our desks were packed up and photographed without our knowing, offering to help my replacement, and more

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

1. Our desks were packed up and our belongings photographed without us knowing

My team has gone through a number of reorgs in the past year, resulting in some of us changing reporting lines twice and six folks getting laid off. All of this has been horrible, but after the announcement of the last reorg, my team — specifically — was sent an email indicating there were physical problems with our office and we should not come into the office for a whole month (when our reporting line officially changes).

When one of my colleagues went in to retrieve personal items, all of our desks had been packed, and one of my colleague’s offices had been given to another person who had already moved in. All of this was done without our knowledge or consent. This happened to those of us who were laid off and those of us who were moved to another part of the organization. Additionally, the low-level workers who packed our desks were asked to photograph everything to “prove that everything was still there.”

When we met with the department head about this, he apologized and indicated that communication was the issue. I mean, I guess, yes? But I’m also of the mind that (1) I don’t see a reason to lie about physical conditions to keep my team out of the office when everyone else is working on the floor without issue and (2) I think it’s completely inappropriate to box up my desk when I could have done it myself, if it was in fact needed. I can’t even deal with the photographs because it’s so ridiculous and invasive that I feel like I’m on Candid Camera.

The department head is defending his admins who did this and strongly implying that our reaction, not the action, is the issue. What are the circumstances wherein it would be reasonable to keep people from their office and pack their belongings (which, for me, included things like notes from confidential meetings and self-evaluations, etc.)? And how can I address, in particular, having those photos permanently deleted from wherever they live?

It’s definitely weird that they didn’t tell you what was going on.

Were there actually physical problems with the offices or was that a lie to keep people from coming in? If that was a cover story, that’s bizarre and messed up. But is there any chance that was really true, and they just neglected to tell you? It seems possible that there was some physical problem, stuff got boxed up so they could fix it, and then they decided to move you to a different part of the building … or maybe they always knew they were going to relocate you but there was also a physical problem in the middle of it and the “communication problem” your boss is referring to is that no one bothered filling your team in on any of it, which could be a result of the chaos of the reorg that was happening at the same time.

That said, while boxing up your things without you knowing isn’t great (they should have given you the chance to do it yourself if you wanted to), it’s not really an outrage either; it’s a thing that sometimes happens. It happened to a ton of people who went remote during the pandemic and later learned all their stuff had been packed up during the months they were working at home. I don’t know how extensive the photographing was, but they were presumably trying to ward off complaints like “I’m sure I had my signed first edition of the Oatmeal Encyclopedia in there and now it’s missing.” The assumption is normally that you don’t have super personal items at work that it would be invasive for someone else to see (just like you should assume coworkers might need to look through your desk for something while you’re on vacation or so forth). But you can certainly ask that the photographs be deleted once you’ve confirmed that you do indeed have all the belongings you’d expect to have.

2. Should I bother applying to jobs if I don’t meet all the qualifications?

I am a former teacher who is exiting the profession after many years of intensive work. I worked as a special education teacher, so I am very used to preparing extensive, legally binding paperwork, supporting my team and supervisors, meeting multiple deadlines with few resources, and in general being detail-oriented and highly organizational. With this in mind, I have mainly been applying to executive assistant, office manager, or paralegal positions (my state requires nothing besides a college degree to be a paralegal). For each application, I tailor my resume, write a cover letter highlighting my strengths that apply to the job posting, and hear nothing back — not even an interview! Often I have every qualification listed in the posting except direct experience, which is usually stated as 1-2 or 2-3 years desired. One I applied to recently had 18 qualifications listed — I met 17 and still nothing!

Should I even bother applying for these positions that state a qualification I do not have? If so, what should I be doing to make myself a more attractive candidate? I’ve waffled back and forth with directly addressing the discrepancy in my cover letter. A few times I received a short questionnaire after submitting an application — the first question was always about experience, which I answered honestly. I feel that as soon as these companies saw that no, my application was disregarded. I need help!

You can be a strong candidate for a job without meeting every single qualification that’s listed, but some of those qualifications will be more important than others and some will be non-negotiable. Very often, experience is one of the qualifications employers aren’t interested in compromising on — or won’t have any incentive to compromise on if they have other good candidates who do have experience.

So the message to take away isn’t “don’t bother applying unless you meet every single qualification.” It’s to know that experience will nearly always be highly valued, whereas some of the other qualifications might be more flexible. (And yes, it would be good if employers always noted which qualifications are true requirements versus which are merely preferred, but a lot don’t … and sometimes they won’t know which is which until they see the applicant pool and can compare candidates to each other.)

Related: every job posting asks for more experience than I have

3. Should I contact my replacement and offer to be a resource?

Eight months ago, I left a management job that I had for six years. It was the absolute right move for me even though I really liked my previous role and company. I left primarily because of lack of advancement opportunities, but I left on good terms. I keep in touch with many of my former peers and direct reports.

I recently learned that my former employer has (finally) hired my replacement. Because I work in a niche field, in a smaller city, it’s pretty easy to figure out who the hire is. I really care about my old team and the company I used to work for. Is it weird to reach out to this person and let them know that I would be happy to be a resource? I would envision connecting with them on LinkedIn and offering to buy them a coffee or something similar. I certainly wouldn’t push the issue and would let them decide if they wanted to respond or not. I feel like I could be of real help to this person given the complexity of the organization and job, but I’m just torn about contacting them.

I don’t have unlimited time to offer but would be happy to help with questions or offer some of that historical perspective on the company and role. But is that odd? Is it meddling or does it look like overreach? I know that I don’t need to be this invested in a former role, but I am surprised at how conflicted I am about wanting to connect with this new hire.

If you want to, it’s fine to make the offer! I’d give the person at least a couple of weeks to settle in at the new job before you do, so they have a chance to start forming their own impressions first and will be likely to know what questions they want to ask you. And, as you allude to, use a light touch — not “would you like to get coffee next week?” (which they’re likely to feel more obligated to say yes to) but more like “if you’d ever like to grab coffee or send over a question or two, let me know.”

But I also want to note this: You sound like you’re still pretty invested in this former job. I get it — six years is a long time, you liked the work and the people, and you’re still in touch with colleagues there. But it’ll be good for your quality of life to emotionally disconnect and not care as much. I might be reading your letter wrong … but if you’d be disappointed if you make this offer and your replacement doesn’t take you up on it, I’d take that as a sign that you do need to disconnect a little more than you have. (If I’m wrong and you wouldn’t care either way, then ignore this paragraph and carry on!)

4. Changing “us” to “them” and “you” to “we” at a new job

I work in a large library system and recently went from being a desk person at one branch to an assistant manager at another. Right now I’m struggling to change my language from “how we did things at my old branch” to using “how they do things at that branch.” Additionally, I’m finding it difficult to switch my verbiage about asking questions from “how do you do X?” to “how do we do X?”

I’m working really hard on trying to correct these slip-ups, but do you have any suggestions? Or is this just a time thing that gets better? I’ve been in my new role for about a month.

It does fix itself in time, but a lot of it is mindset — work on reminding yourself that, language aside, this team is your “we” now.

But it’s not a big deal if your language doesn’t transition immediately. I wouldn’t think of your examples as slip-ups or stress about trying to avoid them. It’s good to give yourself a mental nudge on the language, but your mind will transition on its own as the new branch starts to feel more like yours.

However! If “how we did things at my old branch” is coming up enough that you’re writing to me about it, you might be talking about things at your old branch too much, regardless of whether you’re saying “we” or “they.” It’s not that you should never share a good idea from an old job, but when you’re new it’s better to be focused on learning how the new place does things and why. (It can also be pretty annoying to people to keep hearing “well, at my old job…” That might not be what’s happening, but it’s something to be aware of!)

5. How do I word this achievement on my resume?

A few years ago I was on Sales Team A, and Sales Team B was under-performing. Not entirely the staff’s fault — all of their management left in quick succession before a replacement could be found, so for almost three months no one had feedback or coaching — but the difference was obvious.

Managers decided that a few high performing agents from Team A would perform a month of serious coaching, each of us spending at least a week doing nothing but retraining these guys to do their jobs correctly again and “get them on our level.” This was a very rewarding if awkward experience, since it gave me a chance to gain coaching experience. The results were great! We got them to perform on par by the end of a month.

Fast forward to now, and I am applying internally for a QA position, which specializes in providing coaching feedback. Obviously, I would love to reference the above events. My problem is I can’t figure out how to word it. “Provided coaching as part of an initiative where high performing agents were chosen to bring (Team B)’s standards up to par with company standards” sounds close? But seems passive-aggressive in a way I do not intend.

“Part of a small group of high-performing agents selected to intensively coach a struggling team, resulting in the team’s dramatically improved performance”

If you can quantify the improved performance or add specifics about what you coached them on, that will strengthen it further.

{ 343 comments… read them below }

  1. Magenta Sky*

    #1: the photographs make me wonder if they were looking to document something specific, and can’t tell anyone about it because the company lawyers told them not to. I doubt that’s the case, but I can’t help but wonder, it’s so odd.

    1. Catherine*

      At least your theory has a point to the photos… They’re totally ineffective as a lost/stolen item prevention thing. The person packing can theoretically remove items before taking the photo, so it does nothing to “prove everything is still there.”

      1. TechWorker*

        It goes some distance to proving nothing was lost by mistake though, which is really the case we’re thinking of here. Yes it’s possible for someone to maliciously take something from your desk, that’s also possible that overnight, when you’re out at lunch etc etc. In an open plan office you need some level of trust that your colleagues are not out to get you – but that’s true regardless of whether your desk has been moved or not.

        1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          And knowing that someone was handling your personal property behind your back is not the best way to foster trust in a place undergoing several reorganisations.

        2. Yorick*

          It also helps make sure all the items were packed in the same place – for example, that they didn’t put Jane’s Oatmeal Encyclopedia in Bob’s box. Photos may have been an aid for the packer.

          1. Lydia*

            Were photos taken before the pack up or after? I can totally see them taking a picture as a record of what was packed up and to verify everything in the photo was there when people unpacked their stuff.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        The photographs are useful if you want to duplicate the set-up when you unbox everything. (A la many an Amazing Race challenge.) But in this context it seems odd.

        I might ascribe it to confusion–someone remembered this being a thing people did and so they took the photographs even though unpacking for everyone in future was not in the plans.

        1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          Our facilities folks had to do it for some sort of insurance reason, or at least that is how it was explained least it was explained. And at least we got it explained so that we could get anything fragile packed ourselves.

      3. WillowSunstar*

        The place I work boxes people’s desks up for them if they get fired, especially if it’s perceived as a security risk if the employee is angry about having been fired and there is a concern about employees being hurt by the person or items owned by the company being destroyed or stolen. (I’ve seen this happen once but heard of it other times.) If they leave voluntarily, the employees can box up their own stuff. So this is actually quite common.

      4. Chalk Dusted Facsimile*

        There’s an assumption that the people doing the packing are the same people who took the photos. Ideally the photos would be taken by someone on staff before the movers arrived.

    2. Graflex01867*

      By itself, it would be extremely odd.

      A couple reorganizations, changing managers/team reporting structures, and then having a “physical problem” in the office, it sounds to me like the “physical problem” is that their desks were given away, and there’s nowhere in the office for them to currently work.

      Hanson’s Razor – “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.”

      In either case, there’s a stiff breeze, and the red flags are flapping. I’d start polishing my resume.

      1. L.H. Puttgrass*

        There was a “physical problem” in the office, all right—LW1 was still occupying it. And management seems to have decided that the way to handle it was not to tell people that they were getting moved. Reminds me of Office Space (an appropriate enough name, given LW1’s issue): “We always like to avoid confrontation whenever possible.”

        But like Alison, I can’t help wondering if there was something else going on here. Putting people in different offices when they move to another part of the organization isn’t exactly a rare practice, or one that would normally need to be handled in a confrontation-averse manner (unless the new part of the organization gets much worse office space). So there has to be a reason the company didn’t just say, “As part of your re-assignment, we’ll be moving your office to X.” I just can’t think of what it would be (my first thought was that someone came into the office with a highly infectious disease and the company felt they needed to quarantine the whole space, but that’s not the way companies act in the Year of Our Covid 2022).

      2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        See, I figured it was a miscommunication. The movers were supposed to come of day Z but arrived on day X and they charge you $$$$ if you had to reschedule. If it worked out the way it did when Mr. Gumption had to be employee liaison for an office move (don’t ever do this unless you are management!), facilities is only talking up their chain of command and it isn’t making it from that top level back down to the folks that work there, so when there is a schedule change you walk into work and people are packing your desk.

      3. Banana*

        My office recently had people move out due to a physical problem – one wing of the office was arranged in a way that made social distancing impossible. It was done to cram more people into a smaller space with less furniture expense, and that one wing was different because it was designed last.

        When people started returning to the office after the pandemic started, our company Covid protocols required them to only use half the desks to allow the required spacing. They eventually kicked everyone out for a couple of weeks to reset the furniture and replace some of it. They hired professional movers to move people’s belongings – there was nowhere to store all the belongings separately and the idea was honestly to minimize disruption to everyone’s work. There were no layoffs or job changes for anyone, and I think the communication was handled better in this letter, though.

    3. This is Artemesia*

      It is bog standard to photograph things that someone else is packing up. Landlords do this routinely when moving someone’s things to storage when they die or leave without notice. It is a safeguard against accusations of theft.

      #3. I feel strongly that it is unwise to contact a person hired for your former job especially when one feels so invested in it. It really comes across as controlling. If the person reaches out — great — get coffee, but it is weirdly possessive to want to clue them in on how things ‘are done’ i.e. how you want them done when they are now in charge of the position.

      1. Willis*

        Agree on #3. Especially when 8 months have gone by. It’s not like you’re handing off active projects to a successor in your last couple days. Let the new person form their own impressions, which takes more than a week and may be different than your own. Presumably there’s other staff there that can fill them in on pertinent history, etc. relative to the role without offloading additional baggage.

        1. Beehoppy*

          It’s been 8 months since she left, but it sounds like the replacement was just hired now.

          1. WellRed*

            But in the eight months, surely the company has continued functioning without OP, she’s not involved in the day to day anymore.

            1. Eldritch Office Worker*

              Right, and I’ve found when there’s that kind of gap the new person can’t just pick up their predecessor’s processes. Typically enough stuff has changed or been reassigned (temporarily or permanently) in the interim that the job looks different enough that old habits might not be as applicable. OP could be helpful, or it could just be a frustrating experience for everyone.

            2. umami*

              Exactly. This person was in a management position, so they have hired another person into a management position. There’s literally no need to interfere with how New Hire is managing this position 8 months after OP has left. For all OP knows, they took the opportunity to evolve the role (this is something I actually did after a longtime manager left, she was great, but I wanted to take her old role in a new direction). If OP needs to stalk New Hire to be able to reach out, that’s even a higher level of weirdness.

              1. Mr. Shark*

                Yes, I agree with that. It seems like 8 months is a big enough gap that things have already been handled some other way that OP wouldn’t even know about.
                Maybe rather than reach out to the new hire, OP could reach out to former co-worker and just let them know that if new hire wanted to, OP was available. But it seems unlikely that New Hire would need to reach out unless there was some project that was only completed annually that hadn’t been touched in the 8 months since OP was gone.

      2. Green great dragon*

        #3 – I don’t think the new hire has the option to reach out right now – it would be a very odd thing for someone to do without LW having offered. Alison’s suggestion is pretty much the minimum that needs to be done for NewHire to feel they have the option. And LW is suggesting giving a historical perspective, not telling them ‘how things are done’. I read that as something more like explaining all the process documents are weirdly worded because the CEO detests the letter n and there’s no point trying to change it until he retires.

      3. L.H. Puttgrass*

        “It is a safeguard against accusations of theft.”

        But it’s not, really, is it? If the same people are doing the photographing and the moving, couldn’t they just have stolen things before taking the photos? “The signed first-edition ‘The Art of Llama Grooming?’ Nope, it wasn’t there. See, we have a photo (taken just after we took it) showing it wasn’t there!”

        The photographs prove nothing.

        1. Antilles*

          It still helps though by cutting down on innocent mistakes where “I really thought I had more books than this” or “wait where’s my headphones” or etc – where there’s no *actual* theft but someone might claim there was.
          It also helps address concerns if there’s damage to something, because you can pinpoint the condition it was in before they started to pack up – was the monitor cracked beforehand or did the movers break it?
          It’s not perfect, nor does it stop truly determined bad actors, but it does help avoid a couple common issues.

        2. Big Bank*

          True or not, it’s still really standard. Package deliveries are always photographed on my porch. Could they grab it right after and leave with it? Sure.

          The point though that photography to prove the location and handling of the item is “a thing” and nothing to get paranoid about, imo.

          1. My Useless 2 Cents*

            There was a video online just last week, a doorbell camera showed a delivery guy put down a package, photograph it, the pick it back up and walked away. The commentors were debating if he was stealing the package and trying to use the photo to prove he delivered it, or did he take the photo to show he tried to deliver it but no one was home to take delivery so he had to take it back even though it didn’t appear that he tried to notify anyone in the house that he was there. All the photo proved was he was there. And all the doorbell footage proved is that he didn’t leave the box. Neither was the full story. Just like in this case, more info is needed to figure out what was going on.

