional career track, expecting someone else to blow theirs up so you can watch and clap is pretty entitled.

    11. Glomarization, Esq.*

      Someone on a public-interest law fellowship has no capital. The LW has commented that they have a job lined up with another org after the fellowship is done, but the law community can be small and the public-interest law community will be even smaller. If the LW is looking to make a career in public-interest law, then they will be working with and around these same individuals for the next few (or several!) decades. There is no good reason for them to battle on this, right now.

    12. Ally McBeal*

      Yeah, this perked up my ears because it sounds like straight-up class discrimination in the same way that the old boys club making off-color jokes in front of their female colleagues would be gender-based discrimination. Maybe not in a legally actionable way, but it’s at least worth raising immediately with HR to see if they can work with the senior folks about what’s appropriate to discuss or not.

    13. CoveredinBees*

      I would also disagree with her that this kind of behavior is common. I’ve worked in this field before, during, and after law school and have never heard anything like this. There were rare references to people in these fellowship programs getting paid less but in a clearly sympathetic way. I say this as as someone who, at the time, took everything in the most negative light possible. Also, at least one organization gave everyone really good health insurance from day one (even fellows), so they already had that going right.

    14. Richard*

      She didn’t say it was okay, she said it might not be the battle to pick. I’d say it would be equally tone deaf to say “you should risk your fellowship and possibly your career by confronting the executives of your company over a couple rude jokes.”

  3. Casper Lives*

    LW 1

    It’s okay to refuse to engage with J’s guilt tripping. J might have a mental health issue like they stated, or some other reason, that they can’t plan ahead. That doesn’t mean it’s your fault that you can’t do last minute coverage.

    Your boundary is reasonable. J sounds exhausting. Stick to your boundary and give noncommittal responses to J.

    1. Loulou*

      Agreed, and I would also add that your need for time off from work is not less important than J’s, even if they make it seem like that with their guilt trippy comments. I’ve absolutely been the person who always says “well I technically AM free to cover that shift, so I guess I need to.” But that’s a quick path to burnout and resentment. I’m not team “you don’t owe anyone anything!!!!!” by any means, but it’s really okay to decline to cover shifts at the last minute in many/most circumstances.

      1. Miss. Bianca*

        Several years ago I had a coworker tell me when I complained to her about something, “that’s not my problem”. lol. Not saying that the LW has to say that, but LW – it’s not your problem! People like J are going to push and use learned helplessness to get what they want.

    2. Phryne*

      I think it might be the case that LW is inadvertently keeping the situation going. After all, until now, J’s way of approaching this has worked: they put their request in late and LW still arranges it. If LW will stick to the boundary for a while, J might actually get the message that not making their request in time might mean the request is simply not granted and after a while the attitude might simmer down too. Or not, in which case LW should still not take it personally and let J stew.

      1. Phryne*

        It may be dependant on the type of work and company and I don’t know how common or normal this might be in the US anyway, but if LW wants to do something for J, or solve the problem of J more thoroughly, there might be options for eg coaching sessions? My workplace has a health plan for employees that gives the opportunity for all sorts of mental and physical benefits, from mindfullness to stress monitoring to actual psychotherapy sessions. (This is independent of personal health insurance and fully paid by my employers insurance. The idea is that investing in this way in your employers is better/cheaper than waiting for them to burn out before you take action).
        If really J has mental health problems, getting them access to help might be a good investment. It could just be a course on time-management or effective working, or actual medical help for something like ADD. As long as this is approached sensitively to J.

        1. Sacred Ground*

          She isn’t trying to help him with his mental health problems, nor should she be. LW is neither close friend nor family. She’s not even J’s supervisor. She is his coworker and a peer.

          She doesn’t have to do anything to help J learn to act like an adult, because she has no standing to involve herself in his personal life even if she wanted to (and she clearly doesn’t). It would be overstepping if she tried. His close friends and family can steer him towards help. His manager can help him access health plan options, if any. LW can do neither.

      2. LW1*

        OP here — Oh no — I don’t cover him unless it’s an actual emergency. He just keeps asking because I was the last person to work his shift before he was assigned to it.

        His latest episode involved saying to our boss he was going to take time off anyway and it devolved into him shouting at our boss and getting reprimanded.

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          So, going off of this I’m betting that J has run the well of “helping coworkers out” beyond dry with all the rest of the staff. Your manager is willing to support you – say no without Gould and politely but firmly cut off J’s guilt tripping attempts.

    3. Sean*

      Exactly. LW1, despite doing your best to accommodate J, you have a duty of care to your own mental health first and foremost.

      You shouldn’t be expected to drop everything every time J snaps their fingers.

        1. Ariaflame*

          I know it as ‘Lack of preparation on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine’

        2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          My family always said: failure to adequately plan on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      It’s interesting to me. I see something very different here. I see an absentee boss. To me, this looks like the boss has thrown the employee to the wolves- “Yeah you can have time off but you have to get someone to cover.”

      I have seen a lot of this in retail, where the boss makes time off an employee problem but yet the boss is the one who writes the schedule.

      As far as “guilt trips”, OP, maybe if you think of it as poor leadership and the employee has no other mechanism to motivate people to help them, you can find some empathy for this person’s plight.

      That said, I whole heartedly agree that you do not have to cover if you can’t or don’t want to. I don’t see any problem going to the boss and saying that this employee’s sudden time off requests are causing a hardship for other people and perhaps you can suggest a plan. One place I worked, I suggested hiring a part-time person to fill in when there were absences. We had plenty of call-ins and we could probably keep a PT person employed year round.

      I have been on both ends of this situation. I had a spell in life where I called in A LOT. I am not sure how I even got to the phone to call but I did. It was a bad time. Going the other way, I have worked with people who just. keep. calling in.
      I can say this about these situations, the person either gets a handle on thing (like I did) OR they quit the job. This is how these stories end. Drag the boss in to this and tell the boss that a stronger plan is needed here.

      1. anonymous73*

        OP does say that they have their supervisor’s support to say no, but the whole time I was reading it I was wondering “where is management in all of this”? Maybe there’s more to the supervisor side of things that OP didn’t get into, but if they’re leaving it up to the team to figure out, they’re not doing their job.

        1. Slow Gin Lizz*

          I also was wondering where the boss is. I’m thinking that maybe the boss heard about it happening once or twice but isn’t aware that it is happening so regularly; might be worth it for OP to go back to the boss and tell them how often it’s happening. They might not care, but OTOH they might be able to step in and address all the absences.

      2. Sloanicota*

        Yeah it’s not OPs fault but I did think it was tough of the company to not cross-train or have better options for this employee to take time off more flexibly.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          Yeah, if the company doesn’t have anyone else on staff who can fill this position, that’s on them and unfair to J. J shouldn’t be whining about it, but it’s not J’s fault that staffing hasn’t been handled well.

      3. Dust Bunny*

        This struck me:

        because of the nature of their work and the hours of their shift, doesn’t always have someone who can easily cover them when they need to be out. We do have a bench of people able to cover, and filling in for physical illness, mental health days, and planned vacation or days off is never a problem.”

        So which is it? Are there a bunch of people who can cover but J isn’t using the system properly? Or can they cover, just not usually J’s hours and skillset? Because if it’s the latter then, no, you don’t have a bunch of people who can cover, at least not for J, and giving J the responsibility of finding a fill-in where none is really available is holding J over a barrel. I had a job years ago that had that policy but they didn’t actually have enough staff to cover it, so finding someone to take a shift if you were sick or needed time off was functionally impossible. I hated that place and stayed less than a year.

        So, yes, J shouldn’t be guilt-tripping you about it, but it sounds like this might be a legitimate problem that J isn’t addressing well, but that does, in fact, need to be addressed by policy or staffing adjustments (filling the next open position with someone who can actually cover for J, for example).

        1. the Viking Diva*

          OP specifically points out that *planned* days off are not a problem. The problem is that J. is not planning but asking for coverage on short notice.

          1. redflagday701*

            Yep. I found the seeming discrepancy confusing as well, but after rereading a couple of times, it sounds to me like there are fewer people who can cover for J, because of the nature of J’s work — but still enough that it wouldn’t be an issue if J would request time off earlier.

          2. Dust Bunny*

            But they also say that filling in for sick days isn’t a problem, and those are often not planned.

            I agree that J isn’t handling this well but if J’s hours and skillset are a big part of the hangup, that still needs to be adjusted. It shouldn’t be that much harder for J to get time off on short notice that it sounds like it is for other employees who work more normal hours or are less specialized.

            1. redflagday701*

              Unless people who are normally willing to fill in at the last minute for sick colleagues are just over it with J. I mean, more cross-training is generally a good idea for any team, but if OP is conveying an accurate picture of the situation, it’s possible that J has just used up everybody else’s goodwill. (At my old job waiting tables, it was not super unusual to lend another server anywhere from $50 to $100 for a couple of days. But nobody lent money to Trent more than once, or two times tops. Because he’d whine and guilt-trip you about what an emergency it was, and then not pay you back for weeks, and even then it took constant reminders.)

        2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          I have a feeling it’s a combination of fewer people can cover J’s skills and J is the constant ongoing “emergency leave” person and the rest of the staff have just reached the point that “J is the person who has no emergencies because everything is always an emergency to them” and none of them any longer are willing to put themselves out to help. OP may well be the last one left willing to occasionally help, and even that will stop if J keeps up with the guilt trips.

          1. LateralMove*

            Yes, that’s how I read it. J has used up the empathy of their coworkers by having constant, vague “emergencies” and then guilt-tripping when people don’t want to cover for them on short notice. Maybe I’m a cynic, but I doubt these are all true emergencies. LW also mentions that J seems to be pushing their work onto other people, so it feels more like someone who will just take whatever they can get away with.

          2. LW1*

            Oh, I stopped helping him long ago. I used to work his shift, and not once did I have a problem taking vacation, planned PTO, being sick, or once ending up in the ER 30 minutes before the shift started.

            I’d say we have 5 people total who can cover J’s work (once of which is on a parallel shift to him and often ends up absorbing his work,) but J has one day where he’s the only one on shift at that time and that’s where things get messy when he doesn’t give sufficient notice that he needs to be off,

        3. BethDH*

          My read on this is strongly influenced by the roles in my org, which are salaried but include some degree of coverage-based work. People can’t take “extra” shifts because that’s not how salary jobs work really. We cover for people by cutting the non-coverage based parts of our jobs for a bit, at the expense of the non-coverage parts of our jobs. The familiar example would be covering the phones instead of filing or processing paperwork.
          We can accommodate a reasonable level of that because we’re not overworked and there’s slack in our roles, but if someone is doing it a lot, especially unplanned, that becomes unmanageable and also makes other people feel like they can’t take time off.
          I agree that if J is at that point, it does become a management issue, but I think it’s a lot more reasonable for the management not to have realized it’s at that point yet.

      4. Loulou*

        Yeah, I’m not a fan of “arrange your own coverage,” but it’s so common that it’s probably what OP is stuck with.

      5. Clobberin’ Time*

        Management is a problem here, but maybe J is just being a jerk? Sometimes people really do try to weaponize others’ empathy for selfish reasons.

      6. LW1*

        OP here — I can’t recall if I mentioned this in the original letter or not and it got cut, or if I neglected to mention it, but staff are not responsible for finding their own coverage as a matter of course. Managers do that.

        These requests come from J after he’s been denied by a manager for a lack of notice and are usually made behind our boss’ back.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          That’s a whole different thing with going behind the manager’s back. It’s really, really fine to say no.

        2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          Yeah – going behind the manager after the request has been denied completely changes what J is doing here. Just say no, and maybe even let manager know that J is playing guilt-trip passive-aggressive games with the rest of the staff (even if the manager knows already) so that it can get documented if it’s needed down the road.

          My sympathies on having to work with them. My office has a variant of J – and our J is currently upset again that he’s being told if he calls out sick on a day he requested and was denied vacation time that he will need to provide a doctors note. Our boss only denies vacation time requests if other people have gotten their requests in first and you new request will put us below minimum staffing levels. And yeah – most of us are fed up with our J too, the time off mess is only the tip of the iceberg of problematic stuff he tries with the rest of us on that shift.

        3. Rose Video Employee*

          Oh, that’s a real quick no. J is trying to guilt you into going behind your boss’s back?? Nope. No way. Don’t even consider feeling bad about it. J is the problem and his manager should shut this behavior down.

        4. Autumnheart*

          Oho. That’s an important detail. This isn’t about coverage, this is about J trying to do an end run around the established coverage process and managerial direction by manipulating his coworkers.

          I would consider it not just acceptable, but necessary to tell J no. “If you need the time off, we have an established process for requesting it.” Every time. Maybe drop a dime to the manager when J comes to you with a guilt trip about why he needs tomorrow off.

          I used to work with a J, and not only did it disrupt my daily work because I was constantly covering at the last minute, but it also interferes with my ability to take my own time off, whether planned or even an unexpected outage. It sucked. When I had the chance to take a lateral move out of having to work with my J anymore, I took it. Now my J is my former manager’s problem.

    5. Just Your Everyday Crone*

      I am wondering a bit about LW1. It seems like they struggle with boundaries a bit and people in that situation sometimes blame others for asking for things. It’s possible that J is mentioning their mental health and family problems not as a guilt trip because they’re getting pushback about “not planning in advance” and it’s not really fair to expect people to plan their family emergencies in advance. It might help the LW to realize both that AND that they can say no anyway. It strikes me as unfair for the company to expect everyone to get their own coverage, and then the person with the worst schedule also has the most trouble getting time off. I think that’s one of those things we’ve become inured to, but that should be the company’s problem, not the employee’s.

      1. redflagday701*

        It sounds like there’s a known pattern with J at this point. There are people who have unreasonable expectations about how much consideration others owe them, and they make themselves known over time, because it’s never limited to one part of their lives.

        1. LW1*

          “There are people who have unreasonable expectations about how much consideration others owe them, and they make themselves known over time, because it’s never limited to one part of their lives.”

          This sums it up perfectly; Similar issues show up elsewhere in their work.

      2. LW1*

        Oh, these aren’t emergencies causing these problems. This is just wanting vacation or supposedly needed comp time, or once to go to a sporting event they bought last minute tickets to.

        The request morphs into a matter of mental health, imminent crisis, burnout etc. when the request for say, two random days off 12 hours in advance is denied.

        And our managers do orchestra coverage for time off — the personal requests from J to others come after a request has been denied for lack of notice and are usually made behind our manager’s back. I worked his shift for 2 years and not once did I have a problem getting planned PTO or coverage for an actual emergency.