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

          The photo isn’t about theft necessarily, it’s about the condition the items were in or what the items were exactly — “my brand new iPad was stolen!” but they have a photo of a broken-screen 5-year-old iPad. Could they have swapped? Sure, I guess if they had one laying about…but now the burden of proof is back on the employee that they indeed left a brand new undamaged iPad at their job; each side is going to want “proof” if it comes to it.

          Eh, it’s the same as a notarized document though, right? The notary is just a third party without a vested interest in the transaction…allegedly…verifying that they went through a standard level of checks to verify that the person signing is who they say they are.

    4. Kate*

      I don’t think it’s remotely odd, and I can’t understand why you or OP think it is? They’ve told them why, and it’s a normal thing to do when moving stuff. What would you have in a desk at work that you’d be so ashamed at having photographed?

      1. to varying degrees*

        Yeah, I really don’t get the oddity either. Like someone mentioned above, package delivery people do it all the time. Sure, it doesn’t seem very effective about stealing (at least by the person doing the packing), but my immediate thought wouldn’t be “their doing it to protect against charges of theft, it’s for ‘did they get everything'”.

        1. Dainerra*

          In my experience though the photographs of the package is less about proof that it was delivered and more proof of WHERE it was left.
          I’d give it seven times out of 10 when there’s a dispute about the package not being there and the photo is used as proof, the answer “our driver left it on the porch” is rebutted with “that’s not my porch”

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

          I think it’s not about theft and more about the condition of the items. The photo shows it was already in X condition at the time it changed possession; it’s highly unlikely the delivery person ruined the package on purpose after taking a photo of it. I just had to get my car towed to the mechanic and the driver walked all around with his cell phone camera before hooking it up; I got a rental car and I/they made sure any ding or stain is already recorded; when I move in/out of my apartment and I take photos of the condition it was in.

      2. Jora Malli*

        I think this is one of those THIS IS THE LAST STRAW reactions. The company has been reorganized twice in under a year and it looks like they’re working on a third, and everything feels uncertain and temporary and the OP probably feels pretty powerless about that. So when something happens that they feel a little more able to push back on, that thing gets the full weight of their frustration.

      3. NYC Taxi*

        At the beginning of the pandemic my office had an unfortunately pre-planned move for April 2020 that couldn’t be changed so the movers had to pack up all of our stuff. They scheduled a facetime/zoom for each employee to go through their stuff to toss/pack. I don’t understand why people keep so much personal stuff and random tchotchkes at work. I never keep more than can fit into my bag and one extra pair of shoes.

      4. Lenora Rose*

        Based on the comment about personal evaluations and such paperwork, I think this person is imagining a much more extensive set of photos than is likely the case for a “Pack and move”, and a much more in-depth level of looking at what was on her desk than is involved in putting it in a box and making sure it’s all there.

        I mean, sure, there’s some private info (not necessarily mine) in the files at my desk, but the photos, unless wildly out of line, are likely to be more along the lines of “Here’s some files in your drawer where you might be able to see the titles if you really squint. Now here they are in a box, and you can tell by the colours they’re in the same order. Here’s your weird animal ceramics; here they are in a box…”

    5. Person from the Resume*

      I honestly bleieve that while everything else in the letter is the mess, the photos were completely a CYA for if someone claimed something went missing from their desks, management will pull out the photo and say “no, there was no X on your desk when we packed it up.”

      The photos are not the problem here. I think the LW is focused a bit too much on that. Whatever is out on your desk is visiable to everyone else in the office. Whatever is in your desk is not visable, but it’s in the office and there’s always the possibility that someone from the office may need to get to it. Don’t store personal or private stuff at work. Work documents that require privacy should be appropriately locked up, but there can be any number of reasons that another coworker needs to access it for work, to continue the work while you are out or after you move one.

      1. My Useless 2 Cents*

        Truthfully, photo or no, if I walk into work and someone has packed up my desk without my being notified, then I no longer work there. I was either fired or quit. Miscommunication? possibly but boss better be apologizing out the kazoo (which doesn’t appear to be the case). To me, this screams a complete lack of respect for the employees that they didn’t even give them the option of packing up their own desks.

        But I do agree, that if it’s at work, it is not “private”. The only thing at work my coworkers can’t freely go thru is my purse and I take that home every night! Though to be fair, the OP’s examples were focused on workplace confidential files, not personal items. I could see that some jobs might have files that are not for every employees eyes and some rando admin packing up a desk and having access to those files would not be a good thing.

    6. NotAnotherManager!*

      I think it’s really that someone other than the owner of the contents was packing it up and they want some evidence of what was there pre-packing. We has major office moves last year, and some people could not come in to pack their own stuff due to health concerns or children too young to be vaccinated at the time. The people sent in to pack them took photos and, if requested, sent them to the office owner to make sure there wasn’t anything that shouldn’t be discarded, returned to another location/person, etc. The big difference is that those folks were aware that they were moving and given the option to pack themselves.

      Honestly, I wish I’d taken pictures of my stuff before I boxed it up when we moved offices last year because my personal mouse went AWOL, and it would have been easier to send a photo to the person responsible for lost-and-found than trying to describe it from memory. (It was finally located in IT, even though there is a label on it with my name, extension, and identifying it as personal property.)

    7. Green Tea*

      I doubt it. I was asked to pack up an office a few years ago for a sick higher up who switched to working from home full-time. They requested I take photos of everything in the office before packing to have a reminder of what they should be expecting in the boxes. That way, if they were looking for something specific, they had a quick reference of if it was even in their office to begin with and worth looking through the boxes for, and if something was missing in the boxes, it was much easier for them to flag than if there were no photos verifying to them that it was there and should have been packed.

      It might feel like a violation to someone who didn’t know their office was going to be packed up (I don’t need anyone taking pics of the tampons in my desk drawer, I get it), but as a general practice goes, it is not that weird of a thing to do.

    8. Malarkey01*

      I’ve supervised literally hundred plus office moves. We take photos because
      a) the person packing isn’t usually the same taking pictures and it can be an insurance when using commercial movers or another group
      b) BUT way more likely it’s because you get to the new destination and say #^*|%| this box doesn’t have a label. WHO’s is it and the photo helps or you have someone knock over something into the aisle between three desks (movers move fast and aren’t always careful) and you say |€|^}+|** who had this orange duck with the pirate mask?
      c) we also get people that say z and y are missing and we can say nope see that file was on Janes desk or you took that cup holder home before the move it’s not here.

      It’s really standard procedure anytime you’re doing an office move.

  2. EPLawyer*

    1 – several reorgs in a year is a LOT. I’m wondering if the desk thing is just the most recent sign of dysfunction and that is what you are focusing on. There are a lot of letters here (one just last week) where it was all a big deal about this one thing, but if you dig, it was just a symptom of the overall problem.

    Look at this this way, if you hadn’t all these reorgs, would you be upset that they packed up your desk without telling you? It might be time to take a closer look at your overall satisfication with your job at this particular place. If never hurts to polish up the resume and put out some feelers to see how things might be elsewhere if this place is getting to you.

    1. allathian*

      Yeah, this. One of my friends switched jobs because she couldn’t deal with the chaos at her former employer. She couldn’t deal with basically getting a new manager every quarter for two years. Especially as each manager insisted on ignoring the performance metrics that were set up by the previous one, so in the end she didn’t even know how well, or poorly, she was doing.

    2. talos*

      Just left a job where they were hiring for my 5th manager in 2.5 years, largely because I was just tired of the change and confusion around the goals and performance of my team and myself. Don’t feel bad about it.

      1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        I left a job for the same reason, coupled with a manager who was something else. I had 6-7 (I can’t really remember) managers in 3 years and they randomly just moved staff into different roles for fun and chaos. You’d walk in one morning expecting to be a llama groomer and would be told that you are now a teapot engineer, even if you were neither an engineer nor had thought about teapots since undergrad. Good times.

    3. Letter Writer 1*

      Definitely this. Obviously I had to leave out a lot of context or else this would have been even more identifiable than I think it already is. There’s no shortage of shadiness happening.

        1. linger*

          The concern is whether the events in this account give enough detail to be recognisable by a coworker at the same company, when LW1 may not be ready to signal they’re looking to leave. It’s a valid concern.

          1. P. Opus*

            OP1 has already left as she does say in her post she was laid off:
            “This happened to those of us who were laid off and those of us who were moved to another part of the organization.”

            1. Jackalope*

              It doesn’t sound like LW 1 is one of the people who were laid off; they’ve given an update in a few places below and it sounds like they’re still working for this employer.

            2. Green Tea*

              OP uses ‘us’ for both the laid off employees and the transferred employees and I think from the rest of it, OP was in the transferred employees boat.

    4. Dainerra*

      I once had a customer service rep from FedEx ask if I was sure that I wasn’t mistaken when I said my house was the one in the middle. Because their computer system said it was the one on the left. At that point I had lived there for 9 years..

  3. Sleepy*

    The first story reminded me of a time when someone retired and for whatever reason didn’t fully clean out their desk…one drawer was filled with nail clippings. My takeaway from that was that (1) people are weird af and (2) I would never volunteer to pack up someone’s desk.

    1. NotAnotherManager!*

      When we moved offices last year, some people could not come in because they were at increased risk of COVID or had people to young for vaccination. The stories I heard from the people who became responsible for dealing with their offices were horrifying. People who’d left coffee mugs or food containers on their desk the day we were all sent home to work remotely, nail clippings, unidentifiably sticky desks/drawers/etc… I mean, it was gross. This is an office, not their homes!

    2. Американка (Amerikanka)*

      My predecessor who retired left her desk exactly like that for me! I had to clean it out on my own although a co-worker had pity and brought me a large trash can from housekeeping. The co-worker also put in a work order for housekeeping to vacuum which I also appreciated.

      It has been 7 years and I still have a box of my predecessors stuff. I should probably just toss it or donate it at this point..

    3. Paige*

      Years ago, we had someone retire who had hoarded out their entire office. And then left it like that when they retired. No one knew the extent until she was gone (we knew it was “messy”)–she’d always met people in their offices for meetings, had a curtain on the window in her door, and set her trashcan outside her door at the end of the day so the janitorial staff wouldn’t need to go in.

      I know it was a nightmare to get it cleaned out–especially since admin tried to get her to come in and do it, but she kept putting it off month after month (and we eventually had a replacement for her who needed to move into that office). I think finally they told her that anything left after X date was going to be thrown away, because she did come and get some stuff, but I know most of it got thrown away.

    4. Curmudgeon in California*

      When I worked in IT Support we had to take in returned laptops and desktops for those who left. We had to wear gloves to clean some of the keyboards – they had sticky substances, crumbs of all kinds, beard hair in quantity, and other unidentifiable substances. I don’t recall finding fingernail clippings in the keyboards, but then again we didn’t want to look too closely.

    5. Elizabeth West*

      For some reason, every time I take over someone’s old desk, there are always sets of keys in the drawer. Just random old keys on a metal ring. Maybe I’m meant to be the Keymaster or something. :\

      My cube at Exjob had been used as a repository for extra stuff. One of the sets fit my file drawers and the overhead cabinet—I locked up my food because people’s snacks were being pilfered at one point. But the rest were a complete mystery. Nobody had any idea where they came from!

  4. Princess Xena*

    Op#2 – when you say you get experience questionnaires, are they the sort of thing where you just input the # of years of experience, or do you have the opportunity to write a bit about your background? You say you are tailoring your cover letter to your strengths – is it possible that there too you could address your initially perceived experience gap? “Although I do not experience with X, I have spent many years doing similar task Y?” It sounds like you might be reading ‘experience’ in the letter rather than the spirit of the idea – looking at specific admin or legal background rather than the nature of the tasks you would have.

    Apologies if this is something you are already doing and sympathies for the job search – it’s a challenging process.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      To that point if it’s a yes or no question with room to explain I wouldn’t check “no”, for exactly these reasons unless it’s very specifically worded. I would say “yes” so you don’t get autoscreened out, and then explain.

    2. NotAnotherManager!*

      One of the best entry-level folks I ever hired had zero directly relevant experience but wrote such a good “Although I do not experience with X, I have spent many years doing similar task Y” cover letter that it got them an interview and ultimately the job. They did a great job matching the experience they did have with the job description (and I do try very hard to write concise and clear job descriptions that actually describe what we are expecting people to do, so it makes me happy when people have actually read it and can map their own experiences to it).

      Also, having hired paralegals, there is not a lot of substitute for direct experience for the actual job function. I don’t mind hiring someone who I expect to be entry-level and training them, but there is not really a lot of transferrable experience for filing with courts (pedantic and nitpicky requirements), knowing the specific process of your specific practice area, or preparing for depositions/hearings/trials. Smart people with good attention to detail and problem-solving skills can learn these things pretty quickly and having work experience will help, but it will require training and oversight by someone who knows what they’re doing until they get up to speed… but that training time is typically not chargeable to clients and does take time out of the experienced person’s likely already busy schedule.

      1. Bridget*

        I recently did a career pivot that required selling myself in that kind of way (small biz owner). The hardest part was that you were entirely at the mercy of the person reading your resume, and whether or not they ultimately valued your experience. I could get through a recruiter and a round or two, but then get stuck because someone or other wanted to know what kind of specific experience I had as an Admin and didn’t care about the rest. “Well I see you worked as an admin 13 years ago, tell me about that” and then ignore everything else. I ended up doing a bunch of basic online certifications in things like advanced Excel skills, etc and that helped a ton, but I ended up being hired by someone who was willing to take a chance on me and had a short interview process. Microsoft was by far the worst for this, by the way. In one moment the person interviewing me would complain that they couldn’t get anyone good in the position, and the next be uninterested in anything that didn’t verbatim match their job description and have experience using their internal tools. If you’re only going to hire people who have previously worked there, then don’t complain that you’re not getting very good candidates.

    3. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      Good point. I think a key point is to discuss the number of years you used the required skills in other roles. You need to show that even though you haven’t used those skills in the specific role they are hiring for. You want to show you have 1-2 years doing requirement X, 2-3 years doing Y, and 1 year doing Z in a different role

    4. LW #2*

      Hi! Thank you for your reply. Unfortunately the questionnaires so far have not had a box I could type in – just a pre-selected multiple choice format. I have not put that exact language in my cover letter yet but I will try it!

  5. Two Chairs, One to Go*

    OP2 – Have you looked into professional groups for transitioning teachers? I’m changing careers into a field that attracts teachers and I’ve noticed there are a lot of resources and support for that group. I’ve made a lot of positive connections with teachers and former teachers. Good luck!

    1. lovelylifetoo*

      OP #2- I’ve been a paralegal for 25 years after attending an ABA college program. Unless one has direct experience it can be really tough to break in. Knowing local rules and how to file documents or what courier service is best is often a large part of the job. If you are quick and smart and able to pick up quickly, you might be able to do temp work as a fill in for family leave, or a typist, or a lower level assistant at a law firm. You will be promoted if you catch on. It’s one area of work where direct experience matters so much. With 25 years I might get an interview but unless I have experience in the area of law, I won’t be first pick. It matters. That said, anytime you show up as a quick study, someone will teach. That might be a way to break in.

      1. Koalafied*

        Yes, the only person I knew who worked as a paralegal without a previous legal background, started out as an admin in a legal office and was promoted into the paralegal role after about a year and a half, during which time she’d pitched in to help her office’s paralegals (at their request) increasingly more often. Since she’d seen the work up close and made a good impression as a helpful and detailed person who could pick things up quickly, when one of them left she had both the lawyer and the other paralegals’ confidence that she could step into the role with minimal transition.

      2. Just popping in*

        Chiming in to second! I’ve just been made a full paralegal at my firm – and started there with absolutely zero experience and an arts degree – but this was after I took a temp gig in the mailroom, spent 3 years in there, then worked as a clerk for another 3 years after my current boss saw that I was a quick study and motivated to learn. If you can demonstrate those qualities, people absolutely will teach you, but it’s very much a foot-in-the-door kind of thing. If I’d applied as an outside candidate to be a paralegal, or even a clerk, with zero experience, there’s no way I would have been hired. It can be a bit discouraging, but there are definitely (sometimes circuitous) ways of making it happen!

      3. KS*

        FWIW, if OP2 is interested in being a paralegal I would keep looking at paralegal positions especially in “Big Law.” It’s counter-intuitive, but the bigger the firm, the less experience we actually need. In a small shop, a paralegal is often doing everything but the practice of law itself and experience is crucial.

        In a large firm, I care way less about your certifications and your experience, I just need someone who is smart enough to learn on the job. At my firm, we often hire “paralegal assistants” or “litigation assistants” who may not have experience as paralegals per se, but who are smart and who can adapt and can project manage. In fact, I repeatedly ask our HR people to remove “paralegal certificate” from the list of qualifications when a paralegal is being hired for my group, because it excludes people with exactly OP#2’s profile and those are usually the people I’m looking for. (In fact, I find that candidates with lots of paralegal experience or certification in paralegal studies are often poor fits for what I need which is a project manager, not a traditional paralegal.)

        That being said, there are all sorts of downsides to large firm work. It’s just a lot easier to get your foot in the door.

        1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

          This! My mom’s first job out of college (and right after having me!) was as a receptionist in BigLaw (because she needed a job asap and that’s who hired her). Within 6 months they saw she was overqualified and also totally capable of joining the paralegal pool of Ivy brats* who were taking gap years before grad school and trying on law for size, as it was.

          We moved upstate a number of years later, and she was able to land a role as a paralegal in a small firm. And it was exactly this – they hired her because she had 5+ experience working in BigLaw. They didn’t have to train her how to write briefs or file motions because she already knew how to do it, she just needed to learn her new (much smaller, much more provincial) firm operated. BigLaw was happy to hire her with no experience because they saw she was smart and capable, since there was a whole pool of paralegals there to learn from. The small firm upstate needed someone who could hit the ground running.

          *Big law is also not going to have the work-life balance a small firm will, so keep that in mind too. It was not uncommon for my mom to pull all-nighters for a big case. Whereas, overtime was not even a thought at the small firm.

          1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

            *Ivy brats – no disrespect meant! It is just funny to hear the stories of these really smart, really rich folks that my mom worked with (and whose held her in high esteem and respect), when she was a working class girl from Brooklyn with a state U education.

            1. NotAnotherManager!*

              I had this experience in BigLaw – same situation, came into a low-level role, someone realized I was overqualified for what I was doing, and I got put on a litigation case and did great work. Then, I got put on more and more cases and became the go-to person.

              I always joke that I didn’t realize that went to a “crappy” school until I worked in BigLaw (I went to a well-regarded public university that many people from my HS also attended). These people live in a totally different world than I grew up in, but 80% of them are nice people. The other 20% are horrible, elitist snobs and blatant social climbers. One of the things that I learned was that being well-off and going to a fancy college did not necessarily mean that you were particularly smart or a good person – they got their Ivy/SLAC degree because their parents provided them every advantage and could pay the tuition, not because they were just worlds more intelligent than I was.

        2. NotAnotherManager!*

          This. I am a BigLaw refugee (on the staff side), and my firm used to hire multiple fresh college graduate every year and train them. In my area, it was actually quite difficult to find experienced paralegals – the good ones are all locked in at their firms or looking for career advancement to management, and the ones on the market are often on the market for a reason. There is also a pretty high drop-out rate for quality of life reasons. Those hours were easy when I was a twenty-something but not so much when I had kids and a spouse I actually like to see on occasion. The 2008 recession didn’t help either because a lot of experienced paralegal work started being given to associates to keep their hours up, and smart people won’t do boring work for extended periods of time – so a lot of them changed careers to risk/compliance or in-house legal department roles or left the legal field entirely.

          Totally agree with removing the “paralegal certificate” requirement, too. First, having the certificate isn’t always a good predictor of actually work quality and knowing the actual practice. Second, work experience > certificate any day of the week. We identified the qualities that made people successful in the role and hired for those rather than a piece of paper.

      4. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        Maternity leave is how I got into my very niche paralegal role.

        I would definitely recommend to LW2 to look at roles slightly below what they think they’re interested in, to get a track record of relevant experience in the particular field. The typist>legal secretary>paralegal pathway is very well trodden, but also you’ll get an idea of whether that field is actually for you, from the inside.

        For what it’s worth, in my field an “entry level” paralegal role will be advertised as having 2-3 years’ relevant experience preferred, and that is very much not a contradiction.

    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I knew a teacher who temped on summer vacations–anything from office admin to research assistant to farm work. And I know from my time temping that the more an agency knows you the more they are willing to give you posts that are a stretch. So if nothing else, OP could start talking to an agency now about short assignments on scheduled school vacations. Let them know you want to work in a legal department, tell them what you told us, and say yes to temp-to-perm over the next summer break.

      1. English Rose*

        Yes, came here to say this. Completely agree, getting temporary assignments can really help build up the resume.

      2. Lord Peter Wimsey*

        I agree — temp agencies would be a great place to get some experience in administrative-type roles.

      3. Curmudgeon in California*

        Before I broke in to IT I did a lot of temp work between permanent gigs. I went from a lab assistant making low wages to an in-demand clerical temp because I knew how to use a computer and office type software. I didn’t love having to make excuses for one jerk who ditched meetings, but other than that? It was more money than lab work.

        I hated doing receptionist fill-in, though. Some people are just nasty. Like the one Karen type who screeched at me for not forwarding her calls to her, except no one called her, at all. She was that egotistical and unpleasant.

      4. Chinook*

        I echo this. When following DH around the country, I discovered that my teacher certification / Bachelor’s of Education would not transfer with me to certain provinces *cough* Ontario *cough* and treated me the same as someone trained outside of Canada. Our finances didn’t allow me to spend another 2 years in university for the same degree I already had, so I transitioned to office work. I lucked out and eventually found a good temp agency placement officer who could see how my teaching skills could be transferred to an office. Between that and a good work ethic, I became an administrative assistant who could always find work whenever we moved to another city.

        Treat temp agency work like substitute teaching – you never know when the next call could lead to something more permanent.

        1. Books and Cooks*

          I actually came here specifically to recommend temp agencies! They’re a great way to gain experience.

          My husband has over twenty years in management, but when we moved back to the US, he was having a hard time getting callbacks because he doesn’t have a degree, and didn’t have a lot of experience in the big industries in our city/state. He went to a temp agency, got a temp-to-perm position in a *very* big industry now, got hired permanent, spent the next two years learning that industry and becoming very valuable to his clients, and ended up back in management at one of those clients’s company, making more money than he ever has and being delighted to go to work every morning. (And if he ever isn’t as delighted, he’s still now got not just management experience in a company that relies on that industry, but enough ground-level experience in it to make him valuable to many other companies that rely on that industry.) His original company basically never lists their open positions on hiring/jobseeker websites or anything; all of their employment is handled by agencies. That’s maybe not common, but it’s not totally unusual, either, so you might find some really good opportunities through an agency that you wouldn’t find elsewhere.

          I’m curious, too–would your old school district, or any others near you, have job openings for EAs or other sorts of admin work? They might value your teaching experience more than some other places might, and perhaps your familiarity with “how the business works” might make you more valuable than candidates who have admin experience in different industries.

          It’s also worth (IMO) looking for Receptionist jobs rather than EA specifically. I went from Receptionist to Customer Service to VP’s EA at one company, and most of their Customer Service agents started in Reception there. Afaik that’s fairly common, and–again–your lack of office experience isn’t going to be as big an issue when it comes to a Receptionist position. Even if there’s not a lot of growth potential at a specific company, it will gain you office experience.

          Good luck to you!

  6. WetPigeon*


    Not being told sucks a lot, and if it turns out they lied about why you couldn’t come in that also sucks a lot, but packing/reorg/moving stuff is not that out of line of what orgs frequently do. You really shouldn’t expect privacy in the corporate office space. If you feel your space was invaded, perhaps it would be best to realign your thinking of the office as not your space, but the company’s space that you’re merely occupying.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      Email like it’s being read aloud at a deposition.

      And for any physical things on or in your desk, don’t have anything that you wouldn’t want upper management to see. (Or, say, notes on your observations of when Bob takes coffee breaks.) This is not a private space where anyone looking through your things will be held in violation of a social contract.

      1. SpaceySteph*

        So, serious question… is it weird if I keep a menstrual cup in my desk drawer? (its clean, just here for backup)

        1. Lab Boss*

          I wouldn’t find it weird as long as it was clearly clean (even less weird if it’s packaged and obviously brand new/never used). People have to have access to certain hygiene materials.

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          I would find that totally benign and unworthy of remark. Like a box of tampons, or a backup skirt, or a Tide pen.

          If you have the missing 17 minutes of the Watergate tapes, that would raise an eyebrow.

    2. Chilipepper Attitude*

      This is a reminder that nothing at work is private. My son is in IT in the medical field. The companies he works for have asked him to read emails and listen to recorded phone calls to look for a specific violation or wrongdoing.

      Yes, it is a medical office and he has a protocol to follow (HIPAA!), and it happens rarely, but even when it is medical stuff, there is no privacy for employees.

      I do treat my office like it is not my space and everything that is there can be thrown out. Even photos are photocopies.

    3. Enginarian*

      Came to say the same thing. No expectation of privacy.
      If you have any company policy it may even say in there.

      This should be common knowledge but it seems it needs to be stated. I’ll add it to my new employee training at work :)

    4. Sylvan*

      I was going to say the same thing. I understand where you’re coming from a bit, OP. I don’t like people going getting into my things, either. But it’s the company’s space.

      Also, it’s easier for them to get everything boxed up in one go than to convince people to box their own items on time. Every office reorganization or move that I’ve been through where management tried that, it was a mess, the move was completed later than planned, deadlines were missed, etc.

      1. Antilles*

        I’ve also had that same experience, but how I’ve always seen it is that the office told people in advance and at least given you the option to box up your stuff personally if you wanted. The idea that they didn’t even inform anybody that they were relocating offices is baffling – even more so with their weird “don’t come in, physical problems with the office” description.

      2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        Mr. Gumption had been told that their area needed to be packed up by the 14th because the movers were coming on the 15th. On the 10th he walks in and the movers are packing up their stuff. Apparently the schedule changed at the last minute and no one knew other than they way, way, way up folks in HQ.

    5. lilsheba*

      Sorry but anyone touching my desk or packing my things is a violation. While it may not be super personal seeming, a lot of things are personal to ME. I do not care for anyone touching anything. When I left my last job during the beginning of covid, I thought it was for 2 weeks, then it turned into 5 months, then it was forever since I found a work from home job. In that time my desk was packed up without telling me, which is infuriating. I’m just glad they did manage to put everything that was mine in there and keep the junk that was theirs.

      1. Logicallyminded*

        I think then you need to realign your thinking a bit, because it’s certainly not a violation. Your boss has every right to go through your desk or ask someone else to (though obviously a good boss wouldn’t do this willy-nilly). I get it can feel uncomfortable but you’re only going to hurt yourself with that thinking.

        1. lilsheba*

          It most certainly IS a violation of my personal space. I know the company owns it but while I’m using it it’s mine and it should be hands off. It’s like renting my home….it’s not something I own but I am entitled to my privacy while living in it.

      2. One black coffee*

        If the stuff was that important, why didn’t you go retrieve it at some point?

        Who is paying the lease on that office building—you? Or the company? If a personal effect is so important then either don’t keep it at work or bring it home. This isn’t rocket science.

        1. lilsheba*

          I didn’t know it was going to be packed up until the 5 months was almost over. I was on a medical leave due to being high risk for covid so I was NOT going to go in there.

      3. Cpt Morgan*

        There is a difference between personal and private. My work desk has personal belongings, like my preferred brand of tea and the pens I like and probably a book for reading on breaks, but none of it is private. It’s not my desk! It’s my employer’s desk. You shouldn’t keep anything in someone else’s property that it would ENRAGE you to discover that someone else saw.

        1. lilsheba*

          It’s not that they saw it, it’s that they TOUCHED it and moved it. I do NOT like my things being touched or moved. Like I said before, none of it was especially personal or private but they were personal to ME. I never went through anyone else’s desk, there is no need to touch anyone’s stuff.

    6. Curmudgeon in California*

      Actually, for some things you should. People keep their copies of performance appraisals locked in their drawers. Those are private, but still workplace files.

      I’ve only had my desk packed once, and they screwed things up badly. I imagine there was a feeding frenzy at my desk when I got laid off. The people who packed things didn’t know, or care, what was mine and what was the company’s. I even lost my plants. That was early in my current career, and I’ve since made a habit of not keeping anything I would be hurt to lose at work.

      Now I work from home, and have a clear idea of what belongs to my company versus me.

    7. blood orange*

      Yes, this is a good reminder that the workspace you use on your employer’s property is not your property, and you shouldn’t expect privacy. I’m sure your company has policies addressing this in your handbook such as a Right to Monitor policy, Inspection of Company Facilities, Personal Property, etc.

      I agree 100% that there’s clearly poor communication happening if you and your colleagues felt blindsided! That shouldn’t have happened from what I can tell in OP’s letter. And some employee’s have confidential information (confidential to the company, not personal private information) that needs to be handled a certain way only by specific personnel.

  7. Goldie*

    #2 Paralegal a profession. I would take a class or 2 and try to get an internship in the role to strengthen your application. You can probably take online classes at a community college.

    The firms you are applying to want direct experience as a paralegal.

    1. This is Artemesia*

      Being a paralegal is not about being organized and detail oriented (although of course those are important qualities); it is about knowing a bunch of stuff about courts and law practice. The firm might have to bring you up to speed on their processes, but they expect you to know how to file motions, manage signatures on legal documents, properly cite cases etc etc. This is one where experience is a deal breaker. So if you want to do it, get some experience — classes, internships — something.

      1. Snow Globe*

        And this is exactly the kind of situation where, even if they are impressed with LW’s background and think that LW could probably learn to do the job, if they have other candidates that have the experience and can do the work on day 1, they are going to pass on LW.

        1. Koalafied*

          Exactly – I think as job seekers we tend to unconsciously operate as if we’re being evaluated in a vacuum: I’ve applied for the job, and they’re going to vote yes or no on me, and they should vote yes if I show I could do the job well. (And the corollary: if they’re voting no, it means they don’t think I can do the job!)

          In reality – of course – there will often be many candidates who show they could do the job well, and the hiring manager/committee is choosing who among that group will bring the most to the team. You can be perfectly qualified to be able to do a job while also not bringing the most relative to other candidates.

          1. umami*

            Very true. I’ve been screening applications for several searches we have underway, and I’ve been seeing a lot of K-12 teachers applying to jobs where they don’t have the right background and experience. We have so many qualified applicants with direct experience that these teacher applicants get screened out early on. Like you say, it isn’t personal, even if it feels like it to the applicants. I don’t even read cover letters before screening for the required and desired qualifications.

    2. Bagpuss*

      Yes, I think withsomething like this, lack of experience where they are asking for a minimum of 1-2 years experience is likely to be a deal-breaker.

      Look for classes, internships, jobs advertising as ‘training will be provided’ and possily looking at other jobs within the legal sector where you do have the necessary skills and experience, and then think about looking at internal training opprtuinties and advancement.

      There is a hige difference , in my view, between taking on someone who has less experience that you want and someone with no experience, who has to be trained from scratch. The person with some expereince will normally be abke to do at least a roprition of the job immediately, even of they may need some additional traning ro a bt more support / supervision that you ideally want. Someone with no expernece needs to be trained and in the first instnac, not only are they not able to undertake the work needed, they are going to require somone else to take time out of their own job in order to train them, whicb if you are already one person down is often just not practical.

      It may be worth you lookingat temp wotk in adjacent roles to get more of a feeel for what;s needed and what training would help you to break in.

    3. L.H. Puttgrass*

      LW2 says they’re mainly applying to “executive assistant, office manager, or paralegal positions.” Those all seem like they’re a step higher than entry level. Most executive assistants probably started out as administrative assistants. Office manager doesn’t seem like a first job, either. And a paralegal is a specialty—in some offices, they’re practically lawyers in all but name (and being able to sign court documents, I think). The entry-level job in a law firm would still be administrative assistant.

      I wonder if LW2 is applying to jobs that require more experience because they don’t see themselves as “entry-level” after such a long career in teaching. But for non-teaching jobs, they are entry-level! LW2 might do well either to aim for a more entry-level position, or else explain why the years of teaching are relevant experience.

      1. No longer working*

        I’m wondering if she could/should look for an office job in a school – something that would bridge her background with her desire for a different career path.

        1. Underemployed Erin*

          That type of position in a school would be a step down. Those are often hourly positions that do not require a college degree.

        2. Humble Schoolmarm*

          I might not recommend that. It could give her a better resume, but my top three most hated things about teaching (aggressive parents, classroom management and the obsessive need to reinvent the wheel) are all part of a school admin assistant’s job (some kids can be really aggressive with any adult in the vicinity when things are going wrong). If there was that type of job available at the school district or other higher authority, it might suit better. .

      2. AsPerElaine*

        Office manager CAN be an entry-level job. It’s a title that can cover duties anywhere between “is kind-of in charge of low-level people in the office” to “makes sure the office is tidy and there are enough snacks and office supplies.” I can easily see LW being qualified for the latter, but not necessarily the former.

        1. Lilo*

          I have a friend who is an office manager for a dental practice and her job requires a ton of business development activities. She was hired specifically because she has a business degree.

          1. J*

            Yes, it’s a wide ranging role and one that I think does typically assume some level of experience. I’ve done the role where as office manager I was also the business development coordinator. I’ve also done office manager roles where I was the public information officer and drafted all correspondence for the government official’s press statements. Even the most entry level ones I’ve seen involve some sort of HR support work (think time card management or time entry) or supervision of employees.

    4. LW #2*

      Hi! Thank you for your reply. Based on the number of replies about being a paralegal, I probably should have clarified in my original letter(oops) – that is the category I am applying the least for. When I do apply for those positions, it is only because the job description mentions being willing to provide some training. If I do decide to pursue that long term, I will definitely look at taking a course in it, thank you!

  8. Fikly*

    #2 – go take a look at listicles of job listings where the require more years of experience in a thing than it has existed. You might feel a bit better.

    Then I’d try reading AAM’s resume posts and look at writing your resume to be achievement focused, and then look at how your achievements in your previous jobs can be relevant to the kind of jobs you are trying to get.

    1. Tinkerbell*

      Also to keep in mind: in the last few years, it’s gotten a LOT more common for companies to ghost candidates – even good ones! It’s frustrating, because you never know whether you were seriously in the running or not (and if not, why). It happens to candidates who perfectly fit every criterion too, though, so please don’t think it’s just you!