        Admittedly, this person seems to be in soft crisis mode a lot now after transitioning from hard crisis mode. (Messy divorce a few years back, treatment for alcohol addiction, all of which was accommodated for with no problem.) But now just regular life seems to go unmanaged.

        All that said, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to be a little tired of having to deal with his complaints and guilt-tripping when he never makes a PTO request more than a few days in advance. And this is happening several times each month.

        1. Aphrodite*

          Frankly, I’d reply to him with these behind-the-manager’s-back requests with an email that includes said manager, especially if he makes these requests via a phone call. And I’d say NO every time. He’s now being trained that he can not just continue these requests but even escalate them because they’ll be covered regardless of what his manager says. Change his “training” now.

        2. Clobberin' Time*

          So return the guilt trips to sender.

          If it helps with feeling guilty, consider that nobody is doing J. any favors by enabling this bad behavior. J. is not going to fix J.’s life as long as other people are falling for guilt trips and taking the adulting off J.’s plate. You are really doing J. a favor in the long term by firmly, but kindly, saying “That won’t work for me, I’m sorry” in response to requests and ” Wow, that’s rough, I hope things get better” or other sympathetic noises when J. breaks out the guilt trip.

          And please tell your managers what J. is doing.

          1. TangerineRose*

            “nobody is doing J. any favors by enabling this bad behavior. ” This especially!

            1. LW1*

              Thank you for this — I think it has been happening with individual people more than any of us realized.

              Though if that’s the case, I’m kinda wondering why my manager hasn’t put it together. She was recently made directly aware of this and she was. . . . displeased.

    6. LW1*

      Thank you for this! And they won’t be noncommital responses — they’re fully committed to not fielding his crap anymore. ;P

      Part of what is so frustrating about this scenario is that our office has an ongoing demonstrated commitment to accommodating mental, physical and family health needs. Multiple staffers (including 2 supervisors) openly schedule their work around weekly therapy appointments and others regularly flex their time to care for aging parents or children. But all of those people take responsibility for their needs. It feels like we worked really hard to build an environment where people can get their needs met, then J then proceeds to have unregulated emotional outbursts because he can’t or won’t participate in his own well-being.

      1. redflagday701*

        Ugh, this is extremely annoying, and I’m glad you’re done with his crap. I hope J gets it together at some point, but giving in to his unreasonable requests wouldn’t help him do so.

    7. AnonInCanada*

      This. Just remember these words, OP: “Your lack of planning is not my emergency.” And tell J that you, nor anyone else, can cover for you on such short notice and next time give more notice. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. Don’t let J’s guilt-tripping get to you. Eventually they’ll get the hint and realize the world doesn’t revolve around them after all!

    8. This is a name, I guess*

      Also, J’s inability to use his vacation time is a management issue. Like, his boss should be flagging this and helping him find ways to arrange time off before coverage becomes an issue. It seems like the onus of getting coverage could have become a mental obstacle for J, and he needs someone to help him overcome that.

  4. Egrets Not Regrets*

    OP#2, I have so so been there. I had enough political capital at the last place where I was in this position that I responded very flatly, “you’re right, we spent my monthly grocery budget on one meal at work” and left it there.

    It’s an awful feeling and I’m sorry it’s de riguer for rich(er) people to find it funny to laugh about how your material circumstances are worse and they’re just…choosing not to fix that.

  5. Stantheman*

    You could always say your current company is having layoffs and you are worried about the stability of the company.

    1. Venus*

      This is my thought too. In a small industry the other company will absolutely know that things aren’t going well. With 16 years in one company that had many recent layoffs, the need for stability is reasonable and understandable.

      I once interviewed for a job at my company that was posted externally, so it was a full interview. Many of us were leaving a miserable boss. I wasn’t sure if this was known to the interviewers, so when they asked me I said something about their job lining up perfectly with my skills, and that I had spoken to someone I knew on their team who gave them an excellent reference and I looked forward to a happy and supportive workplace. It was a subtle criticism of my awful manager, and in my case worked out well. On my first day on the new team they made it clear that awful manager’s reputation was well known and they were sorry to hear how much we had suffered over there. Thankfully awful manager didn’t last long.

    2. Fuzzy Crocodile*

      This is what I’m saying in my job search. We went through layoffs early in the year. I don’t go into great detail. I usually just get head nods and they move on.

    3. theletter*

      My favorite lines are ‘Current company is fine, actually, but I’m more excited about this opportunity’ and then if pressed: ‘the work itself is great, but currently there isn’t a lot of room for growth on my team. I’m really looking to achieve XYZ goals in the next few years’.

    4. Lily Rowan*

      You really don’t have to say anything about the current company if you’ve been there a reasonable amount of time. Like Alison said, Ready for a new challenge, excited about this position because of X, Y, and Z.

      1. Lucy P*

        After 10 years with same company, I got push back from the interviewers with that type of answer.

    5. Katie*

      So I thought it was generally a bad idea to reflect that your current job is in danger.

      1. redflagday701*

        I don’t think so. I mean, if you specifically are on a PIP and at risk of being fired, I wouldn’t mention it. But hiring managers generally understand that layoffs happen and are often totally unrelated to performance — and that looking for a more secure situation is a sign that you’re smart and being proactive.

        1. pancakes*

          Layoffs at publicly traded companies are a sensitive subject to chat about with hiring managers at other employers, though.

    6. pancakes*

      That raises a question of 1) whether it’s true the company isn’t stable, and 2) whether there’s gossip to that effect the interviewer hasn’t been made aware of and the candidate has? I don’t see an advantage to saying that even if it’s true. It doesn’t convey information about what the candidate is looking for. It conveys that they probably feel some urgency in looking for a new job, and that they may or may not be a good source of information about what’s happening in the industry. For candidates who aren’t, it may be a bit risky to masquerade as someone who is.

  6. Sue Wilson*

    OP3: There’s a lot of passive voice here, and I’m not actually sure where the power lies. Your supervisor has told you that you can’t move, ok, but what did your prospective supervisor say? Who is they who told you you have to do both? HR? The person over both departments? Have your boss and new boss both said this? Alison is right that sometimes transfers are controlled by the current manager, but frankly there’s a lot of managers who exert power which they don’t actually have, and you need to be certain. Confirm with your new manager that that department is in agreement/unwilling to exert power/this is above them, and then take Alison’s advice. I agree that it’s most likely that your boss actually does have some influence since it’s trading a job for an internship. But if this isn’t actually in your old manager’s control you want to know this too.

    1. bamcheeks*

      Yes, even though Job 2 is an internship, it’s a PAY RAISE. That suggests it’s of higher value to the company! So contrary to what Alison says, it seems to me quite likely that you’re new manager does have the power to pull you over earlier or at least kick up a bit it a stink about this “2 months, maybe never” timeline.

      You should definitely get in touch with your new manager and say something like, “John has just told me I won’t be moving over until July at the latest, and even suggested I might have to do both jobs for a while! Do you have any influence here? I’m really eager to get started with you and, needless to say, I’m not happy about the idea of trying to do both jobs.”

      This is quite likely to get a response of, “WTF! Right, hold tight, I’ll talk to Margery, I’m not having this.” If it’s a sincere apology and an explanation that Current Department takes priority, I’d stick around. If it’s a hand-flapping, “oh well, nothing I can do, see you whenever you get here!” it’s worth at least looking for alternative internships because it suggests your new manager isn’t really managing or doing to advocate for you and that’s not great in an internship.

      1. Katie*

        I have seen it a lot where one department wants to keep someone around longer but the new department puts their foot down and gets their person. Sometimes there are compromises but usually the winner is the new department. And is never an indefinite time frame.

      2. MCMonkeyBean*

        Yes, it definitely seems like at this point OP has only heard from their current manager, so I am hoping if they talk to HR and/or their future manager it may turn out their current manager is just wrong.

    2. Just Your Everyday Crone*

      I agree with this. While my org wouldn’t really be hurt by the loss of one intern, our internships are meant to lead to jobs and we hire between half and all of the interns in any given year. So we would not take kindly to someone taking away one of our interns. And the “you’d have to do both jobs” strikes me as utter BS. I would both talk to HR and the new manager and start looking for other internships, but I think there’s a good chance that the LW would be allowed to transfer to the internship.

    3. Critical Rolls*

      Yes, please dig further! I know if I had made an internal hire with an expected start date, I would be very willing to push back over losing my candidate indefinitely because some jerk won’t do their job and hire for their own positions.

      1. Betty Beep Boop*

        I’m also curious that even though it is an internal “transfer” can they not quit their previous position and start at the new position? In the event that the current boss keeps dragging out their “end date”. And if you can’t quit one job and then “transfer” to the new job would the the new manager be okay pushing your start date back or something and then you could give notice, have a break and be hired like any other outside intern.

        But I agree that this definitely a situation to talk to HR and your new manager to help mediate/ figure out solutions.

        P.S i understand how you feel – it’s sucks to be held hostage by your current job when you need to get experience in your new degree but you still need to pay the bills and go to the doctor.

    4. Nanani*

      Yes, that was my question too.
      What about hte manger who just accepted you for the new position? Tell them what your current manager said and see what happens. Ask clarifying questions – this isn’t an argument or tattling or any other school-level drama thing you might imagine. It’s information you need, and so do the people you work for.
      You need to clarify with both parties, not just take the most recent person you talked to’s word for it.

  7. Picking Wildflowers*

    OP#4- Just one wine country worker waving to another. It’s a small world after all

    1. Wineo*

      Howdy to you both, been in the wine industry 20 years now. Our industry is maddeningly small, yes, but the upside there is we hear through the grapevine when larger wine companies get dumpster-fiery. Mergers & acquisitions, sales, c-suite turnover, it’s all in and it’s pretty easy to read through the lines on what that means for operations. Just stay positive in your interviews, don’t air the dirt on your company beyond what’s public knowledge, and don’t bash any people you work/worked with. Good luck! Labor market’s heavily in job seekers’ favor.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        I was going to say, if it’s an industry where everyone knows everyone, employers will take one look at OP#4’s current employer on her resume and KNOW why she is looking for a lateral move! It’s similar in my industry, and we’ve hired a lot of good people from a sinking ship where my boss used to work.

        1. Dancing Donkey*

          Same. I left a job in a small field at a time when my company was experiencing something like 80% turnover in 6 months. The companies my coworkers were interviewing with knew exactly why they were looking to leave. It’s helpful as a candidate since the reason you’re job-hunting is pretty self-evident, and most people will accept “I’m looking for a new challenge” without awkward probing. The only downside of this I’ve found is that some interviewers want to gossip and see you as a source of more details, so it’s very helpful to have a couple lines in your head for staying professional and politely redirecting.

      2. Wine Not Whine*

        That’s pretty much what I came here to say, too. (18 years in the industry before getting laid off in 2020. I regularly heard “if you can survive at OldCo, you can make it anywhere.”)
        Focus on the opportunities the new job offers rather than the nightmares you’re leaving behind. Chances are that your interviewer will already be aware of many of them, anyway.
        Best of luck!

        1. LW #4*

          Thanks! Turns out the company I’m interviewing with has a large contingent of ex-employees from current company. Everyone who’s left says it’s the best thing they’ve ever done and should have done it sooner.

          1. wine dude*

            Yeah, I was going to chime in that it is extremely likely that new winery knows all about what’s going on at old winery. They don’t call it a grapevine for nothing :D

  8. Emmy Noether*

    I read the titel of #5 and thought “that’s true, people have terrible resumes”. Then I got to the end of the list and thought “wait that’s it? That’s what you’re complaining about?”. Apart from the 6 page bloat, you’re complaining on a high level.

    I am getting one-page resumes pretty much devoid of information (“2013-2016 Master’s degree.” In WHAT? Where? Thesis?). Resumes that are so confusing that I draw myself a timeline to understand. Resumes written in all caps. Once, an application without a resume at all. And even those aren’t immediately disqualifying (well, the last two are).

    1. AnotherLibrarian*

      Oh wow, yeah. I was thinking the same thing. Resumes are generally awful, but here’s the thing- if you manage to make a marginally decent one than you are way ahead of the game. I have some resume horror stories and some cover letter horror stories, but generally I try to show people lots of grace.

      1. Beauty*

        Yeah, those aren’t bad at all. I got one recently that listed every single job this professional in their 30’s has ever had, including working at a gas station for $9/hr. Oh yes, pay was listed for every job as well. In our industry we generally don’t care about anything that happened before grad school and certainly not that you were a cashier at The Circle K.

        1. JB (not in Houston)*

          They are bad, though! They may not be AS bad as some that hiring managers see, but they are bad in that they will put you at the bottom of the pile, if not thrown out entirely. If your resume is having that effect, it’s a bad resume.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        I see your all caps and raise you neon pink 24-point font with a weird border that overlaps the text. Hand to god.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          There are so many things wrong with this picture, I can’t count that high. wth.

          I bet the person is wondering why they did not get hired.

        2. Captain Swan*

          But 5he most important thing. Was it scented to give it a little something extra?

        3. Environmental Compliance*

          I had to talk a family member out of using rAnDoM bold font / enlarged font / font changes a la Lucida Handwriting along with weird borders, a minimum of 15 different colors, full address included, a selfie… with their name at the top in size 65 font.

          Yeah, it was *one page*, but the page was awful. And that was ignoring spelling mistakes and weird tense changes.

          Thankfully they sent it to me for review (they are just entering the workforce) and I could steer them away. Gotta love “career centers” and their godawful advice.

        4. Rose*

          I see your huge neon pink font and raise you a picture of the applicant wearing a tube top by the pool inserted at the top of the resume as a head shot. In an industry where no one puts head shots on resumes. (Pink writing was also involved in this one.)

        5. JustaTech*

          I’ll see your pink font and raise you – yellow text. On white paper.

          (Undergrad applying for a lab job, so a lot of grace was given, and when I managed to read it the contents seemed fine. But, dude, I need to be able to *see* your resume!)

      2. Philmar*

        Could be someone who was in the military. I constantly see all caps used for things that do not need to be all caps, and a significant number of people who hand write in all caps. I hate it.

    2. talos*

      I once reviewed a resume at a resume-reviewing event for the local college where the person had full paragraphs explaining each job, including the company’s overall business and irrelevant job responsibilities. The paragraphs were not in fluent English (I suspect the student came from a situation where they spoke English at school and a different language everywhere else so they weren’t actually very good at English).

      I spent the entire 20-minute session trying to explain how to bullet-point a resume. It was not great.

      1. Johanna Cabal*

        I wonder if the person received some bad advice. I was told to do the same by a job coach. Same job coach who told me to take off my college newspaper experience because “it’s unpaid, so it doesn’t count and employers won’t care about it.” (I actually ended up going to an interview and mentioning my newspaper experience and one of the people interviewing me was surprised I didn’t include it).

        1. Dust Bunny*

          I have a friend who missed out on a job because a job coach told her to put her “mom experience” on but leave off her experience chaperoning field trips for her kids’ school. AAAUGH.

        2. KRM*

          There is SO MUCH bad resume advice out there. When an old job had layoffs, they paid for ‘career counseling’ for all of us, for resume consultation/networking/what have you. I went to one session, with my resume (that I had written according to Alison’s standards) and the counselor was kind of taken aback that I didn’t need any advice. She leaned way in on wanting me to write a “career objective” at the top, which I told her I didn’t think I needed, but she really wanted me to, maybe to feel she had Done Something? And then she tried to say I needed to watch a 45′ video before our next session, about how their website worked. They did seem to have a lean towards those who maybe hadn’t had to write a professional resume before, or were changing career paths, but advice for advice’s sake (or because you think something is good so you NEED it, even if it’s not necessary) is not always good advice. I can see someone who maybe is unsure about how much information to have being told to “write everything you did!” and “talk about how your job fit into the company!” and going with it.

          1. L.H. Puttgrass*

            Reminds me of when I was unemployed for a while and had to go to one of those half-day things where they tell people how to apply for jobs (and check that you’ve actually been trying to get a job, and, I assume, try to make sure you’re a real person). A lot of the advice was really good, but nothing they said would have been a surprise to an AAM reader. And, as a benefit, I can’t remember any of the advice being actively bad, either.

            When my turn with the jobs counselor came, they took one look at my resume, said, “Oh, you’re a lawyer? You’ll be fine,” and pencil-whipped my paperwork right on out of there. I wasn’t as sanguine about my job prospects at the time as she was, but I could also see where someone who deals with unemployment claims all day doesn’t see any point (or value) in spending time on trying to give advice to a lawyer on how to get a job.

      2. len*

        Well… if the point of the event was to teach people how to write an effective resume, it’s not surprising that the person didn’t know all these standards before. That’s why they went to the event! It also seems possible that different cultural standards for resumes might have been at play. This comment rubs me the wrong way.

    3. Not All Hares Are Quick*

      It would be interesting to know whether these are the candidates’ only resumes, or whether they have a couple. It’s not uncommon now to have a filletted one tailored for a specific application, focusing in detail on directly relevant roles over the last few years, but for ones that are submitted to agencies or job boards there’s a view that more is better. It’s only at the very end of the process that a human will get to read it, and it will get to that stage more often if the buzzword search bots find more hits for what they’re looking for.
      As a freelancer, I used to try and keep mine down to 4 pages, but after 30 years it didn’t fit in there any more even at 9-point. I never had difficulty finding work, and I quite often noticed that an interviewer had highlighted things from several years back.
      The downside of course is that someone gets excited because they think you’re an expert on some rare skill that you genuinely did have a grasp of 18 years and 7 versions ago, but have almost completely forgotten about, so yeah, some periodic curating is advisable, but that goes with the territory.

      1. KelseyCorvo*

        You’re misunderstanding the purpose of a resumé if you’re going over 4 pages and covering 30 years. It isn’t meant to be a complete document of your career. It’s meant to be a summary to get you an interview and to help get you hired. Not trying to be harsh but for every person who mentions some old accomplishment, there are likely many more who simply see that you’re cramming your full career into 4 pages at a tiny font size and will see it as poor judgment and immediately stop considering you for the position.

        1. NervousHoolelya*

          I found myself wondering whether some of these longer resumes are from people currently working in academia. In higher education, it IS normal to have a CV that is lengthy and lists everything you’ve ever done. People are flooding out of academia right now, and many, if not most, of them have only ever been asked for CVs before. They should be adapting to resume conventions instead of doing what they’ve always done, but I wouldn’t be surprised if many of them don’t realize that (yet).

            1. LabTechNoMore*

              This was my thought reading the exhaustive resume formatting. These might just be federal employees (or former feds) who didn’t get the memo about resume formatting in private sector.

      2. As per Elaine*

        I saw one recently that listed detailed (and redundant) duties for a job held in the ’90s. Like, sure, list your MS DOS experience if you want, there might be somewhere that finds that valuable, but I absolutely do not need to know that you managed all the office’s dot matrix printers. This resume had more bullet points for jobs on page 3 than I include for my most recent job — and it was not a particularly interesting, varied, or high-level job.

      3. A Little More Kindness (AnonToday)*

        Late to this thread, but people are desperately seeking work right now. I think the Great Resignation is trickling to an end; inflation is starting to take a toll on businesses and their workers. Hiring has slowed and pay is not rising in entry and mid-level positions.

        People are applying in a hurry because they’ve got to find something to pay the bills. I just spent a few days with my youngest. She’s 27 and working two jobs to make ends meet. She was laid off from her regular job a few months ago (the company cut the entire department for cost savings). She immediately found two part-time roles, but has no benefits and doesn’t quite make enough to survive. Gas prices have put a huge dent in the little budget she had. She was hoping to parlay the full-time job into a career, after a year of unemployment during the pandemic. Now she’s back at the beginning. Her resume is okay, but given the number of applications (she is being somewhat selective), she simply doesn’t have the time to tailor it to an individual position in between jobs.

        I’m a firm believer in good writing, but I also believe in good people. In a normal business environment, resume polishing is important. These days, if a hiring manager can do so, a little extra scrutiny of an imperfect resume to find relevant skills is a great kindness. (I am reviewing her resume; hopefully I can strengthen it factually and give her a boost, but am concerned about whether it looks job hoppy. It’s not, it’s the economy; trying to figure out how to convey that in a resume or application…)

        1. pancakes*

          “People are applying in a hurry because they’ve got to find something to pay the bills.”

          For many roles that’s going to happen faster for a candidate who takes more rather than less care on their resume.

    4. Anonym*

      I think there’s some real value to this, though! It’s easy to think, “I got all my job duties on there, it’s not all caps, it’s not hot pink” and think it’s ok, but the reality of what OP is describing are resumes that make any reviewer work *really hard* to find relevant info, and many of them won’t do it. You can describe all your jobs and still not have told people why you’re a good candidate – people deserve to know how much that matters. You just get put in the “I don’t know, maybe if we don’t get anyone good we’ll call this person” pile when you probably don’t deserve to be there.

      1. Sloanicota*

        I have definitely struggled to identify metrics that don’t feel disingenuous when everything I do is part of a team, and in a pretty subjective area of work.

        1. Anonym*

          Oh, it’s definitely hard to do sometimes. I go for carefully selected verbs to cover that – what did *I* do that contributed to the result. Helps to have someone else to do it with, to get around all the noise in your head.

        2. Wants Green Things*

          If you have tips, please share! My work also really doesn’t have quantitative metrics, and at my level is very team focused. Revising my resume is causing such a headache.

        3. Autumnheart*

          Yeah, my job also doesn’t really involve me personally affecting tracked metrics. It’s a creative production-focused job. The money is the metric.

    5. parsley*

      I once got a resume with a smiley face in it from a guy who had a long and storied career in his industry. Some of the worst resumes I’ve ever seen have come from incredibly experienced, highly ranked professionals; it’s interesting how they’re capable of very complex work and absolutely godawful at writing any of it down.

      1. Anonym*

        Writing and communication more broadly are most definitely their own skill sets. Not to mention the psychological hurdles most of us encounter when it comes to describing our own work. It’s good to have a reminder that bad at writing =/= bad at other things! (And vice versa…)

    6. Doctors Whom*

      I will see your ALL CAPS and raise you a resume that had 4-5 cute graphics on the side with a couple words – like a first-aid symbol with the words “volunteer EMT”.

      That first aid icon example is a made up one because I don’t remember the actual other icons because what stood out was ….

      The person also had a donkey icon and an elephant icon. One had the word “good” and the other had the word “bad” under it.

      The resume was actually a pretty reasonable one for the *software dev job that had nothing to do with politics or campaigning* position, but the incredibly poor judgement got it round-filed.

      1. Autumn*

        When it comes to bloated resumes, every time I applied for a job with my county I had to fill out an application with every single job I ever held. With dire warnings of immediate dismissal for any omissions.

        I can see where that might lead to some very bloated resumes through misunderstanding.

        I always wondered if they would ever be silly enough to try to verify two minimum wage jobs I held with now defunct businesses.

          1. Johanna Cabal*

            I can see someone who’s only experience involves filling out applications (and honestly some of the job applications I’ve seen even for retail jobs are horrendous) being confused when it comes to writing a resume.

            1. Cthulhu's Librarian*

              Also, there’s precious little reason for jobs to require both a resume and an application. It’d be a lot easier if employers actually decided which one they wanted, and just stuck with that.

              1. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

                More than once, I’ve been asked to fill out the application *after* getting the position, just because the application system fed directly into the employee records system. So there were blanks to fill in, and rather than having someone in HR fill those blanks, they asked me to do it. *shrug* I was getting paid; I did it. (But outfits that want all that work ahead of time get a serious side-eye from me and sometimes I just close that browser tab instead.)

        1. KRM*

          Yeah, that’s another thing. I limit my resume to relevant experience, which functionally means I mention my two biotech jobs (one was 10 years long) and then mention that I got my MA. I have no jobs listed before that because 1-either the skills I used there are up to date in my current jobs or 2-the skills are now totally irrelevant (yes, I used to work with mice. I could probably pick one up safely now, and give it an IP injection? But there is ZERO chance of my tail vein injection skills still being around.). At interview for LastJob, one of the guys asked what I did between my undergrad and grad school because there was a gap, and he seemed skeptical when I said I didn’t list them because my skills were either up to date via current job or so out of date as to be useless. But I’m not making my resume 3 pages for things that don’t matter to my actual current skill set. Some job seekers have definitely gotten stuck in an online ‘list every job you had ever back to the dawn of time’ system and then try to forestall that by putting it all on the resume so the program pulls it in.

          1. JustaTech*

            I can’t tell you the joy I felt when I realized that I didn’t have to include the details of my mouse work on my resume anymore, because I have zero interest in ever doing that again.


      I think the rise of AI assisted screening has made the thing LW complaining about worse and maybe they are not taking it into account. A lot of these screening tools are not optimized and are looking for incredibly specific terms – for example it wouldn’t be able to know that “safety director” was implied by having a position that is a normal part of if the screening tool is looking for the keyword “safety director.” Even in the case of human first pass review, Talent Acquisition professionals are not an expert on every job. I recently had to assist with a search where we found like 50 qualified candidates that had been eliminated because the human TA associate didn’t know things the sort of things LW considers “bloat” – essentially stuff that might seem redundant to the ultimate hiring manager, but not necessarily to the people doing the review before it gets to them.

      1. NNN222*

        That’s exactly what I was thinking. It gets exhausting rewriting your resume for every listing, hoping that the key words their AI is searching for are all in the job description and that you’ve correctly translated your experience into the language of the job description so your resume will be selected by the algorithm. I get the appeal of overly describing everything in the hope that there are enough key words so it won’t have to be rewritten every time. I know Alison says she’s always seen resumes like these but I’d be interested to see if it’s happening more often now that we’re forced into satisfying the AI before our resume is even seen by a human.

      2. Matthew*

        Exactly. Resume screening algorithms are both ubiquitous and terrible, so applicants are stuffing as many keywords as they can into something that still looks intelligible to a human being. I hate it, but better that than a “tag cloud” or copy/pasting the job listing as-is onto the resume, both of which I’ve seen.

    8. Cthulhu's Librarian*

      I think the pandemic layoffs, followed by the Great Resignation, has greatly increased the number of bad resumes people will see – you’ve got a lot of people who are out of practice at writing them deciding now is a good time to job hunt (and it is! more power to them!) but the resources on knowing how to write a resume, or get assistance with it (especially if you’re not computer-comfortable) are stretched a lot thinner on the ground now. I used to have enough time to do full fledged workshopping with people, spending a couple of hours finding out their history and walking them through how to present it better in our public library. These days, I’m getting so many requests that I can usually only find 45 minutes to work with someone – and there’s often a lot more than 45 minutes worth of work to be done on what they bring in (if they bring anything with them at all)

    9. Buffy will save us*

      I have seen so many bad resumes lately. Poor spelling, exaggerating skills (The position calls for three years in supervision, that means three years, not “Oh, as we went through hiring issues, I covered on & off as supervisor” which doesn’t work for strict government positions.) And don’t get me started on cover letters…..

      1. Zombeyonce*

        To be fair, while maybe not valid for government jobs, many people get jobs for positions where they don’t meet every qualification 100%. Plenty of data is out there showing that men benefit far more than women from this, as they are much more likely to apply to positions where they don’t meet all the qualifications (and can get them!) than women. Women are now being encouraged to apply for jobs where they meet most but not necessarily all the qualifications to give them an equal chance, which I think is completely fair.

    10. LongerWasGood*

      Funny about #5 — I applied to 2 very similar jobs at the same company. One, I used a short 3-page resume. The other, I used a 6.5-page one. I got interviewed and offered the job for the one I sent in the longer resume for! It was long because I broke my experience/accomplishments into sections like “Customer Service,” “Technical Expertise,” “Mentoring,” “Communications,” etc. The shorter one just had 2-3 high-level summaries of each position (I’ve been working for 20 years at 3 places). I’m guessing the detailed version was more informative and spoke more to my abilities that allowed them to get a better idea.
      BTW, that long resume is generally used to apply to US Government jobs!

  9. What do you want to be?*

    LW # 4. When I left my company of 12 years I had a million reasons why (crap pay, inability to move up, annoying red tape and bureaucracy), but what I said was that I was looking for a new challenge, love Company I’m Applying To’s mission, am excited about their product, want to have the opportunity to really implement change and make an impact, etc etc. And it was all true. What do you love about the company you want to work for? What would excite you to do? Or maybe you just adore New Company’s wine. Look at what you WANT out of a job and that’s your reasons for leaving, not what you don’t like about your current job. I had a ton of interviews before I landed the right thing so I had a lot of opportunity to really explore what that might be for me.

    PS, i increases my income from $81k to $140k and have more autonomy, more responsibility, a company I love working for, and a lot of flexibility. Because I went for what I wanted out of a new job instead of what I wanted to get out of.