  9. Educator*

    OP2, as a former teacher who successfully transitioned to another part of the business, I would also add that there might be non-teaching opportunities within the school district or private school world that could be a good fit (or a good bridge to the next thing). They may be more likely to “count” your awesomely relevant experience because they understand it and the connections are more direct. My local districts are all desperate for staff like executive assistants, operations team members, office managers, etc. right now. It’s an entirely different experience than being in the classroom.

    1. No longer working*

      I didn’t see this comment before I posted above. You said this much better than I did! I was thinking the same thing.

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

      Also look at higher ed. We had a candidate who was in a similar position to OP, long career as a special ed teacher, retired but still looking for something to do. Ultimately we went with a different person but she was our 2nd choice.

  10. Basketball Jones*

    LW 1 — I get that this is a thing that happens sometimes, but it still feels pretty invasive. It’s not a matter of whether the company was entitled to do so — I can’t think of why they wouldn’t be — but where are you supposed to keep things like offer letters (that may state your salary), tax forms, performance reviews (for you or for others) and other sensitive stuff if not your desk? What if you had been storing a valuable for safekeeping? What if you had an organizational system that was upended in the move? And I guess the point is that your company had no way of knowing whether any of these things were the case or not. When it comes to a space as personal as your desk, communication shouldn’t just be a nice-to-have, but a requirement. What you described is pretty buffoonish behavior from your company, as it would be for any company — more so than what Alison’s response suggests, imho

    1. Allonge*

      where are you supposed to keep things like offer letters (that may state your salary), tax forms, performance reviews (for you or for others) and other sensitive stuff if not your desk?

      Electronically? Or if it’s paper-only, at least in a folder? I doubt that anyone packing and photographing would have time to go through the papers one by one (sure, OP says photograph everything, but that is a bit vague).

      I means, sure, all this is weird, and I would be low-key pissed off by how the whole thing went down (I haaate people messing with my stuff, for one), but there is very little expectation of privacy for what you have in your work desk.

      Asking that the photos are deleted is a great idea and I think it would be a good move from the company to say that once people checked things, that will happen.

      1. Letter Writer 1*

        I have no idea what the student workers who packed the desks were told to photograph. I would assume no one said to open every folder and photograph its contents. I just know that student workers can be really literal when they want to do a good job. I also don’t know whose camera/phone the photos were taken with and whose cloud accounts they were backed up to.

      2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        I wouldn’t keep any of that at work, or at least not only at work. Folks can get laid off or fired and walked out with HR packing up the desk. Hell, sometimes that happens if folks just resign. If you want to keep something private, a work space is a bad choice because it isn’t yours.

    2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      where are you supposed to keep things like offer letters (that may state your salary), tax forms, performance reviews (for you or for others) and other sensitive stuff if not your desk?

      I always took my personal papers home and filed them with my personal papers. What good are tax forms going to do me at work?

      1. Cat Tree*

        Yeah I always take everything home.

        But apparently there is a segment of the population that sets up shop at their work desk to take care of personal things like paying bills and going through their personal mail. The first time I encountered this, I had to look for a document in a coworker’s desk while she was out. Instead I found a stack of very personal mail, including stuff from collection agencies, they I doubt she wanted others to know about. I just don’t understand why she brought that in and left it there, unless maybe she was hiding it from someone at home. But now I always hate it when I need to find something in a coworker’s desk because I don’t want to find that stuff. It feels really unprofessional for them to have it there in the first place.

        1. NotAnotherManager!*

          That’s so awkward. I do not understand why people bring personal paperwork into the office. When I have to do so (usually for reference on a call that can only be made during business hours), it stays in my bag and goes back home with me at the end of the day. I don’t even get most of my personal paperwork in paper anymore. Digital copies all the way.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            Same, and I don’t go into my gmail at work unless it’s completely unavoidable for some reason.

        2. Dragon*

          I heard of a woman widowed by 9/11, who had no idea what the household bills were until the overdue notices started coming in. Her husband had always taken care of that, and on his office computer.

    3. Ed123*

      I guess the core of the issue is if your desk at work is considered personal. For me it is not personal at all. Maybe a bit more than the coffee table at the breakroom but I very much think it’s the company property that I just occationally use and treat it as such. Therefore, I don’t have anything personal there.
      But for my office roomate it’s clearly “her desk” and she would be quite upset if someone messed it up.

      1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        Yes, it’s really “the company’s desk” rather than “OP’s desk” which just happened to have some personal stuff left on it. Similarly ‘confidential’ documents (if they relate to clients or similar) are the company’s documents, not OP’s.

        “Physical problems in the office” (I’m guessing something more specific than this may have been said to OP but they left it out so the letter wouldn’t be too identifiable) doesn’t pass the sniff test for me. For some reason they’ve been given a bogus reason to keep them out of the office while something went on.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          “Physical problem” could be roof leaks, pest issue, or bad wiring in an area for a department whose jobs cannot be remotely.
          It could also be as simple as someone realizing the carpet hasn’t been replaced in 30 years and this is a chance to redo it without shutting down operations.

      2. bamcheeks*

        Yes, I really don’t get the idea of your work desk as personal space. I get that’s important to some people, but I’m most comfortable in offices where the rules around space are very clear and well-defined– clear desk policies, anything confidential is in locked filing cabinets and it’s very clear who has access to what. I don’t like that thing where people get very territorial over their own desk and their own desk drawers– by all means have some snacks and tampons and spare shoes in a drawer, but when it feels like you’re invading someone’s space when you sit at their desk and you have all the ambiguity about whether a folder or a drawer is Personal, I hate it.

        Thinking about it, this might be because I temped a lot before I had substantive jobs, and was often sat at other people’s desks, and the ones which were obviously Someone’s Desk, with Someone’s Tchotchke’s and Someone’s Photographs and Someone’s Confidential Stuff were so incredibly uncomfortable to use.

        1. The Prettiest Curse*

          Thanks to hybrid working, I don’t have a desk at my office, I just have a big storage box. I don’t have many printouts that need to be confidential, but anything like that I keep in a locked filing cabinet at home. I don’t keep anything at work that I wouldn’t want my colleagues to see if I got hit by a bus.

          However, it is completely unreasonable to move people’s desks and personal stuff without at least letting them know about it first, so I can understand why that OP was upset.

        2. to varying degrees*

          Yeah, people really need to get out of the mindset that the office desk is also a personal desk. I’m guilty of it. When I cleaned out my desk at my last job the amount of personal papers I had was ridiculous (+11 years), but still. And being in government everything was pretty much public record so if someone went in a desk for something (not a usual thing, but not unheard of) those docs could have been seen.

          1. Basketball Jones*

            I think this idea that your desk is not private and the company controls everything about it is an entirely academic argument. Like sure, objectively, yes. But functionally, it’s a personal space where many, many employees store things that they might not want others to see or rifle through. Doesn’t that warrant a little communication in this case?

            1. Lydia*

              Yeah. And since you spend the majority of the day at your job and those hours are most often the same hours as where you have to pay bills or make appointments or what have you, chances are good that people might bring needed personal papers or bills with them.

        3. lilsheba*

          I don’t understand how someone can NOT feel like it’s their personal space. I’m very territorial over my desk, because if I’m going to spend 9 plus hours in a place I have to feel at least a little homey, or it’s just unbearable. Places where you can’t have personal pictures or items on your desk are depressing as hell.

          1. Sylvan*

            Only my home and car are mine. I like decorating my desk, making the place where I’m going to spend 8-9 hours comfortable, and cleaning it, but I don’t own it. It’s hard to care that much about a cubicle.

          2. bamcheeks*

            I like home to feel homey, and work to feel worky! I don’t know, I just feel very strongly that it’s public space and being in that public-space-persona is part of being at work for me.

          3. Lenora Rose*

            I was delighted to move from a public-ish space desk to a desk of my own at my current workplace, so I could put photos and some doodads and store a few snacks and teas.

            My basic rule, though, is that it should all be able to go into the backpack and home in one trip. Which is mostly true, though I’m not quite sure how to safely wrap the nudibranch.

          4. SpaceySteph*

            I don’t think anyone is saying you can’t have a couple personal touches, just nothing TOO personal and nothing irreplaceable. I have a couple family photos and a cute mug for pens, but I wouldn’t bring in some family heirloom or like a pic of my kids in the bathtub. Wasn’t there a post on here once about a collectible antique train whistle gone missing from a desk or something?

          5. Cordelia*

            Maybe the difference is between “personal” and “private”? Having a few personal items on your desk to make it feel comfortable and a nice place to be, is not the same as keeping private paperwork in the drawers. In my mind, a work desk belongs to work, in the same way as a work laptop does. If you store something there you have to accept that someone else might access it one day.

      3. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        I never felt it was personal because my bosses and/or the admin staff and facilities have keys to all my locks. They have to. What if I decided I was done with work and they needed to get into the desk that had been mine?

    4. Bagpuss*

      I wouldn’t keep papers which were personal to me, such as offer letters or tax forms, at work. I ould take them home and file them with my personal papers (not least as in a wost case scenario, if you are laid off or dismissed, you may not have the opportunity to clear your own desk)
      Anything internal but confidential I would normally keep in a sepaerate folder, not loose.

      1. Basketball Jones*

        Not the point. The point is that it’s reasonable enough to the point that a lot of people DO store those things in their desk, so communication was warranted.

    5. Asenath*

      In a former job, it wasn’t that unusual to have people packing up someone else’s office, although I never heard of anyone taking the time to photograph the contents. In that case, it was usually because space was very scarce, so when something came open, you got at least one and sometimes more people moving very suddenly because someone on the list was tired of waiting or had nowhere at all to go – A FINALLY vacated their office, B moved into A’s, C moved into B’s, and so on. I once came back from a very short leave to find everything in my office in boxes in another office, and another time had nowhere to go at all – the boxes were stored somewhere and my computer, computer table and chair were parked in a corridor which lacked any place to connect the computer. Although I dealt with confidential material, that didn’t seem to be an issue, and to be fair the people who did the packing also had access to the same material. I had nothing personal there except a desk knickknack or two, a spare sweater and a few similar items. In an earlier job – the first or second “real” (not part-time or summer) job – I found all kinds of personal stuff in the desk I took over, included financial information like my predecessors’ pay stubs, and if I remember properly, bills. I decided then and there not to keep any private information on my employer’s computer or in my employer’s desk. I may have accidentally strayed from that over the years – it’s so easy to use one’s employer’s computer for personal purposes – but I tried not to.

    6. Snow Globe*

      The first thing I thought of was medication. When I worked in an office I frequently had medications stored in my desk that I would need to take during the day. I think that’s a perfectly reasonable thing to keep in your desk, but not something I’d want coworkers to be going through.

      1. Cat Tree*

        I take many medications and have never left them at work. What if you need them when you’re not at work, such as weekends or a sick day? Do you get two different bottles at the same time? Does insurance even cover that? Or do you split some of them into an unlabeled container?

        I don’t think I’ve ever known anyone to keep medications at work and this actually seems really odd to me. I have an inhaler with me at all times but it wouldn’t make sense to leave that at work. It’s always in my backpack. For pills and such I again just keep the whole bottle in my backpack and take it home with me every day.

        1. London Calling*

          My medication comes in blister packs of 10. A few packs sit in my desk, the rest are at home.

        2. doreen*

          The only medications I’ve ever known people to keep at work are OTC ones – and even then it’s usually only Tylenol/motrin not other OTC meds.

          1. London Calling*

            I have no idea what my colleagues have in their desks, let alone whether any meds they might have are OTC or hospital prescribed.

            1. doreen*

              I’ve taken over enough desks/offices that people didn’t clean out and packed up enough desks of people who weren’t around during a move to expect that if any of those people kept medication in their desks I would have seen it along with the credit card statements and other personal documents that were in the desks – but the only medications I ever saw were OTC pain relievers , not even OTC cold medicine.

                1. Nightengale*

                  I keep glucose tablets for diabetes in my desk at work because I can keep a large bottle there. I do definitely carry some with me also but in a smaller container. But everyone I work closely with knows I have type 1 diabetes (and also that I keep snacks and supplies both in that drawer and my tote bag) just in case of emergencies.

          2. Curmudgeon in California*

            I’ve kept mostly OTC stuff in my desk – Motrin, Naproxyn, Sudafed, Mucinex, Claritin, Imodium, cough drops, etc in bottles or blister packs. But I also had one or two of my migraine tablets in a blister pack there too. Plus spare underwear and other supplies – GI issues suck.

            No, I don’t want my coworkers going through my locked drawers.

            I don’t always bring in a bag or a backpack.

        3. Catherine*

          I take some powdered prescriptions that are individually packed and keep a few doses in my desk–sometimes I forget to top up the stash in my purse, so it’s a lifesaver.

        4. Sylvan*

          Same here. I keep medication in my bag. There’s Advil and first aid supplies in my desk — nothing valuable and nothing I’d miss if it were lost.

        5. Martin Blackwood*

          I think itd be easy to take an old pill bottle and toss a handful of your current prescription in, especially if you have to take one every day around lunchtime and don’t want to risk forgetting them at home.

          At the same time, medications are personal, but I think people aren’t going to recognize prescription drug names unless they’ve been on them themselves. I also think googlingthe prescription drug name is a few steps more nosy than most people are. They might think about it, but then they toss it in the box with the rest and never actually do it.

      2. to varying degrees*

        I would keep them in a makeup/travel bag. I highly doubt the photographers are actually going through bags and folders*. I keep personal items (makeup. a brush, feminine product, medication, etc.) in a little bag in my desk.

        *caveat to the latter, unless they suspect some sort of company documents being in there.

    7. Falling Diphthong*

      What if you had been storing a valuable for safekeeping?
      I’m not sure why an office desk would be the obvious spot for that. Even if it locks.

      1. top five???*

        Yeah, I have a very hard time seeing a property I don’t legally have control of (either owning or renting) as the right space for “safekeeping” items.

        1. My Useless 2 Cents*

          I’m often in charge of planning the office Xmas party. It became tradition for the boss to hand out Xmas cards at the party, each card included $50 in cash. There were also various gift cards and gift certificates accumulated before the party. Being in charge, all that was kept in my desk for “safekeeping” in the days leading up to the party. I wasn’t about to take those items home as risk losing them. To me, that is one of a thousand perfectly acceptable work related reasons to briefly store valuables in an office desk.

          1. Ann Nonymous*

            But those are Work Valuables that *should* properly be kept in a locked space at work. Not personal valuables.

            1. Martin Blackwood*

              Yeah, this isnt a fancy expensive watch for your spouse, this is work property in this case

          2. Lenora Rose*

            But those are valuables directly related to work, not random valuables being stored for yourself or a friend. And presumably the person who would be later handing them out knows where they are.

        2. Basketball Jones*

          I have multiple coworkers who keep things like watches, cuff links, etc in their desk drawers because work is the only time they ever need them. Not saying that’s the only approach or even the right approach. I’m saying it’s common and reasonable enough that a little communication was warranted.

    8. Letter Writer 1*

      I want to clarify, because I am seeing a lot of speculation about what is and isn’t in my desk and I’m finding it hilarious: maybe “desk” is an overstatement. It’s one of those movable 2-drawer things on wheels, which has a lock but I’ve never had a key to it. (For some reason it’s just now striking me that it’s funny that you’d pack up something that’s meant to be mobile because of some physical issue with space but then leave a box with the same stuff right next to it.) And basically I have what most people working in any office have in a drawer: a bottle of tylenol, a couple of to-do lists, 5-6 file folders with some documents (some of which people feel very strongly I should have taken home), old notebooks, a sweater, etc.

      1. Julia*

        I wouldn’t call that two drawer thing a desk but it clearly functioned as one. Honestly packing one of those up is deeply hilarious and weird.

        I periodically have tax forms etc at my desk because I wanted to do something with them at work and haven’t brought them home yet. It doesn’t seem outrageous to have some personal documents in a desk.

      2. hbc*

        I don’t think anyone says you *have* to keep personal stuff at home, just…it’s not an expectation that anything at your desk will be kept 100% private. They can fire you and have someone else pack up your things, they can have someone rifle through your desk looking for a file you worked on while you’re at lunch, or they can go through every paper in there because they suspect someone is committing industrial espionage.

        So “in my desk drawer” should be considered about the privacy level of “don’t want advertised every day.” How far you go to protect it further from prying eyes depends on how useful it is at work and badly you don’t want anyone to see it. Your folders were probably fine shielding for all but the most nosy people–I doubt anyone did snooping while a whole group was packing up stuff in an office that had other people working.

      3. River Otter*

        I think you should take the speculation a little bit less personally. It wasn’t just you whose desk was packed up, and you asked what circumstances it would be reasonable to pack up somebody else’s desk. The speculation brings up circumstances where it could be problematic to go through someone else his desk.
        When you said self evaluations and notes from confidential meetings, I’m going to assume that these were your own self evaluations, not other peoples, and that the notes were from private meetings and not any kind of legally protected or proprietary information. that is reasonable stuff to keep in your desk drawer, and it is also company property which is reasonable for a company representative to pack up for you. I am not so thrilled about it being done by student workers as they are probably new to the workforce and May not have been coached on how to be discreet about anything they might happen to see that is private, like a self evaluation. for me, personally, I do take my self evaluations home and for the period of time that I might leave a paper copy at my desk, I keep it locked up along with all my proprietary project work. People who are bringing up that there might have been some kind of sensitive information, as in the case of an HR person’s desk, someone in a medical or legal field, Or someone with proprietary designs at their desk, should realize that that kind of information should be kept in a locked cabinet. A hypothetical person who is keeping that type information at their desk unlocked is the one who is in the wrong, not the company who decides to pack up that hypothetical persons desk. Even that type of protected and sensitive information, however, it’s still company property, and an authorized person who is not the desk holder is still able to pack up that information.
        The bottom line is that you don’t have any reasonable expectation of privacy at work even if all you had at your “desk“ was a bottle of Tylenol and an old sweater. The real problem here is the way it was done. you are too focused on the fact that your desk was packed up, Probably because this is something small that you feel could have been under your control. Let the desk packing go. Look at the larger picture, which from your update it sounds like you already have.