    1. SomebodyElse*

      Agree with this… I’m sure I’ve said it here before but you * want to show you are running towards something and not running away from something. Every hiring manager knows that there were problems or things you don’t like in your current job, if there wasn’t you wouldn’t be looking for a new one. What we want to know is why you want to work for our company instead of the 1,000s others that are hiring now. What made you apply? What part of the job description grabbed your interest? What did you find out about the company that looks interesting?

      The “Why are you looking/Why did you leave” question is a softball, pick something neutral and then use the opportunity to focus on what makes the new job a good fit. The question really only serves to weed out the people who give horrible answers and as a way to segue into the role being hired for.

      *global you

      1. El l*

        Yeah, the “why are you leaving” question is – while a good question – really about seeing whether you are looking forward rather than back.

        I just left after 12 1/2 years, and I answered the question as: “I’m proud of what I’ve done there, but…it’s time. I want to avoid complacency, I want to experience a different corporate culture, and the only way to do that is to move.” Since LW4 has been there 16 years, I bet she can say something similar.

  10. coffee*

    LW #2, I really feel for you. If you do want to speak up, you might feel more comfortable doing so with a “joke”? E.g. “Oh, can I trade this lunch in for health insurance then?”; “Ramen? That’s a bit luxurious for my budget, I can only afford that as a treat” etc.

    Or you can go the other way and sincerely acknowledge the elephant in the room. “Yeah, it sure is tough on this low salary, I’ve had to be really careful about what I spend my money on.” Depending on the people involved, you could also ask them how they coped during their internships – if it’s supposed to be a “we all went through it” moment, get them to think of yourself as part of that “we”.

    Honestly though, such a garbage system.

    1. Ann O'Nemity*

      This is where I land too. It would be hard for me not to acknowledge the elephant in the room.

      “Seriously though, thank you for the food; I’ve been skipping meals so I can afford rent and healthcare.” Said in the most earnest way I can muster.

  11. NotMyCircusNotMyMonkey*

    Related to Q#2 – About 10 years ago, I worked as one of three admins (all with extensive experience and college degrees) supporting a team of 13 sales reps and 2 managers. One day, the senior manager said something – lightheartedly – to the sales team similar to, “You guys really need to shape up – don’t make me slash your pay to only $50 grand a year!” The manager and the sales team all had a good laugh and the sales team mostly responded with a equally lighthearted, “Oh no, not that!” After the laughter died down and the sales team got back to work, I poked my head in the manager’s office and said, “Um … I’d love to ‘only’ be making $50 grand a year. For the record. In case anyone asks.” I was only making $40K at the time, and I was told I was brought in at a higher rate than expected due to the temp agency that negotiated my contract. When they fired me a while later, they posted my job at $10K less a year than I was making in that position. Also, my replacement quit two weeks after they fired me. Not the healthiest of work environments is my point, really.

    1. Massive Dynamic*

      OUCH. Glad you doubled back to your manager on that one, that day. And that you got out of there!

  12. Julia*

    LW 4 – I find Alison’s answer dispiriting here, although it’s probably realistic. It’s really not OK that it’s impossible to honestly tell a new employer you’re leaving because of problems with management at the old job. Managers should be more receptive to hearing these concerns as long as they’re stated in a neutral way without bashing the old employer. After all, let’s be realistic – bad management is why a huge portion of employees leave jobs! And yet candidates who express even minor reservations about their old employer’s management style are basically blacklisted. Why are hiring managers so intolerant in this area? It would be beneficial to both sides if more honesty were allowed/encouraged – it would allow both hiring managers and candidates to assess whether the new environment would be a fit. If you’re leaving because of low pay and constantly shifting priorities, you should be able to say that so that the new employer can know what’s important to you and whether you’ll be happy there.

    1. Sleepy cat*

      The real question is why does anyone ask ‘why are you leaving’ when people so often can’t be honest.

      1. Stuckinacraxyjob*

        Nod! I understand it is so that some people give the wrong answer and don’t get the job, but the fact interviews are set up that way make me very anxious

      2. Guacamole Bob*

        I’ve interviewed a lot of candidates recently, and while we don’t ask “why are you leaving?” in those words, we do ask questions where that’s part of the answer – why are you looking to join our company at this time and that sort of thing. I don’t want to know all the gory detail if the current company is a dumpster fire, but I do want to know why they are looking because it gets to fit for the job. People look to move on to get more responsibility, learn new skills, shift areas of focus, alleviate boredom, find better management, move cities, find different work/life balance, jump on a job that seems like a perfect fit even if the current job is pretty good, and all sorts of other things. It really provides a lot of context about a candidate and good information about how they might or might not fit in the role and in our agency.

        1. Cthulhu's Librarian*

          I notice you omitted “better pay and/or benefits” from your list of reasons folks look to move on. You should probably assume that for most candidates, that’s a huge part of it. The only reason we don’t answer honestly is because experience has taught us employers get to penalize us in their hiring process if we are.

      3. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

        I think it’s because occasionally people are honest, really honest, and then you know you don’t want to hire that person.

        1. gmg22*

          I don’t think it’s the honesty, in itself, that would make someone a questionable hire. It’s when someone can’t differentiate serious problems in their organization from problems they personally are having with making the organization work for them — the “to a hammer everything looks like a nail” issue. That person is likely to become the Debbie Downer on your team likewise, taking everything that goes wrong day-to-day as an indictment of the workplace itself.

          1. Guacamole Bob*

            It’s also a questionable sign when someone doesn’t have the judgment to explain negative reasons for looking to move on from an old firm in a diplomatic way. I’m not looking for dishonesty, but I’m looking for someone who knows when to say “There’s been a lot of management turnover and I’m looking for something more stable with a more collaborate culture” versus “Big Boss is such a micromanaging abusive disaster that all the midlevel people are fleeing.”

            It doesn’t apply to all roles, but in many, many jobs the ability to communicate in professional terms using good judgment about challenging issues is a useful skill and it’s reasonable to expect candidates to demonstrate that skill in this context.

      4. Birdie*

        I was once of the hiring committee for a role and asked the candidate why they were interested in the role, because I was genuinely curious. This person was making boatloads of money doing environmental engineering in the for-profit world, and we were a nonprofit that wildly underpaid employees looking for someone to conduct plant surveys (which, candidate was very qualified for the role).

        I have never heard a candidate rip into their current employer like this one, which included multiple uses of the word “dumbasses.”

        So, at least in this case, helped us dodge a bullet.

      5. Anonym*

        Yeah, it just doesn’t seem as relevant as “why are you interested in working with us/in this role” and maybe “why are you looking to make a change” if it’s geared towards getting a sense of what they’re looking for at a higher, overall career path level.

        I can’t quite wrap my head around needing to know why someone’s leaving a job vs. seeking this one. Unless they’re trying to figure out if you got fired? Which they could find out via reference check. Or maybe some candidates reveal useful info, like “because I hate X aspect [which your company maybe also has]?” But even that could be better covered with something along the lines of “what makes a great working environment for you?” since it’s more positive and more comprehensive.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          Asking why you’re leaving could give some insight into whether you’re going to be a good fit here. If you say “there was no room for advancement” or “I wasn’t using X skill as much as I wanted” and I know you’re going to have the same problems here, that’s not promising.

      6. bamcheeks*

        I genuinely don’t think many people do ask “Why are you leaving” though. They ask, “Why have you applied for this job?” or “Why are you interested in working for our company?” — ie. they are interested in your POSITIVE reasons for wanting to join us, not your negative reasons for why you want to leave the other guys. It’s just that when you’re in the “must leave this hellscape” mental zone, they feel like one and the same thing so people hear and answer “tell me what’s wrong with your current job” instead of “why do you like this potential role”.

        1. cubone*

          10000% this. I could’ve written this letter when I was last job searching because I was so beaten down and exhausted by the toxicity in my job and I didn’t know how I could even begin to pretend otherwise. But truly all I had to do was talk about why i was interested in the jobs I was applying for.

    2. TechWorker*

      I don’t think it’s that it would blacklist you, it’s more that the interviewer often has little way of knowing whether the problem truly is a company problem or is actually an employee problem*. For things that are relatively public knowledge (such as layoffs) you can phrase that well and that’s fine. For things like issues with bad management it’s just not worth the risk in general. Or at least it’s better to phrase it in positive terms (so ‘Can you tell me a bit about the expected career development opportunities in this role? Where might I be able to go after a few years?’ rather than ‘I’m leaving because I’m never going to get promoted and my boss doesn’t set any goals’).

      * I do have one friend who has encountered terrible, unreasonable managers at every company he’s worked for (on 4 or 5 now). They normally start off ok and then after a year or so he starts to hate it and how unreasonable the managers are. And… by this point I get the impression the problem is not just with the companies.

      1. Karia*

        Eh. What field does he work in? Because some really just are more toxic than others. Startups, agencies, owner run companies with no HR; these all tend to be extremely volatile. And if he’s just in the wrong field, that can be a factor.

      2. Julia*

        “I don’t think it’s that it would blacklist you, it’s more that the interviewer often has little way of knowing whether the problem truly is a company problem or is actually an employee problem”

        Right now, because it’s so taboo to badmouth your prior employer in any way, anybody who does it is likely to have problematically bad judgment just by virtue of the fact that they’re even bringing it up. But if we loosened that taboo a bit, I disagree that it’d be all that difficult to tell the reasonable employees from the ones with problems. The reasonable ones would discuss their prior employers – well, reasonably.

        It’s like how people often ask their dates about prior relationships. If you’ve got a decent bullshit detector, you can tell a lot by the way a prospective partner talks about their exes. They don’t need to abstain from saying anything negative whatsoever about their past partner – they’d just need to say reasonable negative things, like “we grew apart, partly because of her reluctance to commit,” or “his jealousy drove a wedge between us, though I could’ve set better boundaries.” Red-flag answers would be things like “she was batshit crazy,” “he always wanted to go out with his friends without me,” etc.

        It’s really not that hard to sort good negative answers from bad ones – it’s just work employers don’t want to do, because we have a screwed-up power dynamic in hiring. If it’s OK for employers to explain (objectively and without rancor) how the person who was last in the role fell short, it should be OK for candidates to do the same.

        1. bamcheeks*

          Hm, I don’t think any of the things you’ve described are taboo. I don’t think I’ve ever talked about personal difficulties with a manager in an interview, but I’ve certainly talked about my current employer going in a strategic direction I wasn’t happy with and why I prefered the strategic direction of NewPotentialEmployer.

          1. Julia*

            I don’t know about generally taboo, but I tend to get most of my workplace norms from Alison these days, and she tends to be pretty conservative on this score:

            My read on her take, as expressed there and in other letters, is that even “I’m not happy with their strategic direction” would be too close to criticism for comfort for her. She suggests that managers can only stomach hearing something as totally uncritical as “the job turned out to be more X than the Y I was looking for”, or “the culture is more X and Y than I’d expected”.

            I agree with other people here that the general framing of the interview should be more stoked-to-work-for-you than eager-to-leave-the-old-place. But the above approach still strikes me as too much tiptoeing around the truth, I guess.

            1. pancakes*

              I don’t think it’s quite on point to think of this in terms of being conservative with the truth so much as presenting yourself in the best possible light. A candidate who is careful to present themself in the best light probably shouldn’t say “I’m not happy with their strategic direction” if they can’t frame it well in terms of what they’re looking for in their next career move, but if they can, I don’t think that’s necessarily going to hurt them. It’s painting with too broad a brush to say never reveal a difference of opinion with your previous employer, only say blandly uncritical things.

      3. Lacey*

        Yes, I’ve known people who always have a terrible boss and coworkers at every one of their many jobs.
        And since I’ve known them a long time and heard all the stories of the bad, bad manager who expected them work their shift, I know who the problem is.

        But an interviewer doesn’t. They don’t know if you’re disgruntled because you’ve been passed over for a promotion every year because you’re “too valuable where you are” or if it’s because you make everyone’s life a living hell and no one would trust you to manage a guinea pig.

        It makes them nervous. And they pass by people who make them nervous and hire the person who said, “I’m looking for a new and exciting challenge and I think I’ll find it at this insurance underwriting company!”

    3. Bagpuss*

      I don’t think that (in most / non-toxic) workplaces expressing reservations about a previous manger or employer would get you blacklisted.

      However, unless the interviewers has personal knowledge of the company you are leaving, they can’t really assess whether your compalints and criticisms are valid, and it may backfire on you as an applicant becuase one possibility where a person expresses a lot of disatisfaction with their curent employment is that they are difficult to work with, or resent being managed, or are very inflexible.
      It’s probably less of a risk if you are in a small industry and your employer is known – but in that situation, you probably don’t have to spell it out because f it’s known, others in the infutry will be well aware of why you want out – and

      Also, ideally employers want people who want to work for them – so it’s generally better to frame things in a way the focuses on the poictive reasons why you wnat to move to their company, not the negative reasons you want to leave somewhere else. And you can typically address things in that way – e.g. rather than saying you want to leave becuase your boss is a micromanager you can say that you want opportunities that are not available with your current employer to work more infepedently and manage your own files / projects / clients.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        It’s a lot like going on a first date and explaining why your previous relationship ended. Going on about your crazy ex is likely to raise red flags, even if your ex really was toxic and abusive, because that’s a common red flag for someone who is going to be a terrible partner.

        Saying “we wanted different things out of life,” or “we realized we’re better as friends than romantic partners” or “he moved to Antarctica” gives a plausible reason that doesn’t raise red flags.

      2. Julia*

        In these conversations, the normative and the descriptive often get mixed up. You’re talking about why it’s risky for candidates to say anything negative about their prior employer. I’m not disputing that it’s risky. I’m arguing that it *shouldn’t* always be risky, because employers should relax on this issue.

        Rather than being quick to worry that anybody who expresses reasonable dissatisfaction with an aspect of their prior employer may be difficult to work with, employers should pay closer attention to how the complaint is voiced. If it’s reasonable and objective, and couched in self-awareness and an appreciation for people’s hard work and efforts, it should not throw up a red flag.

      3. londonedit*

        Yeah, I think a lot of the time it is simply the fact that it makes a better impression if you focus on the positive reasons why you want to come and work for the new company, rather than the negative ones about why you want to leave. I don’t think there’s generally going to be a problem with someone saying something like ‘The workload has gradually become more difficult to manage and I’m looking for a role that will allow me to fully focus on painting high quality teapots, rather than spending time firefighting’, or ‘I’m looking for a role with more stability and a collaborative team where I can continue to grow’ – both of those things are saying there’s an issue with where you currently work, but they’re not ‘Well, my boss is a huge micromanager and I can never get any work done and I’m criticised all the time and the company is financially unstable’. The key is not to just list the negative things about your current role/company, it’s to articulate those in a way that says ‘I’ve become frustrated with this aspect of the job; that’s why the role you’re advertising appeals to me so much’.

    4. KelseyCorvo*

      Check out the commenter above you – they were fired after speaking out. That’s what Alison is trying to prevent.

    5. anonymous73*

      I think it’s okay to be honest in an interview in a general sense. But if you spend 10 minutes complaining about everything that’s wrong and why you’re unhappy, as an interviewer I’m going to wonder if you’re one of those people that is always unhappy and complains all the time.

    6. Cthulhu's Librarian*

      The truth, which most other responses to you are skirting around, is that employers ask the “why are you leaving” question out of ego. They want to be stroked and fondled and told how special and amazing the chance to work at their company is – but rather than ask a question (such as “Why do you want to work for us?”) where it would be obvious that they were looking to be flattered, they frame it in the context of your departure from the other company.

      They’ll claim its about seeing if you can be diplomatic about your current employer, but they don’t actually care. You can tell by how they never press you to answer more directly about why you want to move on, as long as you say something complimentary about their firm and the open position.

  13. Varthema*

    With OP2, my first read on the joke was that it was self-deprecating – the attorney felt that a thank you lunch was like a bandaid over a much more serious problem (no health insurance) and called a spade a spade in a weak joke. Not the best choice, but easy to see how it might happen (and maybe even cringe at it as soon as said). Is this a pattern (way more concerning) or a one-off comment?

    Also, my read on the situation is that the attorneys present don’t necessarily have control over that industry custom, though I could be wrong. It’d be way ickier for a CEO of a private company to make a similar joke when that choice to wildly undercompensate junior employees would be pretty much all her choice.

    1. amoeba*

      Yeah, that’s how I read it as well (at least the “we don’t give you health insurance”) – as acknowledging/criticizing the crappy conditions in a joke. Unless of course that person actually has a a say in the salary decisions, which would make it pretty shitty, especially as they’re also below industry standards. Can’t really tell from the letter…

      1. Elenna*

        Didn’t LW specifically mention in the letter that they find this kind of joke particularly crappy from people who have the power to change their salary? Which implies the joke-maker does have that power.
        I agree that if the joke-maker didn’t have a say in the salary I’d read it as an awkward but harmless way to say “hey, I acknowledge that this sucks for you, sorry” but it sounds like they do have a say.

        1. Elenna*

          Quote from the letter: “I did not really appreciate people making jokes about something that is fully within their control to change.”

          1. Glomarization, Esq.*

            While we are supposed to take letter writers at their word, it would be unusual for the lawyers at a public-interest law organization to have full control over the decisionmaking process regarding compensation that fellows receive above and beyond their grant from the foundation or school that is funding the fellowship.

          2. SomebodyElse*

            I think the historical comments in this site show a very wide misconception over the power to affect change by roles. See also “I want to do something nice for my team” from a low to mid level manager and all of the “MORE PAY/MORE PTO/etc.” responses. The real truth is pay, leave, and benefit policies are set at the C-suite/board level (or equivalent) in almost all organizations.

    2. Glomarization, Esq.*

      This is the correct answer. The lawyers in the public interest organization almost certainly do not control the salary structure; there’s probably a board of directors that does. I would have taken the joke as an expression of “hey, I remember when I was in your shoes, but stiff upper lip, soon enough you’ll be employed full-time doing the public-interest work you want to be doing.” In the area of the country where I practice, fellowships are very competitive and some carry a lot of prestige. Having one puts you in a very good position to have your pick of public-interest jobs once you’re done.

      The joke maybe wasn’t in the best taste, but I’d bet it wasn’t actually malicious. If you have a mentor there, maybe bring it up with them. They may actually know of some resources you can tap into. Or you may be able to approach the foundation funding your fellowship and ask for a stipend or additional grant.

      1. Sloanicota*

        OK but at some point we have got to fix the system, because people who don’t come from extremely privileged backgrounds and who aren’t in perfect health will simply always be shut out of fields that operate this way.

        1. Glomarization, Esq.*

          I mean, your keyboard to god’s ear, access to justice is a huge problem and there’s a real crisis in funding for legal aid to underserved populations, but right now the LW is not in a position to change how much their fellowship pays or how the organization’s board of directors compensates fellows above and beyond the fellowship grant.

      2. STG*

        “I would have taken the joke as an expression of “hey, I remember when I was in your shoes, but stiff upper lip, soon enough you’ll be employed full-time doing the public-interest work you want to be doing.” ”

        Then maybe say that instead?

        1. MCMonkeyBean*

          Well, Glomarization, Esq. wasn’t the one making the poor-taste jokes. I think you can safely assume they would have said that instead if they were actually there, but they weren’t and they have literally no ability to change anything in this situation other than to try to help OP feel maybe the tiniest better about going in to work tomorrow…

      3. pancakes*

        I’m not sure it is “stiff upper lip” so much as “haha, I’m kinda uncomfortable.” Which, yes, they probably are, and they should be uncomfortable with not paying livable wages if they aren’t, but sometimes “I’m feeling awkward” comes off as “let’s focus on how I feel for a moment” instead of “this sure is a lousy aspect of our profession.”

    3. Incessant Owlbears*

      I read it as dark humor, aimed against themselves in a somewhat self loathing manner. That person probably knows they don’t have the ability to change how you are treated, but they dislike how you are compensated, so they made a gallows humor kind of joke that landed wrong.

  14. Irish Teacher.*

    I’m not sure if this is really any help, but I suspect the situation in letter 2 may also come from assumptions about the background of law fellows. I suspect the teasing is based on an assumption that they are sort of experiencing “college student poverty” and have family in the background to bail them out of any real difficulty. I mean, I doubt they are consciously thinking this, but I would imagine they are largely from better off families, given their general obliviousness and they are thinking back to living in an apartment with friends, managing on a low salary and possibly occasionally calling up mom and dad for a loan. They are probably not thinking of truly being unable to pay rent. There are a whole lot of problematic assumptions there that restrict some people’s access to the profession, but it’s not really something the LW can do much about. At least not now. Perhaps when they are in a higher position they could point it out to those who joke to later interns.

  15. BOB*

    LW 4 – I was in kind of the same boat, I worked for a company for 16 years in an industry that has very high turnover. My line was something to the effect of “I’ve had a great experience for the last 16 years, but now I am looking to move onto the next 16 years.”

  16. Sleepy cat*

    #1 Actually I think you have a manager problem here and I’m surprised this isn’t mentioned in the answer!

    Constantly requesting PTO at the last minute sounds disruptive and something your manager should be managing.

    What I can’t tell is whether this means covering extra shifts or doing extra work during your own shift. And for that reason I’m not sure ‘it’s ok to refuse if you don’t want to’ is the right line. This is work. And it depends. Turning down extra shifts if you don’t want to? Fine. Refusing to help with extra work during your own shift when you could, but you don’t want to? Not so good.

    But like I said, you have a manager problem.

    1. Bagpuss*

      Yes, I was surprised that Alison didn’t mention this – it sounds as though part of the propblem is that J#s specifc role and hours means that it is hard to get cover , and even if they are also poor at planning that’s a deeper issue and OP could encourage J to talk to their manager about – if cover for J means someone else has to work different shofts / different hours than they normally do then that’s likely to be much more difficult than simply asking someone to pick up an extra shift that is the same hours as they normally work, but on a day they would otherwise be off, or to switch shifts within their normal pattern.
      It could be a situation where it would make sense for OP, J and the other staff members to jointly approach the manager about having better arangments which don’t mean that one person getting tme off is dependent on them being able to find someone to cover their shift . It may still be that requests at short notice get rejected if the manager is not able to arrange cover, but at least then it would be the manager, not OP or other coworkers, saying no to J.

    2. I should really pick name*

      The LW states that their manager is “fully supportive of me not making any great efforts for this person”, so it’s not a manager problem at all.
      The LW’s concern seems to be the guilt-tripping, and I think they just need to learn to ignore it.

      1. anonymous73*

        I don’t think we have enough information to know if it is or isn’t a manager problem. Yes OP has their supervisor’s support to say no, but is supervisor involved in all of this coverage or are they leaving it completely up to the team? If they’re not involved at all, that is a problem, because part of being a manager is making sure you have the right coverage to get the work done.

      2. Dust Bunny*

        But the letter literally starts out with “We have a coworker, “J,” who, because of the nature of their work and the hours of their shift, doesn’t always have someone who can easily cover them when they need to be out”, which sounds like a failure to crosstrain and/or to hire people who are available during J’s hours, and that’s a management problem, too, and something that is not J’s fault.

        J is dealing with this inappropriately by guilt-tripping, although I wouldn’t be at all surprised if this is out of desperation because the managers are clueless/lazy/out to lunch/whatever. J and the LW both need to go to management and point that out.

        1. LW1*

          OP here — I didn’t want to get into too many identifiable details of the shift, but it’s more an issue that they sometimes work a shift alone, outside business hours that is required for our office to function. We have position overlap that sometimes absorbs J’s last-minute requests, but things get messy when he wants to take off with 1-2 days notice during a time when no one else in our department is working (and it wouldn’t be reasonable to hire a second person for this shift — there isn’t enough work to justify it.)

          I worked his shift for 2 years and never had a problem getting coverage for PTO or emergencies.

          1. doreen*

            Since you didn’t have a problem, I’m going to guess the problem is not really J’s work or shift. I have encountered more than one person who had difficulty getting “coverage” ( in the situations I’m talking about , it’s not coverage for taking PTO, it’s more like trading shifts so I can be off on Tuesday without taking PTO) and invariably, the people who had difficulty getting coverage had that difficulty because of their own behavior – such as one who wouldn’t trade, because if the coworker called in sick , he might be called in on overtime and trading shifts wouldn’t pay OT. Couldn’t understand why co-workers wouldn’t trade when he asked them to. I’m going to guess that J’s problem is really that he makes too many of these requests.

    3. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      Constantly requesting PTO at the last minute sounds disruptive and something your manager should be managing.

      It is, but some people just will not adjust. They consider PTO wholly private, even down to its scheduling and advance notice.

    4. LW1*

      OP here! I can’t recall if this got cut, or if I neglected to mention it when I asked the question, but our managers do handle arranging PTO or emergency coverage.

      J is making these pleas privately after his requests have been denied for lack of notice, and he’s doing so behind our manager’s back, which she has recently been made aware of.

      Oh, and yes — it’s picking up an entirely extra shift.

        1. LW1*

          Well she’s really, really done with him for other reasons beyond this, but she had one of those “closed door” convos with him (again) about the responsibility he has to arrange vacation time with suitable warning.

          Then he tried to take 10 days off with two weeks notice, was denied, and a shouting match began.

          It’s definitely not just about that anymore, me thinks.

          1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

            Then he tried to take 10 days off with two weeks notice, was denied, and a shouting match began.

            I’d kill for two weeks’ notice my peers are going out on PTO. I’d kill for two hours’ notice my peers are going out on PTO.

            1. LW1*

              Ummmm. This sounds like hell — how can your staff or managers even begin to deal with this? *sending you all the good vibes*

          2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            Yeah – J has officially traveled to delusionville, and sounds like they will probably not be a problem for too much longer. Most companies don’t tolerate employees that go off on a manager who tells them “no that doesn’t work” and LW 1, I really hope yours has recovered to the point that this is now yours as well.

  17. Coffeecoffeecoffee*

    LW #3, you may also want to talk to your grad program about this to clarify requirements and bring that to HR. My guess is you’re expected to do X hours/week of your new job to satisfy the internship requirements (and if it’s the degree I’m thinking of, there’s a lot of documentation and class discussion around your internship experience, so it will be necessary to actually get into that role by the time the rest of your classmates start their internships too). Also, your time I’m grad school is short. You want to learn as much as possible and that means taking on new responsibilities and learning from new people. It’s not just a loss of income but also a loss of education and professional development. I really hope you can sort this out!

    1. Moonlight*

      I was having a very similar thought. There are a number of programs that could fit this bill (I’m assuming it’s one that ends up with licensing to be a psychotherapist, marriage and family therapist, etc) and a few consistent details are (a) time line – typically 8 months, 12 if you’re lucky while I’m grad school (b) hours requirements over 8 months, sometimes with specific weekly quotas, often the # of supervision hours and the number of hours with clients, sometimes requiring paperwork/research time too (c) classroom time.

      It could be a major issue with your school and/or your ability to complete your hours or meet supervision requirements if your current boss is hindering your ability to start. Some colleges will allow you to extend your placement an additional term, but then things like insurance factor in. So definitely speak to the program coordinator at your school and at your work and make sure they understand the impacts and can intervene for you.

  18. Karia*

    LW2: This is so frustrating – I’ve more often experienced it’s equally insensitive twin. This is when a boss asks you when you’re buying a house, a car, a luxury item, when they’re paying you ramen and rent wages.

  19. Been there*

    OP3: As someone with a grad degree in mental health whose internship was delayed for reasons out of my control…. It is Stressful! to try and cram a year’s hours into less time. Make sure you’re able to meet your degree requirements accounting for the delay. It may be worth using whatever capital you have to transfer so that your degree isn’t affected.

    1. Moonlight*

      I’m glad a bunch of us either have been there or are currently going through it to help OP3 :)?

  20. Dragon Toad*

    Saw a resume once, 9 pages long – and it was just a SAMPLE, he had left out a couple pages from the original since he didn’t think them relevant! Except it was only 9 pages NOT because he included an absurd amount of outdated and irrelevant info, but because he literally only had three lines per page. The rest was filled with a LOT of clipart. Also had a cute cartooney border on every page, and the first page was half taken up with details of ALL his personal social media – so not just Linked In, he had in his instagram, facebook, tictok, youtube…

    My favourite was that every page was headed by an inspirational quote. From himself. He literally quoted himself on every single page of his resume.

    1. FashionablyEvil*

      I got one that was 5 pages long from someone who had just graduated from college. Because it was in size 32 font.

    2. kittymommy*

      LOL< I just interviewed someone who had a 14 page resume. Fourteen Pages!!! Full paragraph bullet points, bad spacing. After 14 pages I still have no idea what he did.

  21. Vik*

    LW 3,

    What is the structuring of your internal transfer rate in your company? That would tell you a lot before you go to HR.

    In my (extremely large) company, all internal transfers before you could apply, you have to check off a form that you and your current manager had talked about this and they had given their sign off for HR to keep you in the running.

    Obviously this works best, if your manager wants you to develop and grow, but the power is with the current manager as they are the ones who hired you. And that also means that they can block transfers if they have a justifiable reason—or if they never signed off on the idea of your transfer in the first place.