      4. The Other Dawn*

        “5-6 file folders with some documents (some of which people feel very strongly I should have taken home)”

        People have mentioned taking home personal documents like tax forms, pay stubs, etc. You said the cabinet locks, but you’ve never had a key. If you have items with personal information in those five to six folders, that could open you up to identity theft.

    9. Jocasta Nu*

      I’m a longtime institutional archivist. I can say with assurance that 1) people keep all kinds of personal things in their desks (children’s drawings, transcripts, letters of reprimand, apparently everything with a social security number), 2) the things, while personal, aren’t considered important enough to remember to take when they transfer or retire, and 3) the staff who packed almost certainly never paid any attention to what they were packing-otherwise I wouldn’t have gotten all the breakroom cutlery, pool vehicle keys, ancient snack foods, and other clearly not archival things I’ve found in boxes.

      1. Grits McGee*

        Yikes, yeah the things I’ve found while processing the “professional” papers of university bigwigs who have sent their records to the university archive- rehab reports, their children’s arrest records, blackmail threats, notes from their divorce lawyer….

  11. just some guy*

    #2 – If the job provides a contact, it doesn’t hurt to get in touch and ask. I’ve had a couple of successes with “Hi, I notice this position is listed as City A, would you be open to remote work from City B?”

    If the listed criterion is desirable but not essential, this can also be an opportunity to explore substitutes e.g. “For a remote application, what kind of skills do you consider important for making the remote arrangement work?”

    1. Willis*

      I wouldn’t do this unless you have a question that is specific and critical, but relatively easy to answer and not covered in the job ad. Otherwise its just and seems like an attempt to pitch yourself without actually applying. OP #2’s question is essentially how competitive she is for a job where she meets many of the qualifications, and the way to figure that out is to send in a resume. Like Alison said, a lot of times employers don’t know where the bar is going to be in terms of moving people forward in the hiring process until they see their applicant pool.

    2. Smithy*

      I think that unlike asking the question if it an employer in NYC’s remote policy includes as far out as Pennsylvania…..I don’t think the OP would have a lot of luck going through criteria in the job and asking which tasks are firm in experience required vs open to transferable skills. Especially for an unknown candidate.

      However, I do think this is one of the stronger and more relevant times to ask people in your broader social/professional network for informational interviews. In this case – it can be old college friends, the spouses of friends or long time friends of your parents – someone more connected to the field the OP is looking to join. Because the questions are going to be really technical around what parts of job descriptions strongly require actual experience and what might be more mid-level and open to transferable skills.

      New grads can often find those types of meetings awkward as they’re very general, but having some very specific job postings the OP can send in advance and say that they’re interesting in discussing what is needed to be a more successful applicant and how to break in.

    3. umami*

      Oh no, nothing annoys me more than people reaching out for more information than what is posted (and we do post job descriptions with salary ranges, etc.) I don’t have time for that! Just put in your application if you qualify, and make sure you have applicable and obvious experience listed. If I have to make a judgment on whether you might qualify because it’s not clear, I’ve already moved on to the next applicant, sadly.

      Also, if you are interviewed for a position, don’t send me an email with a thank you letter attached, with instructions to share with the rest of the committee (this actually happened to me this morning, email says this exactly: Hello, Please find my thank you letter attached. Please share it with the search committee.) I am the search committee chair, not your admin, I am not forwarding your letter, especially since I provided you the names of all the committee members prior to your interview. Come on, people.

  12. Goody*

    LW1 reminds me of (and I’ll get these details wrong) the person whose supervisor stole a hand-made toy from his desk and “gifted” it to someone else. I still wonder what ever happened there.

    1. Hlao-roo*

      “my manager stole a family heirloom from me and gave it as a gift to someone else” from August 2, 2016 if anyone’s curious.

      Sadly, no update on this letter (yet).

    2. No longer working*

      The lesson from that letter, and also here, is not to keep valuable things at work. I’m hoping not to get off topic, but want to mention it’s also not a good idea to leave valuable things in your car, either. Vehicles get stolen and your possessions, whether monetarily valuable or sentimentally valuable, may not be recovered even if the vehicle is.

      1. lilsheba*

        you would be amazed at how many people just leave credit cards hanging out loose in their cars. Or their wallets or purses or whatever. Stupid.

      2. SpaceySteph*

        As someone who has had their apartment broken into and robbed while at work, even keeping things home is not a foolproof method. For things truly valuable and irreplaceable, a safe deposit box maybe? And for less valuable/irreplaceable things, a good hiding spot.

  13. Anonymity*

    Move on from your old job and don’t contact new hire. Let them figure it out on their own in their own way on their timeline. The company may not even want you giving them advice.

    1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      yeah who knows, they might have decided to overhaul the entire position so that the new hire is only really doing 30% of what OP did. Or introduced new software that makes 50% of what OP did unnecessary.
      I don’t even think OP should reach out in the way that Alison suggested, because it very much reeks of OP being controlling and not able to let go. If they left decent instructions etc. it shouldn’t be necessary for them to have any input whatsoever.
      I dunno, if I started a new job after the position had been left vacant for 8 months, I’d be listening to my boss to learn about my duties, and asking whichever colleagues are most helpful when the boss isn’t around or doesn’t know. If my predecessor were to reach out to me out of the blue, I’d assume that they have some dirt on the boss or want to gossip and hear about how things have fallen apart since they left, rather than just explaining processes and why X goes in the blue folder. And I’d freak out a bit, like, how did this person even know about me being hired to their former role, are they stalking me or what?
      And then I’d probably write in asking Alison “this person who claims to have done my job previously is suggesting we meet up so I can hear her historical perspective… I’m doing fine and my boss has issued a whole new set of instructions using brand-new software and I’m not sure how a historical perspective could possibly be important. It rather freaks me out because how did she know I’m doing her job? Has she been stalking or what? And why is she taking time out of her day to even do this?”

    2. UpstateDownstate*

      Agreed! Leave them alone, if they want your advice they will come find YOU on LinkedIn. Also, I love that you care about your former job but it’s your former job and I’d also never offer to work for free for anyone anymore. Need my expertise? To whom should I address the invoice? LOL

  14. nicmyles*

    LW3 – I generally say when I leave a job that I’m very happy to have a chat/coffee with my replacement when they start and have got their feet under the table if they’d find it useful. I think reaching out on LinkedIn might feel a bit much, so I would suggest if you happen to be speaking to a former colleague, asking them to pass on the offer would be the most appropriate thing to do.

    So I don’t think it’s a weird thing to do. I would say I’ve been taken up on it maybe 25% of the time? So possibly not something most people in a new job feel is a priority, but not completely pointless making the offer either.

    But don’t repeat the offer/push it. It’s theirs to take up if they want and their job now to take forward as they want. I think sometimes people can be a bit funny about talking to their predecessor (eg ego reasons, office politics, etc).

    1. Bagpuss*

      I think it does depend a bit on the specifc dynamics. If you left on good terms and are still in touch with former coworkers / manager then I think you could reach out to them and lt them know that you’d be happy to have a coffee / chat with the new hire and for them to pass on your contact details / suggest that new hire contacts you via linked in.

      Otherwise you could send them a message but particuarlly given that it’s 8 months since you left, it may be that they find it more helpful to speak to people that have been ‘minding the shop’ in that period.
      A one-off message does no harm, but keep it fairly vague and don’t be surprised if you don’t hear anything back.

    2. Mockingjay*

      I’ve never been contacted directly by the previous person who held my position and quite frankly, I would find it weird and off-putting. You left, the role is mine now, and I’ve already had discussions with my managers (not yours anymore) about what direction to take. Especially since it’s been 8 months; the company likely made a number of decisions about the role and a path forward and without that information/context, what can OP3 offer?

      OP3, I think you have good intentions, but it’s not your job anymore to worry about. New hires can manage their careers themselves. This reminds me of a letter a few weeks ago, in which a reference heard secondhand that a former employee was in a difficult spot and wanted to reach out. Most of the commenters agreed that the employee hadn’t asked for help and given that the reference lacked specifics about what was really going on, the offer probably wouldn’t be received well.

    3. LW#3*

      I’m super grateful to Alison for publishing my question and want to thank (up front) anyone who is taking the time to comment. I am listening and apprecaite your help in thinking this through!
      A few comments to add to the discussion:
      1. I’ve never had this come up. I’ve never been contacted by someone I replaced nor felt like reaching out to a replacement was appropriate. Obviosuly that is why so many people advise against it but also the reason for my uncertainty.
      2. The department and people that I left have been in a period of stasis. Yes they have been “holding down the fort”, but that’s about all that the company has been able to manage for 8 months. So the idea that a lot as changed about the role or the organizaiton is not the case.
      3. I would absolutely not be offended if the new manager did not take me up on my offer – or didn’t even respond. And found it interesting that one comment mentioned that in their experience only 25% take them up on the offer. That’s the type of perspecitve that I came for.

      1. cubone*

        If you’re still in touch with other direct report/team members, why not mention it to one of them who you trust? Like if they mention your position has been filled, say “wonderful! If you think they would ever appreciate connecting with me for a quick chat or questions, feel free to pass on my contact information”.

        I say this because I’ve left some jobs on good terms where I let my boss/close teammates know this was an option and I think it worked really well personally. It gave someone who actually has an insight into how new person is doing to have that option in their back pocket and only mention it if they get a sense it would be helpful or appreciated. Then there’s also no potential awkwardness of you reaching out directly (if the new person finds it awkward, as some people here have said they might. I definitely believe you can do it in a non awkward way, but this is just another way to stay a bit more at arms length)

  15. Helvetica*

    LW#4 – as I read, you moved into a managing position, which means you could definitely propose different ways of doing things, as long as you have seen how things at your new place could be changed for the better. Do not say “this is how other branch does it” but just “let’s try another way”. I agree with Alison that you should give it some time but there are for sure things the other branch did better and you could utilise in your new position.

    1. Chilipepper Attitude*

      For #4, just drop the language about your old branch entirely.

      It does not matter if you are using it to introduce new ideas, or to gain clarification about a policy or procedure in the new place, or just conversationally.

      I think it almost always sounds like, “they did it better at old place.” For some people (many more people than I could have ever imagined), any mention of differences is incredibly rude on your part – no matter why you are saying it. Ask me how I know!

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

        The only caveat to your suggestion is if they old branch was doing the same thing as the new branch is and then old branch started to do something new and they had a lot of success. So something like “south library branch had the same issue until the implemented X. Now patron satisfaction rose 30%.

        But as I write this I realize the OP could just say: “Let’s try doing X. I’ve seen this be really successful and I think it might work here too”

    2. AnonForToday*

      Hijacking #4 just a bit.

      I went back and reread the linked article and all the comments.

      I recently circled back to an organization that I had volunteered with many years ago that is wanting to expand into an element that, in the interim, I have trained extensively in and am fairly well-known.

      Org is hosting a training that I was involved in hosting twice before at a previous employer in the same geographic region. I am also close to the org that presents the training.

      In this instance, is it ever appropriate to refer back to the previous events? “When it was hosted by X, there were Y attendees year 1, Z attendees year 2, etc.” or “Registration has to go through the presenting org because ABC”.

      I consider it sharing historical data to set realistic goals, procedures, etc. but now I am wondering if it comes off as either bragging or stuck on X way being the only way.


      1. Koalafied*

        It can be appropriate or not, depending on context in which it’s shared. A good mental test before sharing something like that would be to ask whether what you’re saying would get the same point across without mentioning the history, and if the history is helpful, does it get the same point across without calling the previous host out by name and as your former employer? And the other thing to watch is making sure you’re not assuming that things *will* go exactly the same for the new hosts as they did for the old hosts.

        For instance with your example about attendance in different years – if the point is just to ballpark likely attendance, then it might be sufficient just to say, “in the last 3 years, attendance figures were X, Y, and Z,” without needing to remind them who the host was for those years. But if your point is to illustrate that as a new host you might see lower registration in the first year that can scale up in future years, then it would be more germane to contextualize that as you previous employer’s experience, since who the hosting org is directly relates to the point. At the same time, make sure you’re not using this illustration to flat out argue against others trying something that didn’t work well when the previous org tried it, or to say, “We don’t need to have a plan for X, because X never happened to the previous host,” or, “Attendees will hate X, because they hated when that happened when my previous employer was hosting.” You can definitely offer those data points to be taken into consideration, as long as you make it clear that you’re just offering data to inform them, and not trying to overstep your role by arguing with a decision that’s been deleted to someone else to make or aggressively lobby for the decision to go a certain way when it’s something that isn’t really your call and you only feel strongly about because of your past experience.

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

        Yes i think it’s fine if there is a specific reason and not just “X did it better”. Going back to the OP’s letter if say old branch stopped billing people daily late fees and that caused people to use the library more and new library is having problems with people not using the library, then I could see saying something like “historically at South library when they stoped billing daily the library actually saved X amount of money and increased patronage by 30%”. Thats showing a very specific detail and not just saying well South library does this so we should too.

  16. jsmthi*

    #1 Could there not be a serious legal issue if “notes from confidential meetings” are ever in the hands of people not cleared to see them? Where I work we usually keep any hard copies of confidential meeting notes and other sensitive materials (e.g. research study participant lists) in our lockable desk drawers in offices where the last person to leave locks the door. But obviously security have spares for all the keys, so this could happen. But if it did the organisation could be in serious trouble.
    I also keep spare packs of various medications at work, and anyone going through my desk without permission would effectively have sensitive health information on me, which is also a breach of confidentiality.
    I’m guessing all the people who don’t think desks should be private may be have personal lockers or other secure spaces for keeping these things? In some places, the desk is it.

    1. bamcheeks*

      Generally everywhere I’ve worked, anything that’s confidential for a work-related reason (personal data, HR data, client information, commercially sensitive data etc) shouldn’t be in personal lockable deskdrawers but in filing cabinets, where it’s clear who holds the key, where it’s kept and who has access to it. Personal lockable drawers introduce too much ambiguity about whether it’s personally confidential or legally confidential.

      For things like medication or personal HR/financial documents, it would never occur to me to think you had a right to place to keep those at work! It seems like a reasonable thing to ask for as a accommodation, but I wouldn’t expect any company to offer its workers a lockable, private space as a matter of course. It would be a massive security issue, for a start.

    2. Nikki*

      Saying it’s a “breach of confidentiality” is pretty strong language. That would only apply to a space where you have an expectation of privacy which in almost all cases is not true of your desk at work. Like Alison said, there are a lot of reasons a co-worker might need to go through your desk. You should only keep things in your desk that you wouldn’t mind other people coming across. I keep stuff like medication in my work bag and take it home with me at the end of every day.

    3. Katie*

      Where I work, anything that is confidential is kept in a special locked area for confidential items, especially if it brings legal issues. A desk is not safe.

      1. jsmthi*

        I was merely explaining that different jobs have different ways of working, not looking to be told why my workplace is wrong. It works fine.
        Personally I don’t usually keep hard copies of any documents anyway, I scan and store electronically*. But I know some people need to print their data or like to handwrite their tutorial notes etc. so use paper.
        I don’t need to request a disability accommodation for storing meds & medical equipment because they would just ask why I can’t use my lockable drawer.
        Of course, if a person was sacked or left unexpectedly and was unable to collect their own stuff, and their key was unretrievable, the site admin would be able to clear it out using the spare key. But that’s not what was being discussed.
        * Tbh I am more concerned about the security of data on the shared drive than anything physical.

        1. Dr. Rebecca*

          I mean, you ask-assumed what other people do with meds and stuff, and the answer is that we carry them back and forth to work with us. I would never leave identifiable prescription medication, even “spare packs” at work.

          1. jsmthi*

            Sorry if my comment came across as insensitive or annoying in some way! I honestly can’t remember if I’ve ever worked in a job without lockers (until now). In some of them people would not be allowed to carry any bags of personal items on their rounds or into the workshop, classroom, treatment etc areas. Especially not medicines into areas where there will be children.
            I also live in a very bike-heavy city where all the cyclists need to change their clothes and keep them somewhere even if they don’t have specialist workwear to change into.
            I’ve never worked in an office so my experience is based on friends and TV! Clearly thought it was more common than it is – now learned!

        2. bamcheeks*

          You said, “I’m guessing all the people who don’t think desks should be private may be have personal lockers or other secure spaces for keeping these things?” So I think people were saying, no, it’s not that we have personal lockers or other secure spaces, it’s that having a secure space is not a universal expectation.

          We’ve just moved to hybrid working and hot desking, and we’re having a lot of conversations about access to lockers since people don’t have desk drawers any more. But the discussion is around things like teabags, snacks, cardigans, stationery etc– not anything confidential or sensitive.