    An example of that was a field tech applied and received a corporate position but didn’t actually run this through their manager-just hit the box. The manager refused the transfer—we for sure lost a good field tech. But the manager was within the company’s internal structure and policy to be able to go “No I didn’t approve this. I need them on my team”

    If your internal transfer is similar, there might not be a lot that HR can do. Whether or not that’s fair, or in the long term working in their best interest, is irrelevant, if your current boss has the power to block the transfer.

    Also unsure if the internship nature of the new position changes how the internal transfer structure would affect that. But that’s something to look at policy’s.

  22. Teapot Wrangler*

    OP2 – I can see myself saying something like “We don’t give you health insurance, but we will give you lunch.” when I’m legitimately annoyed that this is happening but I’ve not been able to change things. Obviously, tone is hard to pick up in writing but was this said somewhat sarcastically in front of more senior people who are better placed to actually change things?

    1. Madame X*

      I’m not sure there is a tone that could convey that the reason you’re not giving them health insurance is because you can’t when what you are saying to them is “We don’t give you health insurance, but we will give you lunch.”

      The people saying this to LW2 are their supervisors and senior colleagues. Presumably, those are the people they interviewed with. It is reasonable for LW2 to expect that those people had some control over the health insurance offer or at least that they are aware about the current state of it. This joke just comes off as totally tone deaf.

      1. Vik*

        I’m a director and I have no say over the benefits that the people I hire get. Those decisions get made above me (ELT and SLT) and are completely out of my control.

        In the same vein, if a position has a salary band that everyone getting hired for the same position has to be in, I also have to hire within those limitations by decisions again made by SLT.

        I can also imagine myself making that comment sarcastically, especially if the position is infamously low paying and a known issue.

        1. Madame X*

          I get that, but joking about how low the salary is of one of your reports isn’t going to make the person who’s actually in that salary band feel better. As a Director, you were still making more money than they are.

        2. bamcheeks*

          I think this depends on whether you’ve had prior conversations with your team about the lack of healthcare coverage, your belief that it’s a major problem, and your assurance that whilst it’s not something you can directly control, it is an issue you’ve raised with the SLT and something you use political capital on. If the only time you mention it is the same tone you use to say, “Ahh, typical, raining just as I’m about to leave!” it rings a bit hollow.

      2. iliketoknit*

        It is tone deaf, but that still doesn’t mean that the people who made it have any control over the circumstances giving rise to it. Aware of the lack of health insurance, sure. Able to do anything about it, no.

    2. Elenna*

      LW2 says the people making the jokes have control over their salary though: “I did not really appreciate people making jokes about something that is fully within their control to change.”
      Although I guess it’s possible they don’t actually have control over it and LW2 is just assuming because they’re seniors.

  23. E*

    For the bloated resumes – smart candidates are mass applying to jobs online with python code for example so every job is listed because we are all at the throwing things at the wall phase of the job hunting nightmare that is 2022.

    1. Janet Pinkerton*

      What’s the nightmare? I have so many friends changing jobs this year with major salary bumps that it’s unreal. Is it specific to your field? What career stage are you in?

      1. Chilipepper Attitude*

        I just saw a hiring coach say that the great resignation was people leaving jobs no one wants (pay, benefits, type of work, etc) and that is making the competition for jobs people do want even tougher.

        In her experience, people were having a hard time getting hired. I’m curious if AAM are having a hard or easy time moving jobs right now.

        1. Birdie*

          What I have seen is yes, the jobs open are the ones that people have left for a reason. Positions like Communications Manager for an organizations that wanted 5 years experience that includes management, social media, graphic design, video production, website, marketing, press releases, department budgeting, and event support, all work must be done on-site, 45-50 hours per week, all for the oh-so-generous salary of $44,000 per year in a major metro area.

          1. Moonlight*

            As someone who used to work in PR this is 100% the biggest reason I changed careers. I couldn’t get in to a good job cause they wanted me to do EVERYTHING have years of experience and do it all for no pay. Like nah dude, someone who’s skilled at all that stuff with 5 years experience should be making, say, $65,000-$80,000 (don’t come at me for the numbers) whereas I would have been willing to accept $40,000-$45,000 right out of school.

      2. Hlao-roo*

        Alison had an ask-the-readers post back in January (“are employers really so eager to hire right now?” from January 6, 2022) where a bunch of people shared their job-searching and hiring experiences.

        My takeaway from it was, it really depends on field/location/career stage. Some people are having a really easy time finding jobs with great salary bumps, others see a lot of listings but the companies are all offering terrible pay, and other people don’t see very many job ads at all.

    2. DisneyChannelThis*

      I’ve also seen the advice to resume bloat trying to match keywords. There’s some stupid filter that is a computer not a human that only advances your resume if you have matching keywords.

  24. Janet Pinkerton*

    Re: #5

    I’m a hiring manager in the federal government. Federal resumes are *horrible^. When I get a six-page resume I think “Hooray! A short one!”

    The tide is turning. The managerial corps maxes at a three-page resume these days. But my god, I have reviewed some awful resumes. 17 pages. Included an IQ. Included details from his service in the Vietnam War.

    1. smh*

      But I think this is reflective of the application processes. For example, the federal jobs I’ve applied to ask that the resume include the number of hours spent at that job/project (wtf?) and should that the relevant qualifications should be clearly evident from the resume in order to be considered. This would force me to be more detailed in the resume and to list a job that I probably normally wouldn’t list (but perhaps I’d bring up during an interview) just to show that I have a certain qualification

  25. Don't Be Long Suffering*

    LW2 I’m sorry this is happening to you. It’s objectively awful. Please remember your feelings and refuse to talk this way when you are senior. And when you have the power, pay your fellows better. Everyone will benefit.

  26. Ana Gram*

    #5- I just received a resume that had a section on accomplishments. That’s fine, whatever. The accomplishments were windsurfing and raised a Shiba Inu. No mention of winning windsurfing competitions or any indications the applicant was professionally breeding dogs or training a service dog. He just…had a hobby and a pet. It was pretty weird but far from the weirdest resume I’ve ever seen!

  27. Johanna Cabal*

    #5 Believe it or not, people do get hired with terrible resumes, for a variety of reasons (desperate to fill the role, networking referral, nepotism, someone on the hiring team went to the same school). If someone with a terrible resume format has gotten jobs in spite of it, it can be hard for them to update it.

    The resume for my first three post-college jobs was atrocious, yet I still got jobs. For the first job, I think they gave me leeway due to being a recent graduate but I’m pretty sure the next two jobs just needed someone in to fill a seat (and in fact, I learned that one of the hiring managers at the third job refused to read cover letters…sigh).

    It took me awhile to realize that while my awful resume got me these jobs, in order to apply for the jobs I wanted, I needed to update it. And I will say once I started using Alison’s advice for resumes, I started getting more interviews for jobs that suited me and that I wanted.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I definitely give entry level roles more leeway for a terrible resume. Honestly even mid-level roles…people don’t know how to write resumes! Some people are never taught and I get squicky feelings about judging people on something they might do half a dozen times in their entire life and haven’t mastered.

      But usually by the time people are here for awhile they have the opportunity to participate in hiring and I do point out good and bad resumes then, to everyone.

  28. Hiring Mgr*

    I’m assuming #5 in is the US, but when I’ve managed/hired for international teams, long resumes are not uncommon.

    German candidates for example would inlcude photos, marital status, whether they had kids, etc… so yes here that would be odd but the standards do differ

    1. Paolo*

      Wow. Europeans love to talk about how messed up the US is, but being expected to include photos and family information on your CV is sooooo messed up. So much opportunity for discrimination.

      1. Katty*

        “So much opportunity for discrimination.”

        Yeah, that’s the point. Germany, along with the rest of Europe, is incredibly racist, xenophobic, etc. Including these things on your CV is one way of ensuring that only the “right” type of people get hired.

          1. Katty*

            I’m aware that there’s plenty of racism in the US, but I’m a POC in Europe so I am a lot more familiar with racism here than in the US. The “racism is worse in the US” argument is often made by white Europeans to avoid having to deal with their own country’s racism. I think racism/xenophobia/etc is just as bad in Europe, but it comes in different forms. At least in the US, it isn’t standard to include all kinds of irrelevant information in your CV that can be used to discriminate against you.

            1. Anon all day*

              I think one of the reasons why racism seems worse in the US compared to Europe is that there seems to be more of a dialogue about it in the US, so it is discussed more.

          2. bamcheeks*

            The US tends to have more institutional anti-discrimination policy and practice around race and ethnicity than a lot of continental Europe, though. I think it’s a very bad idea to say that a particular country is more or less racist, but you absolutely can say that racism is institutionalised in particular ways in Germany in ways that sound shocking to the US– and vice versa.

            1. UKDancer*

              I think like most places it’s the difference between theory and practice. Most of mainland Europe, especially the EU has legislation and regulations against discrimination . The difficulty is the difference between legislation and what happens in practice. It’s easy to legislate to ban discrimination, it’s harder to stop people behaving in a discriminatory way.

      2. bamcheeks*

        I collected CVs from colleagues once and the Austrian colleague included his wife’s name and highest degree. Heaven forbid we hire someone whose wife only had a bachelor’s, can you IMAGINE.

    2. Emmy Noether*

      That’s an old convention though (and yes, it was and is used to hire “the right kind of people”, blegh), and is veeeeery slowly dying out.

    3. Catherine*

      I used to hire remote workers from the Philippines and I was flabbergasted to find out that they include their height, weight, and religion. (A friend of mine who lived in the Philippines explained that the latter is used to know what holidays someone needs off.)

  29. ResuMAYDAY*

    OP1, J’s signature skill is delegation through manipulation. Until all of you refuse to be manipulated, J has no reason to expect anything different. Watch a few episodes of Intervention. The fact that you’ve written this letter shows that J has manipulated you into a low-level of co-dependency. You dance around it a bit: being guilt-tripped, treated as if you are being unreasonable, taking pride in being a team-player…all of this adds up to you questioning your own boundaries.
    Out of curiosity, does J ever take a shift for anyone else?
    Nothing will change until all of you back away let J singularly deal with the mess they’ve made. Once J shows reasonable problem-solving skills, then you can decide if you want to reasonably add J back on to the list of people you help.

    1. LW1*

      OP here — I didn’t want to give too many identifying details, but our office went through a lot of years of toxic issues and we’ve worked really hard to resolve them. Lots of staffers now openly prioritize their mental health.

      My unsureness comes largely from questioning just how much of a crisis is valid from J when he seems to be in some kind of need all the time. His life was a grade-A mess for a long time (thing messy family dissolution and rehab stints) and all of that was covered with no problem. I’d say I’m having some trouble transitioning him mentally from someone who genuinely does need a little more support from his co-workers, to someone who is trying to take advantage of others because he won’t manage his own well-being.

      (And no, he never picks up a shift for anyone else)

      1. ResuMAYDAY*

        OP, he’s figured out an amazing loophole, all because your employer actually prioritizes mental health! If I can tag on with this new information, I still encourage you (and the team) to back off from helping him. That way, he might learn to only ask for help when it’s actually needed. I also think the company should implement some checks/balances/accountability with their very generous policy.
        Let’s face it, if something good exists somewhere, someone will figure out how to take advantage of it. I would tell everyone on the team to make J their go-to-person when coverage is needed. Make it obvious how little he returns these favors. You’re a good team member; this company is clearly lucky to have you on board.

    2. Not Pickwick, Just a Dodo*

      Resumaday – you could have just written me a personal note. My eyes pricked up at reading #1 because I have a family situation that closely mirrors J’s shenanigans. Every line of your response resonates with me. Even though your response was not meant for me, I thank you for it!
      There is a phrase “Lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine” comes to mind. I try to chant it often. Unfortunately, guilt trips work often and well. The struggle to be both a good human while also remaining true to one’s self is real.
      Seriously though a good 75-50% of my situation is poor communication and lack of any planning. So frustrating!

      1. LW1*

        OP here — right?! Trying to offer enough to support those who are in need, to varying levels, while not getting swallowed whole is so much more difficult than we want to pretend it is. Best of luck, Dodo, with your family sitch.

        1. coffee*

          You both might find it useful to think, “You can’t keep someone warm by setting yourself on fire”.

      2. ResuMAYDAY*

        Sending lots of good energy and hugs, Not Pickwick. I had to cut out a family member similar to J about 5 years ago. It sucked…and it still kind of sucks! But the only way that dynamic was going to change is if I were the one to change it. I’m in a much better place in every way.
        Good luck. <3

  30. Dr. Rebecca*

    OP5, it’s not like most of us get training in resume writing, and although Alison’s guide is clear, there’s a lot of conflicting info online. Give people a bit of grace.

    1. Raboot*

      It’s not about giving grace, or blaming anyone. They’re correctly saying that it’s simply easier to get what they need from some resumes compared to others. It’s in a candidate’s best interest to make it easy for a hiring manager to be impressed by them.

    2. ResuMAYDAY*

      The grace is that the OP shared critical and accurate information that most employers wouldn’t think twice of sharing.

  31. L.H. Puttgrass*

    LW#2: I’m a lawyer who used to be a (relatively) low-paid public-interest fellow. I think there are a few things going on here:

    1. See “relatively” above. There’s an impression—which may not always be true—that although a fellow is making much less than the full-time staff, they’re not really at a subsistence income. So when someone jokes, “Hey, at least you don’t have to eat ramen tonight!” they don’t actually think you’re eating ramen every night. If they did, they probably wouldn’t joke about it. (Of course, “it’s not really true” doesn’t explain the health insurance thing.)

    2. There’s a bit of “we’ve all been there” to it, since most of the staff were in that position. That also goes with the idea that if it’s poverty at all, it’s temporary poverty—which is a much different thing than poverty with no way out. Frankly, the part about the jokes that bothers me most is that it’s joking about financial hardship among people (including the interns) for whom the financial hardship is or was temporary, when there are people who actually do live with much less.

    3. The full-time staff probably aren’t making that much money related to other lawyers, so there’s a bit of “we’re all in this together,” at least in intent. For example, you might if a fellow is paid $35k/year, staff attorneys who make $75k-$90k will still think of themselves as being low-paid compared to lawyers in private practice who make at least 2-3 times more. In public interest, everyone is giving up money—so people tend to joke about what they (and you) are giving up.

    4. The full-time staff may not understand how low the fellowship pay really is, especially if you’re in a high cost-of-living area and the pay rate hasn’t changed in a long time. You could make some responses to point out just how low the salary is—”Yeah, it’s really hard to live in DC on $35k a year”—which might cut down the comments some.