        3. to varying degrees*

          I either take my personal stuff I don’t want others to see home with me (or don’t bring it to work at all) or I accept that others may see it.

    4. Cat Tree*

      What if you got laid off or fired? How would you expect your company to handle packing up your office then?

      Also, I’m really amazed that people leave their medications at work instead of keeping it with them. That seems so weird to me but is apparently somewhat common.

      1. top five???*

        If I had to take medicine routinely, I would probably leave some at work, but I’d understand the risk is that I wouldn’t be able to prevent someone from seeing it because I agree with everyone saying there’s no reasonable expectation of privacy at work.

      2. jsmthi*

        I hope never to have to find out what happens when a person gets fired, especially if that person was myself! But like I said, it’s not that security can’t get into the lockable desks, just that it would have to be very unusual circumstances for them to do so. And then a person with appropriate clearance would take charge of any research materials & confidential notes about students.

        It’s useful to have somewhere to keep spares of the various meds that I occasionally need urgently, in case I’ve forgotten to refill the small set I keep in handbag. Plus splints, mobility supports etc that I don’t use all the time. And I’m definitely not going to walk around all day carrying a BP monitor etc in my pocket, when having to do frequent testing.

        All of this is quite normal for academia! (Especially for Disabled academics.)

    5. doreen*

      There are plenty of documents that a person or organization might want to keep confidential that won’t cause legal problems if someone else sees them.
      I don’t think it’s so much a matter of people not thinking desks , etc. should be private so much as that in fact they are not that private. I’ve never had a job where it was acceptable for someone to just randomly go through someone else’s desk for no reason – but there have always been multiple acceptable reasons. For example, someone is on vacation and some information is needed that’s likely to be in the desk , someone goes out sick for months during which there is some sort of move , someone wants their personal belongings but can’t pack up themself for some reason.(perhaps they went out sick and resigned/retired but hasn’t recovered enough to come in and pack up) If you really don’t want anyone to see your tax forms, medical documentation, medication, etc. you shouldn’t keep them in your desk, because you just never know that there won’t be a legit reason for someone to be in your desk.

    6. Cpt Morgan*

      That’s on you if you store your “sensitive health information” in a space that inherently isn’t yours. Employer owns your desk, not you. You should 100% assume that they can access your desk, what websites you browse, your history for coming into and leaving your work site… Acting like your Employer’s site is a sacred zone for your private information is mentally setting yourself up for failure and disappointment.

    7. Wishing doesn’t make it so*

      As other have pointed out, your desk at work is a public space. It does not belong to you. You might want it to be a private space, but it isn’t. Don’t keep private things in public spaces if you don’t want other people to see them.

      As far as confidential meeting notes etc go, your organization should have a protocol for storing confidential materials for exactly this reason, among others. If an employee gets sick for a long time, quits without notice by just not coming in one day, gets abducted by aliens, whatever, someone else has to go through their desk and pack it up. And it should be accessible to whoever else might need to work on the file!

      Your office isn’t your home. You don’t own your work. You don’t own your desk. You don’t own your space. What you have a right to is set out in worker protection laws, and beyond that, your employer makes the rules. That’s the nature of employment. If you want to make the rules, be the boss.

    8. Koalafied*

      There are degrees of confidentiality. A manager might have notes they made during a PIP check-in or a draft proposal to reorg the department that they wouldn’t want others to see, but wouldn’t necessarily need to go so far as to keep it under lock and key. Hopefully LW’s confidential documents were more along those lines of just documents not meant for public distribution vs not truly sensitive legally protected personal/financial/medical data.

    9. Nutella and banana on toast*

      Your company desk/office is not a secure place for your personal things, it is secure for the companies things. The company owns the desk/office an has the original key they lent you a copy of the key to use while you work, the desk/office is never really yours.

    10. jsmthi*

      People are still responding to this as though I’m making some kind of weird and wrong personal decision here, rather than explaining that some workplaces have different norms around this. Like, we have lockable drawers, which are useful. Yes, I understand that the furniture belongs to the org, I am just explaining that local etiquette and expectations vary. (Although it was exactly the same at the last university I worked at too. PGR students do hot desk but get a locker.)
      If am organisation instructs its employees to store confidential documents a certain way, and there were a breach, that’s on them, not the individual.

  17. Riley and Jonesy*

    OP2- I transitioned out of a very specialized healthcare field into more office-y work. I had absolutely no idea what I could apply for and who would want me. I scouted around the local companies trying to interpret where I could fit in but was gently brushed off. This lasted a year.
    I ended up doing a micro course in Business Management at the local university for 3 months. That gave me so much help with my resume, pertinent stuff a new job would need etc. I ended up getting the first, quite prestigious job I went for – it was competitive but a good match. The HR person who hired me was precisely one of the people who previously rejected me for a much more generalized entry level role.
    I recommend getting some kind of general business related course under your belt so your CV looks more business-y.

  18. noname*

    LW#2, if you are applying for positions with the US Government, you must meet 100% of the qualifications. If you do not have just one qualification out of 18, you will be deemed unqualified for the position. If the position requires a Bachelor’s Degree, and you list that you have a Master’s Degree without ALSO listing that you have a Bach, you will be deemed unqualified. If the position requires a B.A. and you list that you have a B.S., you will be deemed unqualified. If you list that you have 35 months of relevant experience and they require 36 months, you will be deemed unqualified. The vetting is done by computers.

    1. Chilipepper Attitude*

      I also wonder about ATSs or HR (or not the hiring manager) removing her from consideration. At my city library job, the ATS or HR passed on the applicants to the hiring manager. They ignored candidates like teachers or anyone with customer service experience (which is what we wanted) and passed on lifeguards with absolutely no relevant experience.

      It was very frustrating! I don’t have a great workaround. Does peppering your resume with keywords from the job description actually help with this?

      One time I knew someone who knew someone who checked and my application was not passed out of HR bc I put 10 years job history as required, but part of it was part time, so it did not technically add up to 10 years of FT work. It was short by a few months! They did let me revise it. It was not a govt job and I did not get the job.

    2. doreen*

      Government job postings can be very specific. Where I live , not only will they disqualify you for having 35 months of experience instead of 36 but they even specify the date on which you must meet the qualifications – sometimes you must meet them by the filing deadline, other times by the date of an exam and in other cases by the date you are hired ( which could be a couple of years after the filing deadline and/or any exam)

    3. LW #2*

      Hi! Thank you for your reply. I have not been applying for government jobs, but this is a good reminder in case I do.

  19. Jessica*

    LW2, this really struck me: “I’ve waffled back and forth with directly addressing the discrepancy in my cover letter.” Yes! Address it! That’s what the cover letter is for! If I’m going to look at your CV and wonder: how is any of this relevant to my job? what about this thing that she doesn’t have? why is this person even applying when her background is something else? or whatever other questions might come to mind, the cover letter is your chance to address those questions. And it’s usually the only chance you have–nobody’s going to invite you to interview just to figure out what your deal is. Tell your own story. When I read a CV I feel like a detective collecting evidence and trying to construct a plausible narrative about this person’s career, but the cover letter is your chance to take control of that narrative and frame it the way you want them to see it.

    1. bamcheeks*

      Agree with this, and also, do as much research into those roles as you can. Talk to people doing them, and if you can, organise to shadow someone working as a paralegal / executive assistant / office manager for a day or two. It sounds like you’ve got a good idea of what your transferable skills are, but a few conversations with people working in those roles or a few hours shadowing are just enormously useful for showing you what you don’t have– for example, you may not *need* a paralegal qualification to be a paralegal, but is it the case that most people who have joined that profession in the last 10 years have one? Are there lots of procedural details that you could easily pick up, but which practically all employers rely on you having already? Did most people come into office management / exec assistanting via a few months as a receptionist or a similar entry-level role where they showed their communication and rapport-building skills and organisation and then got promoted?

      The kind of jobs you’re going for sound like an excellent match for your strengths, but this obviously isn’t quite working at the moment so it’s worth doing something else to get more information. Just having conversations with people and getting to view the workplace and a typical working day (or half-day, or hour) can really give you a much more solid idea of what’s happening to help you frame that cover letter.

    2. PersephoneUnderground*

      Agree- also, use the summary at the top of your resume to frame your qualifications for the type of job you’re applying for (the thing that has replaced “objective” statements). That can help spell out more explicitly what you’re trying to show in your resume.

      For you it might be “Experienced professional transitioning to administrative work from a teaching career. (Insert a line or two about your most relevant strengths here, like juggling competing demands from multiple stakeholders, balancing attention to detail with efficiency, etc.)”

      The cover letter has room for much more explanation and detail, but the framing of a general summary like that could be very helpful to people just reading your resume and wondering what Teaching has to do with Office Management. Now, how to rephrase “cat-herding experience” in professional language?

    3. Lilo*

      Yes, the cover letter here is HUGE. LW needs someone to, more or less, take a chance on them. They need to use the letter to sell themselves.

    4. MapleHill*

      #2 Agree with Jessica! You must have a strong cover letter and this is the place to explain to the reader how you fit in this job that you don’t have direct experience.

      I’ve gotten so many resumes from teachers this year and most don’t even include a cover letter or it’s just a reiteration of their resume. I’ve never been in education, so I’m just left to guess how being a teacher qualifies you for this job (and sometimes try to interpret the jargon). So if you haven’t already done so, read AAM’s advice on cover letters and craft a strong one. Also, go through the requirements and give examples of how you used/done those things. For example, don’t just say, I’m proficient in Excel, tell me how often you used it and what types of things you used it for. Talk about the many communication and timeline challenges you deal with and accountability to the school, things people not in education don’t think about. This will help hiring managers who may have no idea how you meet those qualifications decide that it’s worth taking the time to talk to you. I know that would be a huge help to me.

      Best of luck in the transition!

    5. Caraway*

      Yes! I’m hiring right now, and I’m very open to considering applicants without direct experience but with relevant skills. But when I get a resume with no cover letter, sometimes I can’t help but wonder if they really understand what this job is or if they meant to apply for a different position. Candidates who include a cover letter explaining why they’re interested and how their skills apply are doing both themselves and me a big favor.

    6. El l*

      Have you tried applying to education-adjacent companies? They might have a better feel for what you’re trying to do, and it might be a better use of your experience.

      As for rest – agree. If you’re switching fields, the cover letter is your best chance. Second the recommendation to talk to actual paralegals etc.

      Finally, as for meeting every single requirement – you don’t know that “not meeting everything” is why you’re not getting calls. Yeah, there are a few contexts (see the Gov ones named above) where you must meet a very specific list or goodbye. For the majority of others – talk about your experience level. If they say “3 years in this job required,” okay, then you can take them at your word. If it’s “3 years desired”, just apply, you’ll miss the shot you don’t make.

  20. noname*

    LW#1: No one in the comments has stated this, but it seems to me that your company was conducting an investigation into your team and they asked you to all not come in while they looked through your desks (and likely electronic files) as part of the investigation. If that’s the case, if they found what they thought they were looking for, that employee would have been fired. If the month is over and everyone is back in, they likely have concluded their investigation and cleared your team of any suspicion of wrongdoing. Your company allowed another employee to move into an office during that month that your team was told to stay home because there were “physical problems” with your office, so this seems like a hollow excuse and it’s likely there were no physical problems with your office space. Your company seems to be chaotic right now and you may wish to look for a new job.

    1. Letter Writer 1*

      Thanks to everyone who has commented so far and thanks to Alison. I have an update since I sent this:
      When some people pushed back on wanting to go into the office, the dept head relented and told us we could work out of the space because the issues weren’t actually in our office.

    2. WellRed*

      No one has stated it because it’s not helpful to the letter writer (we’re meant to offer advice, not spitball what ifs) and there’s nothing to indicate this scenario.

  21. AnonyNurse*

    OP2 — look into your city/county health department. They are often in need of managers — think immunization clinics and the like as well as outreach campaigns and sometimes even direct liaisons with schools/students. Your experience with kids will be an asset. And the “yes this is dumb but government …” won’t be as frustrating to a former teacher as someone coming from the private sector. We have two former teachers I can think of at my current public health org.

  22. Amy*

    Teacher – I work for one of the major players in K-12 publishing. We’re always hiring and there are many different types of roles.

    1. Y'all Come Back Now, Ya Hear?*

      Hi Amy!

      Are y’all/your industry always hiring for remote/hybrid roles? I’m very interested in project management or implementation management in the corporate setting but would love to stay education adjacent as a current middle/high school teacher, but I’m not sure that I can move right this very moment. Totally get if these are in-person roles, just trying to see what’s out there!

  23. Screen Porch Office*

    LW4 – one suggestion in wording (and mindset): you did NOT “get them to perform on par.” That makes you sound like a puppeteer or a dog trainer. Instead, try “At the end of the training, they were performing on par…”. See the difference? It’s not what you got them to do. It’s what they were able to do (on their own), as a result of the training you provided.

    1. Mockingjay*

      “As a sales expert, provided coaching to Sales Team for six months. Training covered product knowledge and demonstration, target sales communities (common industry and special customers), and practice sales calls. By the end of the training, sales had increased X%, including several new markets.”

      Explain what you did, the benefit the training was to provide, and the outcome of the training.

  24. Elizabeth A Abraham*

    #2 – I’ve seen reference to studies that show that women more often wait until they meet all qualifications for a job before applying, whereas men typically look to see that they have something like 60% of the qualifications. Don’t take yourself out of the running too fast because there are other people out there who will still apply despite not meeting 100% of the qualifications. That said, do focus your resume toward the important skills you have that do meet the qualifications and other things that would be valuable to the person in that role to put your best foot forward. It’s a definite no if you don’t apply but it’s possible they’ll say yes to you if you do.

    1. Rutherford B. Crazy*

      I regularly hire for the type of positions you’re looking for.

      If you’re trying to enter fields you’ve never worked in before, is there a reason you’re only looking for management positions instead of entry level jobs? You’d have much better chances with entry-level positions like administrative assistant. You might have to temporarily take a step down from your long-term goals, but it would help bridge the gap in your experience and make it easier to break into the level of work you’re looking for. I know it can be hard to feel like you have to “lower” yourself when you have a lot of experience and skills in your previous field, but it’s the reality when you have none of the experience being asked for in your new field. You could also look for courses/educational opportunities to get certifications that might help or find volunteer experience that would show potential employers you’re willing to proactively put the time into yourself to get up to speed.

      Barring that, if you only want to aim for “higher” level positions, you really need to nail your cover letters to sell yourself and explicitly explain why you’d succeed at this despite falling short on the requirements. Put yourself in the shoes of the person looking at your resume, think about what questions or doubts they might have, and try to get those out of the way upfront with your cover letter.

      I have a ton of resumes hit my desk, and I don’t have the time to try to put together a puzzle of a bunch of scattered pieces where I have a lot of questions about how everything adds up to what I’m looking for. When there are lots of qualified applicants, I also can’t take a chance on an applicant with a lot of question marks or unexplained potential problem areas. My biggest disappointment hiring is when I get a lackluster resume with no cover letter or a generic cover letter because they’re really shooting themselves in the foot.

      1. LW #2*

        Hi! Thank you for your reply and advice! I’ve only been applying to positions labeled entry level, but maybe I should categorize them for myself?

  25. Beth G*

    For letter writer #2: Have you altered your resume for each job listing? Sometimes a computer screens for specific phrases and if it sees none similar to the job posting, your resume gets kicked to the trash. For instance, my health department was desperate for bilingual nurses with a background in working with pregnant patients. The posted ad said “experience in maternal child health”. I encouraged my friend to apply. She had amazing experience and spoke Spanish. But she put “labor and delivery” instead of “maternal child health” and did not get a call for an interview.

    When I went to HR to ask why, that’s what they told me. Mind you, they were DESPERATE for help. But they refused to pull her resume back up. And I wasn’t asking for them to hire her, just look at her resume. Luckily (or unluckily) with turnover high, the job got posted again, I coached her on how to rewrite her resume, and she got hired. She has been there for many years, so it has a happy ending.

    There are websites like Jobscan that will cross reference your resume to the job listing and give guidance. I don’t feel like those are essential if you know how to phrase things differently to match the job description, but you can take a look at that.

  26. Letter Writer 1*

    (I accidentally posted this in a thread but wanted to post it generally.)
    Thanks to everyone who has commented so far and thanks to Alison. I have an update since I sent this:

    When some people pushed back on wanting to go into the office, the dept head relented and told us we could work out of the space because the issues weren’t actually in our office.

    1. ScruffyInternHerder*

      Every single bit of this is just weird. I’d probably be dusting off the resume, myself.

      There was tons of clear communication in my office around moves; I happened to have wound up in an office that was previously occupied by someone who opts to work remotely for 8 months of the year from warmer climes (of note: there is a “Remote Work is Not Acceptable” clause in our employee handbook; we can work remotely for a short time at our manager’s discretion, but its not “8 months of the year”). Due to my actual job duties, I was moved ::here:: while coworker was still out of town, because I was actually working on something confidential (again) and TPTB wanted me to have a locking office door. Coworker was given TWO months notice that he was being relocated and that if he wanted to pack his office, he needed to come in by X date. He responded by extending his return date, twice.

      Didn’t so much pack as swapped drawer for drawer on the desks (pulled out in their entirety), and physically swapped filing cabinets. And yet, months later, he still comes in here trying to look through (my) office furniture for things that are no longer here. Kicker – he claims that because we didn’t take pictures he can’t possibly be sure he has everything (huh?).