    5. The staff probably doesn’t have any say in what fellows get paid. Heck, the ED might have very limited control over fellowship pay, especially if the funding comes from outside sources. But even if fellowships are internally funded, low pay allows hiring more people, which means being able to train more people in public interest law. And since training people is seen as the point of a fellowship, being able to have more fellows takes precedence over paying them well.

    There are also some fellowships—e.g., judicial clerkships and fellowships at certain high-profile organizations—where the fellowship itself is so valuable that the pay rate is almost entirely determined by a sense of what’s fair, since many (most?) law grads would do them for free. At those places, not being paid a living wage would be something worth talking about, since that gets into issues of exploitation.

    In terms of advice: Alison is spot-on as usual. I wouldn’t say anything, unless it’s something fairly gentle about how, yes, having to live on fellowship pay really does suck in (insert location here). Then, when you’re a not-all-that-highly-paid public interest lawyer, try to discourage similar jokes—and maybe even see if there’s a way to increase pay for fellows (or at least offer health insurance!).

    1. Glomarization, Esq.*

      A++ excellent answer, hits everything I would have said about how fellowships in public-interest law work.

    2. Delta Delta*

      Also a former public interest lawyer here. There’s a certain… I don’t know how to say, but it’s like a badge of honor to suffer so while working in these jobs. If you’re not wearing a cheap, ill-fitting suit that hasn’t been cleaned in 2 years you can’t possibly be doing your job – that kind of idea. And it’s systemically acceptable not to provide benefits (and in one case I’m aware of, not provide health insurance because the pay is so low that people qualify for state subsidies for state-run health insurance. not a good look).

    3. Joielle*

      Yes! Same here, and I second all of this. I work for state government now and there’s a lot of joking about money. Partially about how we can’t spend the taxpayers’ money on [kleenex, coffee, software from this decade, decent office furniture, pens that work well, etc]. Among the lawyers, we do joke about our own salaries relative to private practice – because yeah, we make adequate money, but we could all be making three times as much in the private sector (but working nearly three times as many hours, which is one of the many reasons why we don’t do that). But we don’t joke about the interns’ low to nonexistent salaries. We all chose this life, but they’re still just doing the best they can with limited choices.

    4. pancakes*

      Agree with all this, and I spent a summer surviving on a not-generous public interest stipend.

  32. UKgreen*

    Re #5. I’m in the UK, and generally, anything over 2 pages for a CV would go in the ‘no’ pile. We recently started putting ‘please submit a CV of no more than 2 pages’ on our application instructions which has helped a little, but the record is still 9 pages for an entry-level assistant role.

    1. parsley*

      I format CVs for recruiters in the UK, and the longest CV I’ve ever had to tackle was 34 pages. I think it’s mostly because they deal with lawyers and accountants, which aren’t careers known for concise wording; a 2-page CV is surprisingly rare in my line of work.

      1. No_woman_an_island*

        Yeah, if we’re talking about CVs, the ‘bigger is better’ mantra wins. And in academia at least, when your roles span administrative and research/education, you have this hybrid resume/CV thing that is too long for most people who want a resume and too short for people who want a CV. I don’t think that’s what OP5 is talking about here, but I always bristle a bit when people complain about long resumes. Within reason, some fields want more than a 2 bullet summation of your last job.

        1. bamcheeks*

          (CV in the UK means the same thing as resume in the US– we don’t make a distinction between resumes for most people and CVs for academic/medical fields. Everything is a CV!)

        2. londonedit*

          CV in the UK doesn’t quite mean the same as CV in the US/academia, though. Generally speaking it’s just our term for ‘resume’. A 34-page academic CV might be one thing, but for the vast number of industries and jobs in the UK, when someone’s talking about a CV they mean two pages max, bullet points, etc.

  33. Chilipepper Attitude*

    I’m on a hiring committee for a professional role in an academic setting. We require a cover letter and 25% of those who applied did not include a cover letter.

    It’s a bit of a niche role and you have to have the cover letter to explain how your experience translates to the niche role. Otherwise you are expecting me to connect the dots and 1. I cannot, 2. If you don’t bother to, that’s a sign you won’t do well in the role.

  34. I'm just here for the cats*

    I work in mental health field and our internship has specific rules and is checked in by the students university. I wonder what the OPs program would say if they found out she was doing 2 jobs, especially if there was some sort of financial support coming from a grant to pay the intern. (Most masters level internships for counselors are not paid.)

  35. anonymous73*

    #1 nobody can make you feel guilty, so I think job #1 is coming to terms with knowing she will try, and not letting it affect you. Being helpful and a team player doesn’t mean sacrificing your own needs on a regular basis. You have your supervisor’s support so you need to be okay with saying no. You don’t even need to be busy or have what she may perceive as a valid reason to say no. I would even call her out on the guilt trips. “No I won’t be able to cover” and when the guilt trip comes, “Sorry I can’t, and I’d appreciate it if you’d stop trying to make me feel guilty about saying no.” She’s taking advantage of you and only you can put a stop to it.

  36. I should really pick name*

    For #3, I have to wonder if the manager actually has the authority to block the transfer, or if they’re just saying it and hoping the LW doesn’t question it.

    For #5, I’m a software developer. It is really hard to quantify what I do, so there aren’t ever going to be quantifiable values on me resume.

  37. JTA*

    #5 Part of the thinking for having a long resume is that businesses have computers scan for keywords. If an applicant’s resume is missing one (even if it has a synonym) a human will never see it. Therefore, longer resumes with more words increase the likelihood of getting past the computer to a human’s eyes. This strategy may or may not be good, but it’s a strategy that people take.

    1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      #5 Part of the thinking for having a long resume is that businesses have computers scan for keywords. If an applicant’s resume is missing one (even if it has a synonym) a human will never see it. Therefore, longer resumes with more words increase the likelihood of getting past the computer to a human’s eyes. This strategy may or may not be good, but it’s a strategy that people take.

      This. This!

      I also think requirement bloat plays into it. It’s not easy to summarize 100 years of extensive experience with every technology on this rock while keeping the résumé on one page, especially if you’re not salting it with acronyms to the point of defacto encryption, for that $20M ($20,000)/y part-time Jr. Programmer I role.

      This is absolutely a problem that Management has brought down upon itself.

    2. L.H. Puttgrass*

      Yes! This is also why resumes for federal government jobs tend to be long. Before it can get to a hiring manager, the resume has to make it past someone in HR who has to check the resume to make sure that it shows every qualification that the job posting requires. If it doesn’t make that cut, it doesn’t even get forwarded. So standard advice for people who want to get hired in the federal government is to put everything in the resume, in great detail—it’s the best way to make sure that the HR screener will see what they’re looking for.

      Of course, then the hiring manager has to go through these incredibly long resumes (which are also formatted horribly by the online applications site). Some people recommend including two resumes in an application: the long-form USA Jobs resume with everything and the make, model, and year of the kitchen sink in it, and a standard PDF 2-pager for the hiring manager.

    3. I'm Just Here For The Cats!*

      Exactly my thought. That’s why the OP is seeing “Safety Specialist” listed when it’s obvious that the role would include safety specialist as their job. Applicants have to get through the computer before they can even have someone look at the resume so of course they are going to bloat their resume so the keywords can get them through

    4. Long A*

      One tip I read was to embed all keywords using white text in the footer. I can’t say I’ve ever tried it, but it’s stuck with me as a clever solution to resume bloating. I looked at my resume today and I’m definitely guilty of saying more than I need to simply to make sure I say the key words and terms.

  38. iliketoknit*

    Yeah, I came here to say this as well. I doubt the individual attorneys have any control over fellows’ pay, and the joke was likely intended at least in part to acknowledge the unfairness of the system. Which *isn’t* to say that the joke didn’t land badly and I agree it’s not the best way to handle the situation, but it may be more well-intended but clunky and less lacking in self-awareness. (Assuming, that is, that the LW is in fact in some kind of a non-profit and not somehow attached to a big firm.) Also, given how low salaries are generally in non-profits, making twice what the fellow makes would still be a relatively low salary for the legal profession generally, so the attorneys may see themselves as more aligned with the fellow than not. And all that said, impact is generally more important than intent, so it’s still not cool to joke about someone’s lack of pay, but keeping this in mind may help it sting less. Or it may not – there is definitely a thing of independently wealthy people working in PI and really not getting the significance of the low salaries, and that may well be happening here, too. But I agree that the context is a little different from the CEO of a private company making such a joke to the mail room clerk or the like. It still really sucks, though, especially that being able to survive being poor is such a prerequisite to working these kinds of jobs.

    1. iliketoknit*

      lol, this was supposed to be a reply to Varthena’s much earlier comment, it’s too early in the morning for me to computer apparently.

  39. Workfromhome*

    #1 Unfortunately feeling guilty is something you choose. What you can do is put some things in place to avoid those situations where you end up with a feeling of guilt that’s unwarranted. Instead of covering for them on last minute leaves “if its convenient” and then feeling guilty when they ask you and its not convenient then try approaching them proactively.
    Hi J. I know you have sometimes asked me to cover your shifts at the last minute. I’ve got some things going on that make that very difficult for me personally (this is true you have your life going on). Going forward I wont be able to even consider covering your shifts without x notice. Of course if I have enough notice I may not be able to help every time but I certainly try to help all my coworkers if I have enough notice and I can. ”

    Maybe this lessens J asking you because she knows you said you wont do it. Maybe it only makes you the last one on her list because she goes after easier marks first or maybe it doesn’t stop her at all. At least if she ignores this and keeps asking rather than getting into a big discussion about how hard her life is and why you should feel guilty you can just cut her off and say “As I told you before Im not able to cover shifts without notice youll need to seek other arrangements” and walk away.

  40. Oakwood*

    Re: guilt trip


    That describes your co-workers actions. Remember, passive-aggressive behavior is simply MANIPULATION.

    Do you realize how dishonest this is? They are literally saying to themselves “I can manipulate this person’s emotions to get them to do what I want.”

    If you’ll open your eyes to what they are actually doing, then it becomes a lot easier to say no. And that’s all you have to do: say no.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Thank you for laying it out like this. I see a lot of comments being kind of harsh for feeling guilty or being manipulated but…that’s the whole thing with manipulation.

      OP, see what J’s doing for what it is, give yourself a break, and don’t let J manipulate your feelings moving forward. Build up some distance between the two of you, and keep those scripts in your back pocket. J is not your responsibility, and you get to set boundaries.

      1. LW1*

        OP here — thank you for this.

        I didn’t mention it in the question to avoid identifying details, but I think I’ve mentally struggled to transition viewing this person from someone who, a few years back, really did need an extra amount of grace and support from their co-workers because of several compounding personal crises, to seeing them as someone who won’t participate in their own well-being and thus has used up their allocation of help from me.

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          That transition can be hard, because there’s really no definition that fits for everyone who has issues. But I agree that at this point it sounds like J has shifted from “crisis outside of my control” to “crisis mode because it gets me a lot of what I want” and almost no one has much sympathy/empathy for the people operating in the second category. Maybe we as a society should have more, but these frequently end up being the folks that just drain dry the people around them.

          1. LW1*

            I think I’d be able to resent him less if there was any evidence he was trying to get his issues under control . . . and if he wasn’t such an ass about all of it.

  41. Oakwood*

    Re: transfer delay

    There’s an old saying: never screw around with someone’s wife or their money. Your boss is screwing with your money.

    I would make a huge stink about this. People might not understand you being upset about not getting a new laptop or some other perk, but everyone (from HR to the CEO) will understand you being upset about not getting paid.

    At a minimum, I would insist that any pay raise and any other benefits that go along with the new position take place immediately. That alone may get your boss moving, as you (now higher) pay will be coming out of his budget.

    If it looks like you boss is being lackadasical in finding your replacement, I would start looking for a new job. There’s no excuse for you to sit there 3, 6, or more months while they look for a replacement.

  42. Susie Q*

    I think resumes are so bad because people are exhausted of having to create a resume and put that exact same information into another form for an application.

    1. Generic Name*

      Also, job applicants have put up with terrible job postings for years. Now that employers are desperate, why should employees spend hours crafting individual resumes for every vague job description they come across? I’m not saying people wouldn’t benefit from an improved resume, I’m saying there might not be a huge incentive to right now.

  43. Oakwood*

    Re: resumes

    Nobody reads resumes anymore.

    I’ve had this confirmed multiple times in hiring meeting when I’ve asked if anyone has read (not skimmed, but read) the resume. Then asking when the last time anyone actually read a resume.

    The LW is right saying resumes need to be concise. Nobody is taking time to dig out the facts. If something doesn’t jump out from your resume it might as well not be there.

    Hint: if your resume has paragraphs, you’re doing it wrong.

  44. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

    LW2 I feel your pain. I spent 7 YEARS in my 20s living in Philadelphia making 25K per year as a grad student. I had a frozen turkey burger for dinner almost every night because I could afford that, not much more. I’m very well paid now but the “pay your dues” years are genuinely painful. And my salary was tied to NIH training salary scales so I couldn’t get paid any more.

    Most people who’ve gone through a graduate program are in the same boat, especially as universities are either in big cities or make their small towns expensive to live in by existing.

  45. BlueWolf*

    LW #2: My partner’s boss at a former toxic job once referred to him as “cheap labor” to a client in a meeting when he was sitting right there. One of the client’s people even came up to him afterward and said “nice to meet you Mr. Cheap Labor.” Pretty demoralizing, but there was a lot wrong with that job.

  46. Just Me*

    OP2 – Do you know if the attorneys were once in the same position you are (as Alison mentioned)? I did a year of AmeriCorps VISTA in the US, which means being paid ~$4/hour for an office job for a year, with the trade-off being of course that you get valuable experience in nonprofit/government work and money for grad school. I would get very similar comments from my supervisors, but they had also been AmeriCorps volunteers and quite literally knew what I was going through. It could be frustrating at times, but at the same time, it was somewhat of a relief to not feel weird about taking home all of the lunch leftovers. As Alison says, it’s their way of saying, “This sucks, but it’s temporary. Hang in there.” In my particular case, at the end of the AmeriCorps year I was offered a real job making real money with the same organization, so while it was indeed pretty bad for one year, I came out ahead in the end.

    1. bishbah*

      My friend who did AmeriCorps spent the year on food stamps while working at a private university (facilitating student volunteer work). Really drove home to the rest of us how little she was paid.

  47. Nom*

    I have seen many a resume where one of the bullet points is “other duties as assigned”

    1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      If it’s good enough for the Job Description, isn’t it good enough for the Applicant Description?