  27. Sssssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

    I’m gonna play Devil’s Advocate: It’s possible that trying to get everyone who was remote to pack up their desks in time for an anticipated repair or move was going to be too much of a challenge or it was announced too late so they got the “low-level employees” to do it. That could explain the “communication” issue. (Not saying it was the best plan though!)

    I worked at a place where everyone was expected to pack up their stuff as there was a huge move happening. I made sure, as the team admin, that my team was all packed up. The one dude on vacation, well, I had to pack up his stuff for him. A different admin had a team that thought packing up their own stuff was beneath them and that poor admin packed up several of her team’s desks.

    I have packed up the desks of “Oh, that guy was laid off,” “that guy had a spare desk here but never comes by” and “that guy finished his contract” in anticipation of another move. People do love to hoard office supplies.

    When I returned to the office part-time a few months ago, I had to pack up the stuff of the person I’m replacing so I could move into the office and have it feel like a new space and not like a shrine to her husband and sons. It felt weird to go thru all her stuff and box it up (three boxes of stuff ! Didn’t pack her space heater or her mini fridge) but man, the expired food, tea, insulin supplies, the Magic Bullet, photos, artwork, USB keys with her personal info on it (that I uncomfortably had to look on to check) and the huge hoard of office supplies, piles of dated no-longer-useful paper printouts PLUS dirty dishes was a day of productivity lost all in itself. Should this person come back and complain, I’ll point out that she had two years during the pandemic to come in and get her stuff and that the office belong to the employer.

    1. eeeek*

      Thanks for the reminder that I need to get back into my “drawer a day” habit to cull useless files, old tea, and personal items out of my office before I retire. I did make a point of going in during the pandemic and removing the really personal items, just in case I fell ill and someone else had to clean my office out. That saved someone from coming across spare undergarments and personal care items I kept for when I biked to work…

      1. Sssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

        Yeah! You’re welcome! During the shutdown, I did go in a couple of times to collect things to bring home to wash, or to eat at home, or to use up at home (I have a mini pharmacy going on in my desk).

    2. EvilQueenRegina*

      Ugh, flashbacks to an office move in a previous job. The date had changed so many times (I started in March that year and had been told, when offered the job in the February, that it would have already happened before I joined; it ended up being August), had some clear out days that May for anything that could be either archived, packed ready to go if it could be managed without in the meantime, or got rid of, but anything we were likely to need in the meantime had to wait until the actual move – in the end we didn’t have a lot of notice of the date, so I can quite easily believe the “announced too late” possibility. I ended up having to pack up the box of someone who was off at the time of the move.

      I can also relate to your coworker who had to pack lots of people’s stuff – in a different job I had the coworker who was reluctant to carry all the heavy boxes of files for archive/destruction and had to do all the lifting and carrying until getting our manager involved.

  28. WellRed*

    OP 3: it wouldn’t be totally egregious to reach out but please don’t. You don’t. Work. There. Move on and let the new person make the job their own. That’s how things should work.

  29. Esmeralda*

    OP #2: sometimes certain qualifications are completely non-negotiable. Even for entry level professional positions in my office, a minimum amount of direct experience is required (can be earned thru internships, as part of grad school requirements, etc) and a graduate edge are required. When I run a search, I review resumes for those two qualifications. A “no” for either one = do not consider further.

    If I “yes” such an application and request HR approval to consider further, they’re going to knock it back. And I’m going to look like an idiot with HR.

    This may be happening to you.

    1. eeeek*

      In our system, if we backtrack on minimum qualifications (and years of experience is usually “X amount minimum, X+Y preferred”) we have to repost in order to consider fairly any potential applicants who would be equally unable to meet the minimum. And, like Esmeralda, if we try to argue that an applicant who does not meet qualifications really somehow magically does, we will look like idiots to HR.
      But almost worse, if HR learns not to trust our judgment, the next time we argue for high-level qualifications, they will push back.

  30. Abigail*

    #3: substitute teach for a year while you get your paralegal certificate.

    Not requiring one by state law is very different from not preferring one.

    1. LW #2*

      Hi! Thank you for your reply. Based on the number of replies about being a paralegal, I probably should have clarified in my original letter(oops) – that is the category I am applying the least for. When I do apply for those positions, it is only because the job description mentions being willing to provide some training. If I do decide to pursue that long term, I will definitely look at getting my certificate. thank you!

  31. tennisfan*

    OP3, as Allison says, an offer to connect on LinkedIn with a very light message is at most what I might do.

    However, the fact that it’s been eight months would give me pause. That’s long enough that however your responsibilities have been handled in the meantime has led to enough change that whatever advice you might give is out of date. Or maybe even counterproductive. So even if the person took you up on your offer, I’d be cautious. Even you’re thinking “there’s no way this person, process or dynamic would have changed, my advice would still be relevant”, you’d be surprised. So personally, I’d just leave it be.

    1. LW#3*

      I’m super grateful to Alison for publishing my question and want to thank (up front) anyone who is taking the time to comment. I am listening and apprecaite your help in thinking this through!
      A few comments to add to the discussion:
      1. I’ve never had this come up. I’ve never been contacted by someone I replaced nor felt like reaching out to a replacement was appropriate. Obviosuly that is why so many people advise against it but also the reason for my uncertainty.
      2. The department and people that I left have been in a period of stasis. Yes they have been “holding down the fort”, but that’s about all that the company has been able to manage for 8 months. So the idea that a lot as changed about the role or the organizaiton is not the case.
      3. I would absolutely not be offended if the new manager did not take me up on my offer – or didn’t even respond. And found it interesting that one comment mentioned that in their experience only 25% take them up on the offer. That’s the type of perspecitve that I came for.

      1. River Otter*

        This site also gets letters where someone’s old office is reaching out to them for help!Usually the letter is about how to get that office to stop, but it sounds like you would welcome a reach out from your old office. So it is within the realm of possibility that they might reach out to you. If that happens and you are still interested in helping, then go for it. I would wait for that to happen rather than reaching out yourself.

  32. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    OP1: For a long while, I was working out of the country, but I still had my office in company HQ because I’d come back for a few weeks every 2 months or so, and the company wasn’t short of office space. But every now and then, they’d need to shuffle space around so that expanding teams could sit close to each other.

    So I half-way jokingly would go visit the facilities guys the first day I got back to the US and ask “so where’s my office now?” They would pack my stuff up, and then mostly unpack it (they’d leave decorating to me). I never worried that they would see something confidential or personal: we did a lot of Pentagon contracting, and so everybody had the habit of not prying and of being discrete about anything they did see.

    So my opinion on the stuff being boxed up is “it’s not an outrage”. And frankly, taking the photo is a good thing, especially if they used an outside moving company to do the work. That’s what moving companies (and rental car companies, etc) do these days; take photographs to eliminate disputes about the state of the property.

  33. Riot Grrrl*

    #4 No particular advice, but I am glad to see OP taking the issue of “we/us” vs. “you” seriously. I’ve had people on a couple of teams throughout my working life who never abandoned the “you” or “you all/you guys” language even many months (or years) into being on the team, as in: “It’s weird how you guys do filing. I would do reverse date order.” “Are you all having a holiday party this year?” It’s always a signal to me that the person does not feel like–or perhaps does not want to be seen as–part of the team.

    1. Delta Delta*

      I had a job in municipal government about 20 years ago, and one of my tasks was to coordinate a city-wide file purge of expired files (after consulting the city attorney about records retention, of course!). It was initially called “Clean Your Files Day” but my manager wanted us to call it “Clean OUR Files Day” so it felt more like a full team effort. It felt subtle, but has stuck with me all this time. I rather liked it, and find myself trying to use language that way when it feels applicable.

    2. Smithy*

      I started my current job during COVID while working 100% remote, and noticed major challenges in switching my we/us language. Personally, I think it had a lot to do with the fact that my physical office hadn’t changed and inevitably I was spending less time with my new coworkers than if I was physically around them in an office.

      Now, the OP being at a library may not have quite the extent of the remote work being at fault, but I will also add that I’m the type that when I start a slip of the tongue fretting about it doesn’t exactly help me stop it sooner. What I chose to do in the interim, while making sure I corrected myself every time and apologized if it felt warranted, is to really prioritize going to every and all team bonding/social event that was thrown. No matter how weird the Zoom event was, it was a good way for me to show I was looking to connect but also to personally acknowledge that part of my slowness in making the transition was that I didn’t quite yet feel like I was part of the team.

      1. Riot Grrrl*

        This strikes me as a very sincere and aware self-appraisal. I think people can tell when you’re working on it, even if it’s not going perfectly smoothly all the time. I’m sure people appreciate that.

        1. Smithy*

          That was what I was going for!

          I get that for many that those types of team building/team bonding/social events can be silly or feel unimportant – but there are times where for different people at different times, they really can be important. And when it feels like you keep on referring to yourself as being a member of your old team and not your new team….being self aware of that and taking a few different steps to correct for it felt important. Especially in a job that was at a more senior level.

  34. Moi*

    Op 1, the company was in the wrong. People have a reasonable expectation of privacy of their desk contents. It is fairly common for people to store emergency medication and hygiene products discretely in their desk. You should have been given the option of cleaning out your desk yourselves.

    1. Mockingjay*

      I am going to disagree. Every company I have worked for made it clear in employee orientation and/or the employee handbook that if you occupy company spaces, 1) personal property is allowed for your convenience but the company assumes no responsibility for those items, and 2) inspection of and changes to company premises, including desks or cabinets containing personal items can be conducted as necessary.

      I’ve been through multiple company moves. While for the most part I’ve had advance notice, sometimes things got packed simply because of the timetable involved to move quickly and get equipment set back up to minimize business disruption. I had tampons in my desk drawer which I tried to grab. The guy moving my desk shrugged and said, “no big deal – it’s just a natural part of life. Any other boxes I need to grab?”

    2. Eldritch Office Worker*

      While that is common, it’s done at your own risk. Your office and your desk are company property and you have no expectation of privacy. Personal items should be returned to people if they’re laid off, but there’s no expectation of privacy.

    3. MCMonkeyBean*

      Everywhere I’ve worked you explicitly do *not* have any expectation of privacy of your desk contents.

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      People have a reasonable expectation of privacy of their desk contents.
      This isn’t true.

      Possibly in the social sense of “My coworker cannot go through my desk to try and turn up dirt on me for thrills.” But not in the social sense that no one on legit company business would go through your desk, much less a legal sense.

      (I occasionally see “expectation of anonymous commenting” cited by people who are sure it’s a legal principle, and it is not.)

    5. Nancy*

      This has not be true for any org I have worked at. Don’t leave anything in or on your desk that you are not ok with someone potentially seeing.

    6. fhqwhgads*

      There is no reasonable expectation of privacy at work, unless you’re in a restroom.
      People do a thing they want to be private != reasonable expectation of privacy.

    7. Moi*

      Maybe it’s a regional difference as I’m passing from outside of the USA.

      Either way, good managers know that employees who feel they are appreciated and supported are more productive and stay longer than upset employees. It seems like they needlessly angered their employees.

  35. RagingADHD*

    LW2, I am not being snarky here but giving you a dose of realism.

    The fact that you believe your duties as described are sufficient experience to qualify you as a paralegal, or even an EA, shows exactly why experience is necessary for those positions. You have fallen victim to a bit of Dunning-Kruger syndrome here. You don’t know what you don’t know.

    If you want to get into law firms, go for a small practice or solo practitioner who needs a jack-of-all-trades secretary/office manager/receptionist. The pay isn’t great, but they are usually willing to cross train and be flexible about qualifications. Then you can learn from the resident paralegal. The fact that the state doesn’t have formal certification doesn’t mean there is nothing else to know. It means you need to train informally.

    If you want to be an EA, go for a corporate junior admin situation where you can be in a support pool or work with a team. Spend some time seeing what an EA does firsthand.

    I feel the need to point out that your assumption that you could walk into a role with no relevant knowledge or experience shows a good bit of disrespect for the people who work in these roles. Being a generalist rather than a specialist doesn’t require *less* knowledge or skill. It requires a broader base of knowledge, and more varied skills.

    1. LW #2*

      Hi. Thank you for your reply. Based on the number of replies about being a paralegal, I probably should have clarified in my original letter(oops) – that is the category I am applying the least for. When I do apply for those positions, it is only because the job description mentions being willing to provide some training(same for the EA/OM positions I’ve applied for).
      In response to your last paragraph, I am certainly aware that I will not know everything about those jobs. My argument is not that my previous job required more knowledge than the ones I’m pursuing now – I do not believe that. Rather, I believe that I did attain some skills in my previous career that can be transferred to a new position – but I am very aware it will not be all encompassing.

      1. RagingADHD*

        Okay, who is hearing your argument? Not the people who *aren’t calling you for interviews.*

        You can believe whatever you want and make any kind of rationalization you want. I’m trying to tell you how to get interviews, and potentially get jobs, in the fields you are looking to enter.

        It’s a lot easier and more productive to get in at a lower level and train up than to bang your head against a wall with no responses, as you seem to be doing now.

        1. LW #2*

          It does make sense to me to train up, as you referred to. I will certainly look into some of the positions you described.
          I apologize if my reply seemed argumentative – I was trying to communicate that I was not naive enough to assume I could “walk into a role” or being disrespectful. When I started searching for jobs in this area, I knew I was unlikely to be hired quickly or in lieu of someone with direct experience. On the contrary, I understand that if I am hired for a role in these positions the company will essentially be taking a chance on me, and I am appreciative of that.
          To be frank, I expected a lot of rejections but had hoped I would make it to a few screener interviews, as I felt that I could better explain my strengths and suitability for the position in that format. It’s that juxtaposition that has me discouraged.

          1. Wisteria*

            How are your cover letters? Those are the place to lay out how your current experience transfers, with more detail if you make it to a first interview.

  36. umami*

    OP3- Please don’t reach out to the new hire. I actually had this almost happen, the person who left the role had been there 10 years and was so certain they were a rock star and could be a great resource to new hire (she reached out to me to offer first, luckily). But I wanted the role to go in a very different direction – I had been trying to get the old person to evolve the role when I came on 4 years ago, but she was just too locked into how the job had always been before. So her interference would not have been helpful in letting new hire to evolve the role the way it needed to. You might be well-intentioned, but if the supervisor thinks your help would be of value, they will let you know. It wouldn’t be appropriate to insert yourself otherwise.

    1. LW#3*

      I’m super grateful to Alison for publishing my question and want to thank (up front) anyone who is taking the time to comment. I am listening and apprecaite your help in thinking this through!
      I’ve never had this come up. I’ve never been contacted by someone I replaced nor felt like reaching out to a replacement was appropriate. Obviosuly that is why so many people advise against it but also the reason for my uncertainty.
      I really apprecaite your direct experience with this and found it interesting that one comment mentioned that in their experience only 25% take them up on the offer. That’s the type of advice that I came for so thank you.

      1. Lady_Lessa*

        To support your not doing it. At one of my last jobs, I overlapped with the woman who was retiring for a month, but she never taught me the things that I really needed to know. She had spent most of her career with one chemistry and it was one that I had never even thought about. But other than saying we know this by how a material feels, that is pretty useless to another person. Think a Abyssinian cat groomer suddenly going to Persians.

  37. Risha*

    LW 2…go ahead and apply. Shoot your shot, so to speak. The worst they can do is not call you back. I’m an RN and I’ve applied for higher level jobs where the only qualification I’ve met from the job description is my RN license. One of them actually hired me (but I left after several years due to high stress). I think they put in what they desire but they do realize (I hope) that most people won’t have every single thing they are looking for.

    I’m guessing you’re a woman or female presenting person since you’re a special ed teacher and most are women (I apologize if I’m wrong). Us women tend to sell ourselves short and second guess ourselves a lot in our careers. Keep applying even if you only meet one of their qualifications. Hell, apply even if you meet none. Good luck to you!

    1. Aggretsuko*

      I really haven’t had any luck in applying for things in my industry where I don’t have 100% of the qualifications already. Like you can try, but having expectations…

      That said, I’m surprised they’re giving you so much trouble trying to get into teaching since I keep hearing that teachers are leaving the profession like rats on a sinking ship.

  38. Critical Rolls*

    LW4, I think your awareness of you/we is great, and this is an issue that will correct with that awareness over time. However, if “how other branch does it” is coming up that much, it’s possible there is a lot of inconsistency between the branches in your system. There are areas where that’s fine, and areas where it’s better for everyone to be on the same page. Give some thought to what might improve with more standard procedures, and who might be in a position to encourage that.

  39. PersephoneUnderground*

    OP#3- The context where this offer would make the most sense/ be most welcomed is probably in tech. If you wrote important code and the new person might benefit from the ability to ask you questions about it if they run into areas where people relied on your legacy knowledge, then by all means make the offer! It also could be helpful or maybe more proper to reach out to your old employer to let them know you heard they recently filled the position and you’re open to being an occasional resource for legacy codebase knowledge to the new person. I benefited from an arrangement like this myself (on the new employee side), so it’s less unusual in tech.

  40. Sacred Ground*

    Op3: Whether to offer assistance to the new person in your old role seems to depend on whether that assistance would be welcome or not and you have no way to know that. So maybe, since you say you’re still in touch with your old team, reach out to your old boss (assuming you’re on good terms) and let them know you’re willing to help out the new person with advice and counsel if they’d want it. Your former boss could then casually pass on your contact info and offer to the new person as a possible resource which they can access: “If you have any particularly hard questions or problems, this person who had your position before for six years has said she’s available to offer advice, here’s her number if you think it would help. Otherwise, rock on with your bad self.”

    1. Sacred Ground*

      On the other hand, the boss may want the new person to come to them with questions rather than reach out to you. Either way, you’d communicate your availability for help to someone who knows you and is in a better position to judge its usefulness rather than to a total stranger.

    2. LW#3*

      I’m super grateful to Alison for publishing my question and want to thank (up front) anyone who is taking the time to comment. I am listening and apprecaite your help in thinking this through!
      I’ve never had this come up. I’ve never been contacted by someone I replaced nor felt like reaching out to a replacement was appropriate. Obviosuly that is why so many people advise against it but also the reason for my uncertainty.
      I also would not be surprised or offended if my replacement declined or even didn’t respond.
      I really apprecaite your approach and I am on good terms with my former boss. I found it interesting that one comment mentioned that in their experience only 25% take them up on the offer. That’s the type of advice that I came for so thank you.

  41. Delta Delta*

    #2 – I’d suggest applying, as long as you have most of the skills. If it’s something really specific to the job, like hazmat certification or a medical degree, and you don’t have those things, don’t apply. But if it’s a skill you can either develop with some training, or one where you believe you have transferrable skills, apply and explain in your cover letter.

  42. MCMonkeyBean*

    For #4, I wouldn’t worry too much about the language–if you are talking about things you only know about because you were there doing them yourself then it’s not like “we” is inaccurate, because you were part of it!

    I agree with Alison that the frequency may be more of a concern. It can be a hard line to walk! When people bring in a new hire, their experience in other places is often part of the draw so it’s good to share knowledge acquired! I know I switched teams within a company and they use a lot of the same software and do kind of similar things but my new team was *way* less organized, so part of what they wanted was for me to bring over ideas from how my old team did things.

    My boss was hired shortly after I joined this new team and she has tons of experience in our niche field. It’s now been almost two years and she still says “at my old place we did it like X” a LOT. And some of it is useful, but it almost boils down to the fact that how they did things was simpler and our company is bigger and has more complications so it often comes across more as a complaint than a helpful suggestion. She’s very good at her job and has has a lot of helpful ideas to make things better but I admit I do internally roll my eyes when she says it now because it is too often and for too long.

    To some extent a useful language shift might be to leave your old employer out of it sometimes. Instead of “at my old job we did X” maybe just say “we could consider trying X.” Not all the time, because sometimes it’s useful to have the full context to say like hey this is a thing they did and there is a track record of success from it. But for a lot of thoughts/ideas I bet the old place might not be necessary to the suggestion at all.

  43. Erin*

    #4 oof. I have been in this same spot, and it can be hard! I was also conscious of not being the person that always refers back to Job X & how it functioned vs. New Job.

    When I did go there, I started catching myself, and quickly stating out loud “but we aren’t at Job X, and I know that” or something similar to communicate to my coworkers (and myself!) that I understand that things are different in New Job. I also just asked one of the people at New Job if they would remind me that we are not at Job X if I ever went down the path. Thankfully, I was able to moderate myself fairly quickly this way. Good luck!

  44. Sacred Ground*

    OP1: Your first sentence, “My team has gone through a number of reorgs in the past year, resulting in some of us changing reporting lines twice and six folks getting laid off,” sums up the problem.

    This is a company that is going down and the people in charge have no idea how to stop it. Never mind the desks. Never mind how secure is your own position in the company. The company itself is not secure; nobody’s job is safe there.

    Start job searching immediately. Don’t let yourself be distracted by things like this. There’s much larger problems here than people going through the desks.

    1. Curmudgeon in California*

      Yeah, they are reorging, moving people around with sporadic layoffs as if they were rearranging desk chairs on the Titanic. I suggest you hit the lifeboat soon.

      Drain circling is going on.

  45. pierrot*

    To LW2: I have actually been in a similar boat with wanting to pursue work as a paralegal with zero experience in the field. One of my parents is a lawyer so he asked his firm’s office manager (basically the manager of the paralegals) about what people hiring in the field are generally looking for in terms of certification or experience. The office manager strongly suggested that I take an ABA approved paralegal certificate course, so I am about to start one in a couple of weeks (and to be clear, I will not be working at my dad’s law firm as they have a very strict no nepotism policy which is a good thing). From my understanding, not all law firms require it, but a number of them do and it is definitely a good thing to pursue if you don’t have paralegal experience. If you look at listings for paralegal jobs, a lot of them require knowledge and experience using certain software programs that are specific to the legal field. This is also was what made me realize that taking courses would be necessary.

    I live in a city with a particularly large number of law firms, and some law firms do hire people with no experience in paralegal work, but a lot of those listings specify that they are looking for more recent college graduates. I’ve spoken to my dad about this, and he said that some law firms have paralegal positions that they basically see as opportunities for recent college graduates who are looking to do paralegal work for a couple of years before they go to law school.

    1. LW #2*

      Hi! Thank you for your reply. Based on the number of replies about being a paralegal, I probably should have clarified in my original letter(oops) – that is the category I am applying the least for. When I do apply for those positions, it is only because the job description mentions being willing to provide some training. If I do decide to pursue that long term, I will definitely look at getting my certificate, thank you!

  46. Julia*

    Ok I feel like I am absolutely drinking crazy juice here, but I swear I’ve read letter 3 here before. Google turns up nothing. Anyone know what I’m talking about?

  47. Frankie*

    If I was in the shoes of the new hire for OP3’s company the last thing I would want is a manager who left months ago coming in. It sounds like OP3 is super attached to the role and I consider it a red flag that they would be interested. I would assume as the new hire the next step would be OP3 coming to coach me on what I am doing wrong. OP3 – your old job is a terrible hobby, there are better one.

  48. Lilo*

    For LW2, the thing is I think you need to demonstrate some commitment to a new job rather than it seem like you’re just throwing stuff at the wall. You can do this a bit in a cover letter, but maybe some classes either on office management or paralegal work. I have to tell you while, yes, you prepared some legal documents as part of being a teacher, being a paralegal really is different.

    1. LW #2*

      Hi! Thank you for your reply. Based on the number of replies about being a paralegal, I probably should have clarified in my original letter(oops) – that is the category I am applying the least for. When I do apply for those positions, it is only because the job description mentions being willing to provide some training. If I do decide to pursue that long term, I will definitely look at getting my certificate, thank you!

  49. Cube Farmer*

    If there’s one thing that AAM has reminded me, over and over, is that you can’t expect privacy at work.
    Still, the packing situation sounds messed up. The company seemed within its rights to do that, but my “Spidey Sense” would be a’tingling if it were my desk (or cube!) that was packed and moved like that.

  50. A Yellow Plastic Duck*

    I can’t count the number of job ads I’ve read that are looking for 5 years experience in a software package that has only been out for two or required something like Google Sheets. You’ve been working with Microsoft Excel for 10 years, but no Google Sheets experience counts you out?

    Most job ads are a laundry list of what the perfect candidate would look like. The unicorn candidate; the candidate that doesn’t exist.

    There are core skills and there are trainable skills. Try to determine the core skills and see if you have those or if your current skills are transferable.

    Recruiters do themselves a disservice by not breaking skills into must-have and good-to-have sections (and keeping the must-have to a minimum).

    Don’t worry about applying to positions where you aren’t the perfect candidate (or even near perfect). Odds are they aren’t getting any applicants that come close to being the perfect candidate.

    Hiring is usually about making compromises. Sometimes you hire the less skilled on paper candidate because: better team fit, better long term prospects, or just a gut feeling.

  51. cubone*

    #3 makes me think of the last two jobs I left. Both on good terms, but the first was much more due to dysfunction vs just a personal change for the second.

    For the first job, I never reached out but I really wanted to. It was such a chaotic workplace and I kept thinking about what that person who be entering and wanting to “help”. I think I also anticipated that it was very likely any issues in the portfolio would be waved away as my inadequacies (when I had brought them up a lot and asked for the right tools/support to handle them, to no avail) and I wanted to explain the work I did. It became really clear to me that my desire to reach out was about ME, not them – as much as I thought “it’d be to help them, tell them about this confusing thing” etc etc., it was because *i* felt like that stuff was important. Basically: I needed to let go.

    The second time I did what other folks have mentioned and let my boss/colleagues know I’d be comfortable being contacted by the new hire, putting the ball in their court. I liked the job, but it was a small team and not well documented training/lots of history that impacted different relationships. The previous person had done that for me and it ended up being genuinely very helpful. They never reached out but my former colleagues did once or twice and I was happy to help.

    Point being: I think you have to really self reflect and figure out what you hope to get out of this and if it’s just “to be helpful to someone”.. maybe go a little deeper?

    1. GlazedDonut*

      Oh boy–that second one sounds like the job I just left. It was a lot of work done on my own/not cross-trained with anyone else. I tried to create TONS of documentation in the 4+ weeks before I left for another office within the same organization.
      I told the new hire I’d be happy to answer questions, and even set up a meeting after I left so we could both have it on our calendars and I could answer any lingering questions.
      The problem is that she’s been messaging me nearly-daily to ask questions. It usually takes me hours to respond–since my new role is very busy. I do not get the impression her boss/my old boss knows she’s reaching out so often.
      It feels like I extended an olive branch and she yanked out the whole tree. Oof.

  52. Lauren19*

    LW1 — to me the outrage isn’t the moving, it’s the lack of communication. The day I came back from maternity leave I walked into my office . . . and it wasn’t my office anymore. They had hired someone new (at my level but not on my team) while I was out. New hire decided he didn’t like the office they had for him so the solution was to move me to the bad office and give him mine. Um, what? And that was the least egregious thing they did to me during my leave. After six years there, I was gone in a matter of months post mat leave.

  53. Cacofonix*

    #1: As a contractor who never leaves personal items at the office and can pack everything up in 10 minutes at any time, this action by your employer is highly suspect, including their gaslighting response to your query about it. Their call to do it, but way to erode trust. I’d go immediately into guarded mode and start looking for other employment. If a transparent, plausible explanation came later, I would reevaluate of course.

    #3: Missed perspective – If I were the incoming manager, I’d find it exceedingly odd for the previous manager to reach out to offer assistance *6 years* after they last worked there. A lot can change in the organization in that time. Keeping up with old workmates doesn’t suffice for that kind of insight. Maybe if I knew you as the previous manager well, I’d entertain a coffee, but would filter anything you say with many grains of salt, and wait longer than 2 weeks unless I were really struggling and needed advice now.

  54. Humble Schoolmarm*

    OP4: It’s customary where I am for new teachers to do a series of 1 year contracts before becoming permanent. I did them for four years, and every one had a cycle like what you’re describing. Since I was forced to move because my contract ended the cycle was something like Sept-Nov: I miss my old school! I hate it here! Everything was better the way we did it there! Nov – Jan: Hunh, that’s different, Feb-May : We have some good things going here. June: Nooooooo! I don’t want to leaveeeee!
    All this to say, you should get better at us and we with time and an open mind. I found that making it through the big traditional things at the new place (for me exams, for you summer reading club maybe) made it a lot easier to get used to the new job.
    Also, when I was in the not belonging part of the cycle (roughly Sept – Jan), I was always really careful to keep my “But we do things differently/better at the Zoolander School for Kids Who Don’t Read Good” comments strictly to myself. That helped change my mindset too.

  55. Sam L.*

    For #2 – I work in the education space, and have helped loads of former educators make a career shift.

    I would consider specifically applying to organizations that are mission-driven non-profits in areas adjacent to the work you’ve been doing – in education, supporting high needs or marginalized populations, etc. When you apply to admin-type roles at organizations with a really strong mission in an area that’s adjacent to the work you’ve done, you’ll definitely stand out!

    Consider there are three ways you can be a strong fit for a role: 1) You have the desired skillset, 2) you have the desired experience, and 3) you have a strong connection to their mission. Some organizations don’t care about 3, which means applying to those organizations you’ll only ever be half of what they’re looking for. For organizations that do care about 3, then you’re 2/3rds of the way there! It’s so much easier to paint a picture of why you’re a perfect fit when you have a strong connection to the work being done. That + being able to demonstrate your skillset (even without “on paper” related years of experience) will help you stand out.

    At my current organization (a non-profit doing work supporting schools), many of our admin hires have some school-adjacent experiences and connect very strongly with our mission.

    1. LW #2*

      Hi! Thank you for your reply. This is a great point and I will look into those opportunities in my area!

  56. CheetoFingers*

    OP#2, I’m a technical writer and have worked for banks and fintechs. We love hiring teachers because they are quick learners, hard workers, and know how to present things in different ways for different audiences. I am not sure how open you are to non-administrative roles, but if so, that might be an option. You might need samples- check out a blog called I’d Rather Be Writing if you need help getting started.
    I was also an admin in a past life for a commercial office building my company managed. Definitely play up classroom management, multitasking, dealing with parents (those are your stakeholders), and compliance. I suspect, though, the issue might be that they think you’re over qualified. A lot of people underestimate admin work. They shouldn’t! It’s hard!

  57. Rutherford B. Crazy*

    I regularly hire for the type of positions you’re looking for.

    If you’re trying to enter fields you’ve never worked in before, is there a reason you’re only looking for management positions instead of entry level jobs? You’d have much better chances with entry-level positions like administrative assistant. You might have to temporarily take a step down from your long-term goals, but it would help bridge the gap in your experience and make it easier to break into the level of work you’re looking for. I know it can be hard to feel like you have to “lower” yourself when you have a lot of experience and skills in your previous field, but it’s the reality when you have none of the experience being asked for in your new field. You could also look for courses/educational opportunities to get certifications that might help or find volunteer experience that would show potential employers you’re willing to proactively put the time into yourself to get up to speed.

    Barring that, if you only want to aim for “higher” level positions, you really need to nail your cover letters to sell yourself and explicitly explain why you’d succeed at this despite falling short on the requirements. Put yourself in the shoes of the person looking at your resume, think about what questions or doubts they might have, and try to get those out of the way upfront with your cover letter.

    I have a ton of resumes hit my desk, and I don’t have the time to try to put together a puzzle of a bunch of scattered pieces where I have a lot of questions about how everything adds up to what I’m looking for. When there are lots of qualified applicants, I also can’t take a chance on an applicant with a lot of question marks or unexplained potential problem areas. My biggest disappointment hiring is when I get a lackluster resume with no cover letter or a generic cover letter because they’re really shooting themselves in the foot.

  58. At lunch*

    LW2 if you are especially interested in paralegal work, you might have better luck with a firm that specializes in education law. They would still need to teach you quite a bit related to being a paralegal, but your existing knowledge would be attractive and useful to them.

    1. LW #2*

      Hi! Thank you for your reply. Based on the number of replies about being a paralegal, I probably should have clarified in my original letter(oops) – that is the category I am applying the least for. When I do apply for those positions, it is only because the job description mentions being willing to provide some training. I may look into educational law firms though, thank you!

  59. Don't do it*

    LW2 I would discourage you from becoming a paralegal. It’s a dead end unless you go to law school. You will never be given credit for your hard work. The salary will not meet what is required to do the job. It’s high pressure, high demand and low control.

    1. LW #2*

      Hi! Thank you for your reply. Based on the number of replies about being a paralegal, I probably should have clarified in my original letter(oops) – that is the category I am applying the least for.

  60. Ladycrim*

    I had a similar problem to LW4. I left a company after 21 years to take a position at a sibling company whose alphanumeric name was identical except for one digit. So not only was I struggling with “We/they” and “You/us,” but I kept accidentally saying the former company’s name and mistyping my e-mail. Took about 3-4 months, but I was able to rewire my brain.

    (My talking about my old office was because I had to learn what was the same and what was different in the new office’s procedures, so there was a lot of asking me if I had done certain things before.)

  61. Provolone Piranha*

    LW2 – hello from a recently transitioned teacher! After a couple months with nothing but rejection, I added a couple sentences in my cover letter saying, “As you can see on my resume, I spent the past # years as a teacher. While this may not be the background you would expect for a [position name], I have no doubt that my skills will transfer seamlessly to [company name] because…” I don’t think that was *the* thing that made the difference and got me more interviews, but it certainly helped.

    Also, godspeed in your transition. Alison, you could do a whole post on transitioning teachers. We’re (sadly) an ever-growing group.

    1. LW #2*

      Hi, thank you for your reply! Yes, based on the comment section I am definitely going to begin addressing it directly in my cover letters.

  62. DJ*

    Was concerned that LW no 1 (packing up desks, taking photos) referred to the workers asked to do the packing and take the photographs as “low level workers” instead of workers. Also “management defended his admins who did this” when in facts they were directed to do this so isn’t the person who directed the workers to do this the one is responsible and perhaps needs “defending”.

  63. Former_Employee*

    It seems as if the supposed physical problems with the office excuse was a lie, given the following:

    “When one of my colleagues went in to retrieve personal items, all of our desks had been packed, and one of my colleague’s offices had been given to another person who had already moved in.”

    How would the office have been safe for someone else to come in and move into one of the offices, but not safe for the people who worked in the that area to go in and get their things?

    The only time my desk got packed up and moved for me was when the company I worked for was actually moving to another location and I couldn’t do my own packing because I was recuperating at home after being released from the hospital!

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