      1. JTA*

        Exactly! And if it was in the job description, an applicant might want to have it in the resume so that the computer that scanned it would give them a 100% match.

        1. MCMonkeyBean*

          Your resume should not be a list of job duties. That’s OP’s whole point.

          1. JTA*

            Right, but listing the job duties in it somewhere is sometimes the only way to get through the computer that determines if a human will ever look at it.

  48. Generic Name*

    #4. I see so many questions on the Friday thread asking this exact question. They’re a,ways accompanied by a lengthy tale of why their current company sucks and they justifiably want a not sucky job. I honestly wish interviewers would stop asking this question, but I suppose there are some people who launch into a rant session with relish. Nevertheless, the answer to every one of these questions is exactly what Alison said here. Make up some BS about wanting new opportunities and challenges. Interviewers aren’t really looking for an airtight case of why you want a new job.

  49. Generic Name*

    #3. I would go to HR and also start looking for a new job at another company. OP is working 2 jobs, and now OP’s boss is saying they’ll be working 3 jobs if boss continues to not do their job of hiring. I’m curious if anyone else (like the boss’ boss) knows this is going on. It makes sense to delay a transfer so someone can complete a big project, but I think OP’s boss just doesn’t want to hire.

  50. Eldritch Office Worker*

    #5 I don’t know if this is just incidental but I have been getting WAY longer resumes lately. I’d think people were sending me academic CVs if they weren’t formatted the way they are. I don’t know if it’s career centers over reacting to the idea that the one-pager is dead or what, but six pages from someone with 2-3 years of work experience is NOT uncommon for what I’ve seen in the last year or so. Super odd.

  51. Temperance*

    RE #5: I will never, ever forget helping my husband look through resumes to weed people out and seeing one where a guy had a 2 or 3 page resume … with multiple pages of Linked In recommendations attached.

  52. bim*

    LW #5 – I agree that these issues can be obnoxious in a resume, but I want to provide a slightly different perspective. I work for the government, and in my experience, 5+ page resumes and exhaustive lists of duties are required to even get past HR to the hiring manager. I also hate it since it takes me hours to read the 15+ candidates that are forwarded to me, but it is the norm in some industries.

  53. MCMonkeyBean*

    OP2- I’m sorry that sounds really horrible and uncomfortable. I thought from the headline it was going to be them complaining about low pay in your industry and you feeling frustrated that they were complaining about the pay while making more than you. Not that they were just outright mocking you for making less than them.

    My most charitable guess would be that they went through the same internship, but that when they did it they were supported by their parents. That their version of “struggling” involved things like maybe not being able to go out as often as they wanted but otherwise didn’t really have to worry about anything. And now it honestly doesn’t occur to them that not everyone has that safety net and could be actually genuinely struggling to pay for basic needs. That would at least make them just stupid, thoughtless and not funny–rather than them being outright cruel.

    It doesn’t really matter of course because the impact is cruel regardless. But at least for having to get through the rest of your time there, I hope for your sake that your coworkers are simply stupid and thoughtless I guess. Since this is a short-term position I agree with Alison that I probably wouldn’t say anything now but might mention it on your way out.

  54. Arrghhhhh*

    I remember my rage at my first job out of college where someone who was basically a partner at the company making mid 6 figures said they didn’t have have that type of discretionary income after I asked if the Santa costume was theirs. I was making 22k. I am female. AND the company required business professional dress. I literally could not afford the clothes required for the role and this guy was saying he couldn’t afford a couple of hundred of dollars because discretionary income.

    I hated that place. I ended up rage quitting when they wouldn’t let me go to the doctor’s office for a double ear infection because the desk needed coverage.

  55. Ex-Teacher*

    RE: #1- The best way that I have seen this phrased is that someone may want you to feel guilty over something, however you aren’t obligated to actually feel that way. Just because someone tried to take you on a guilt trip, doesn’t mean that you have to get on the plane.

  56. CommanderBanana*

    LW#1, this may seem really basic, but you may just need to give yourself permission not to feel guilty. I have a very, very part-time job at a small business, and the owner is horrible at hiring/retaining/scheduling other staff, and because I’m the only other person who has consistently worked there, he tries to guilt me into working more than I want to, and does it in that same not-outright-asking-but-heavily-hinting manner that I have come to really hate. If you need a favor, ask, don’t hint around and hope that I’ll offer out of the goodness of my heart.

    I used to feel badly about it, but this has been going on for years and his issues with getting other reliable staff are his issues, not mine, and if me not working means he’s working, that’s a him problem.

    J could make some changes, including scheduling their vacation time with more advance notice, and you are not personally responsible for their failure to plan. It’s true that some people have life circumstances that are challenging, and as a coworker it’s great if you can extend some grace when you are able to, but I also have worked with people whose lives are just a never-ending series of Unfortunate Events and eventually you do run out of bandwidth for whatever their latest trial is.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Excellent advice. It’s hard when you are well-intentioned and assume the best in others to realize you’re being manipulated. But annoyance is often the first step! So I think OP is ready to start setting boundaries.

  57. RagingADHD*

    LW1: Just because someone tries to give you a guilt trip, doesn’t mean you have to punch the ticket.

    LW2: Lawyers? Being elitist jerks? In one of the most staunchly hierarchical white-collar professions out there?

    Alert the media. /s

  58. drpuma*

    OP1, here is a magic phrase that has worked for me: “I wish I could give you a different answer.”

    Maybe you don’t! (I wouldn’t, in your shoes.) I’ve found this to be amazingly effective when people won’t give up on trying to argue for a different outcome I can’t give them. Maybe it’s the combination of empathy and making it sound like the outcome is out of my hands?

    Best of luck! J’s gonna J, no matter what you say or anyone else says to them.

  59. AnonaLlama*

    OP#4, I’ve also been at my company for 15+ years and here’s my answer:

    (said in a light breezy tone) “Do you mean ‘why am I leaving so soon?’ {insert sly smile here}. I suppose after all of this time I think I’m just ready to move on and see what other challenges await me.” You can even take out the first sentence if you don’t feel comfortable. The second one is a full, reasonable, plausible explanation. It also subtly sets the stage that you don’t NEED to leave, but you will for the right opportunity.

    They really are just looking to mark this off as “no red flags” and move on.

  60. monogodo*

    RE: #4 –
    I had worked at my previous employer for 15 years when I applied for a similar position with a different employer. The positions were almost identical.

    During the interview, one of the interviewers asked why I was looking to leave after 15 years. I answered that, while I knew that as I’d have a job there as long as I wanted, there was nowhere for me to grow within that company, and that, even after 15 years, my pay rate was $4/ hour less than the lowest end of the pay range for the position I was interviewing for.

  61. That One Person*

    LW5 interest’s me not because of the length, but the quantifiable data. Length I lean towards 1-2 pages (and if I need a second page to take up a quarter or third so it doesn’t just look like I didn’t feel like compromising spacing or editing for a line or two). Quantifiable data like that though mystifies me where people can figure out their statistics or how often maybe they’re fudged to sound good and how does an interviewer determine that? At the same time, starting in retail I really wondered “I made an impact surely, but what kind?” and how to translate that into numbers. I suppose information like that might also make more sense the more specialized or higher up the role hiring for, but I am curious to know how the varying level of the role and desired experience might color a hiring manager’s views for such things.

  62. LW#4*

    I actually had the initial HR screen and a video interview with the hiring manager a few days after submitting this and I ended up saying that my current job had slowly been moving in a direction I wasn’t happy with and this new position would allow me to get back to what I love doing.

    I think it went well, the manager laughed and said he completely understand as that often happens in our industry. I felt very comfortable with him and relaxed, could easily see myself working for him.

    Thanks to Alison and all the commenters, I’ve done so much reading the last couple of weeks to prepare and am now waiting to hear about an onsite interview.

    1. Hlao-roo*

      That’s the professional way to say “my current company has turned into a dumpster fire!”

      I hope you hear good news from the hiring manager!

  63. RagingADHD*

    LW5: Are you perchance using an automated Applicant Tracking System, or working through an outside recruitment or listing agency that does?

    If so, the reason you are seeing so many repetitive and lengthy resumes is that those candidates have figured out how to use keywords to make sure their resume gets through to you. The people who use concise, human-oriented resumes are getting screened out. And since you don’t reject candidates for having annoying resumes, obviously this tactic works and those candidates are winning.

    These folks are doing what they need to do to get seen for jobs. Don’t hate the players, fix the game.

    1. Oakwood*

      I knew one company that used Google Docs for its productivity software (word processor, spreadsheet), so they put it in the job requirements.

      Do you know how many people put Google Docs on their resume? Virtually no one but those doing keyword stuffing on their resume. And that’s all that made it through the ATS system.

      I reformatted my beautifully laid out resume years ago after realizing many ATS were having problems parsing it. It now looks really bland, but at least the ATS can read gets me into the ballgame.

  64. NobodyHasTimeForThis*

    #5 Oh my yes, I got a resume yesterday that was 5 pages and would have been stretching to fill 1. They have had one post college job and a series of summer jobs.

    Their current job description is clearly a copy and paste of the original job posting complete with some of the vague language put into job postings to avoid someone saying “that wasn’t in my job description” and abbreviations used to fit into some search engine character limits.

    The rest of the jobs are bullet points of every task they might have taken on. Think a receptionist type job with answer phones, book appointments, file, copy, sort mail, etc. each getting their own line on the resume.

    They listed all their software skills and experience three+ times, once under a skills assessment section, once under each job that used the software and once at the end of the resume under software.

  65. Lobsterman*

    OP3, the second your boss delays your transfer or promotion is the second you start looking. That’s so far from professional that it can’t be rescued.

  66. Lobsterman*

    OP2, it’s ok to pick a fight on this one, if you really want to. People who underpay you deserve to feel bad, and mores are changing here.

  67. Nanani*

    One major problem with the “pay your dues, hahaha we’ve all been there” attitude is a lot of people won’t make it out, due to all those surviorship-bias things that screen out so many people.
    “Of course you don’t have health insurance but you’re fine because you’re young and healthy” = anyone with expensive medications or not able bodies won’t be able to get through this stage
    “Of course your parents can cover your living expenses while you get paid peanuts” = anyone without generational wealth, with financially abusive family, etc. is SOL.
    And so on

    It’s not ok to joke about even if everyone making the joke has been through the imposed hardship, and it’s okay to acknowledge that.
    Unfortunately you probably don’t have the power to change it -right now- but maybe you can in the future.

    1. Anon here*

      The health insurance joke especially infuriates me. My son has four years left on my insurance (he’s 22). He is a pediatric cancer survivor. Every so often he has to go back on chemo. Every year (up to four times a year, depending on how long he’s been able to stay off chemo) he has expensive scans and other tests, consults with extremely expensive specialists. Plus, you know, therapy and meds for the emotional consequences of always being on the edge of dying.

      Without good insurance he will be fucked. I should be retiring. I’m not doing that until I can be sure he has a job with quality insurance. Because I’ll be buying his insurance until he does.

      There are people like him who don’t have a mom who can earn enough to buy their adult child insurance and help pay the medical bills.

      Anyone who makes a joke about screwing coworkers out of insurance should be ashamed of themselves. Find a way to provide insurance, asshole.

  68. forest*

    I was just on a hiring panel and one of the candidates had a 32 page resume. This was for less than 5 years of work history and only a handful of jobs. It was for a federal job, but even with how long those tend to be this was way over the top.

  69. STG*

    #2: I’d be hard pressed not to respond with a snarky remark. I feel like it only needs to happen once or twice before people think twice about making the comment in the first place.

    The thought of just ignoring it feels very ‘ people will be rich people *shrug*’

  70. Mad Lion*

    OP 4: I’ve been working at the same company for 15 years. It’s the only company on my resume (although I’ve had 4 different titles). But the same thing happened – a company I love became a company I could no longer work at. Of course every interviewer asked, “Why are you leaving after all this time / this career you’ve built?” But I gave a very brief, honest answer – things have changed, I’m looking for something new, and when probed, “Unfortunately it’s not the company I joined 15 years ago.” That was it, and everyone moved on, and I ended up with a few offers anyways. Keep it brief, keep it reasonable, and be vaguely honest – you’ll be fine! Hope you can get into a better place soon!

    1. Mad Lion*

      Just to add – I’m also making a mostly lateral move, and actually one that might be considered a step down (going from managing a team to being an independent contributor) – in the end it was a minor factor.

  71. Somebody blonde*

    It’s depressing to find out that horrible resumes are endemic to all positions. I assumed I read so many bad ones because I hire mostly entry level.

  72. Luna*

    Regarding #2, I would maybe gently tell them, “I find those types of jokes rather offensive/not appropriate. Please, do not tell them to me.” It’s a polite way to word that sort of thing, I think, while being direct enough about your request. And note the ‘to me’ part. It’s not like you’re being a party-pooper and telling them to stop, period. Maybe some of the interns genuinely *do* find those jokes okay! And that’s okay, too. Hence the request to not do them towards you, specifically.

    For #5, I have cut down my CV because I’m sure nobody cares what job I worked in 2009. I have it set so that it shows jobs from, say, 2015 onward, as that is still ‘older’ jobs, but not so old that it feels unnecessary to know. This leads to a two page CV, and I think even that results in no employer properly reading it.
    I have had interviews where they were astounded to hear me mention that English is my mothertongue, despite it being listed as the second language where I mention what languages I speak of a level that could help in a job. Like, what’s the point of handing you my CV and you giving me an interview, if part of the interview will be based on nothing but asking me questions that are answered *in* my CV?

  73. Esmeralda*

    Resumes. I’ve been working for over forty years. My resume is two pages (one sheet f/b). It could be shorter ….

  74. ch-ch-changes*

    Eep, my resume is 2.5 pages but I usually feel that the information is necessary (career changer, so the professional development and skills section is my case for why I’m not JUST a librarian). Maybe I should be rethinking this…?

  75. Chria*

    #1 – if you’re hoping to “train” your coworker out of guilt tripping you, one thing you could try using in your stock phrase is that they need to give you advanced notice. E.g. “If you’d told me 2 weeks ago I could have covered, but unfortunately I’m committed to something else now.” They can try to guilt trip but you just keep saying “I can’t help on such short notice, good luck.” Of course there’s a risk of coworker sticking to the letter of this agreement (e.g. giving 2 weeks’ notice for a day off and the same amount of time for a week off) or them feeling emboldened to take as much time off as they want as long as they give you notice, when you really only want to cover for them occasionally. But you know your situation best and if it could help it’s worth a shot.

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