it’s your Friday good news

It’s your Friday good news!

1.  “I’ve been a religious reader of your blog since I finished my PhD and stumbled into the ‘real’ world more than a decade ago. Without your advice I’m not sure I would have:

1) applied for a UK Civil Service job that had 3000 applicants for 5 available posts,
2) made it past assorted screenings and assessments and interviews (at both of which I received a lot of praise for my covering letter, which explicitly and clearly explained why I thought I had a shot at a massive industry switch),
3) and then become an unanimous top pick by using the ‘do you have any questions for us?’ part of the second, more formal interview to unleash the magic question (which I paired with ‘are there any concerns about my candidacy that I could address for you?’).

When I asked those questions, I literally saw my interview panel perk up again towards the end of a pretty intense 90 minutes, and engage with me with renewed enthusiasm.

What makes all of this more surreal is that the Queen died an hour after I finished my second interview, and so, everything came to a juddering halt during the official mourning period. (I am moving from an Institution that holds Royal Charter status, so I can tell you that Sleeping Beauty’s castle probably felt more lively than the atmosphere in the office during those 10 days.) And yet, I went from application to job offer in… literally 4 weeks, when I hadn’t expected to hear anything (if at all) for literal months.

For the first time in my decade of non-academia professional life, I also, to my further disbelief, received a strong counter-offer. I heard your voice very strongly in my head about why not to accept one, though, and I turned it down gently but firmly. I am learning more and more that it is possible to love what you do, really believe in your organisation’s work, really really like most of the people you work with, and still want to defenestrate specific people and projects. I have run out of steam to fight specific systemic issues, and more money wouldn’t fix that. And I wouldn’t have known any of this, or been able to articulate it, without you.

My career trajectory isn’t linear – in some ways, I’m completely making it up as I go from a humanities PhD, to legal publishing, to civil engineering project management to the civil service (and 10 years and 4 promotions), but at least with your books on my Kindle and your blog in my favourites bar, I can do my best not to be THAT colleague or manager who is the subject of so many emails to you.”

2.  “About a year and a half ago, I realized (for several reasons) I was sick of living in my state and wanted to move back to the east coast. Problem was/is, I’m in a tricky spot in my career where I don’t have my license yet but I’m too experienced for entry level work. My company has several offices across the country, and I thought maybe it’d be worth asking to transfer since it would keep me on track.

Wow, did that kick off an internal discussion! Despite our size, the only transfers had been to start up a new office or department. I was the first layperson to ask to move. Thankfully, my boss and grandboss were incredibly supportive and really tried to work with the other office to make it work. Unfortunately, the company was in a period of low contracts, and the transfer got put on hold.

Fast forward to 3 months ago, and the department head of the office reached out to my boss and said, ‘We have someone here looking to switch roles and it’s going to open a spot; is X still willing to transfer?’

YES! Yes, I was! It was whirlwind couple of months of getting everything packed, finding a new apartment, and then driving across the country with cats in the backseat, but I made it! And just in time to see the leaves change too!

The work I’ve switched into is a big change, but it’s the sort of work I like doing and have wanted to train in anyway. My new boss has been very patient with me as I adapt to new state standards, and my department head has been checking in to make sure I feel supported. I’m sort of the ‘proof of concept’ that moving talent around will strengthen the company, so that’s a little stressful, but the amount of relief I feel to finally be someplace I like overshadows that. It’s amazing how much more interested I am in my job now that I like where I live!”

3.  “I have spent most of my career in the clerical ranks at a large university in the Midwest. In the late 1980s I was taking a teacher training course part-time and working as a general departmental secretary. My supervisor asked me to shift into the student services office at about the same time that I was due for my student teaching semester. I chose the student teaching, then moved away to take a teaching job. It soon became obvious that my skill set and interests lay in office work. Two years after quitting to do my student teaching, I got rehired by the university as a medical secretary.

Over the course of the next 30 years, I did secretarial/administrative assistant work in a variety of settings. On occasion, I’d look at the postings for student services work, but I simply didn’t have the work experience. Then the pandemic hit along with a hiring freeze. My department had posted a student services position just before the pandemic and couldn’t follow through on the process; however, the work still needed to be done. What didn’t need to be done was the event planning I’d been doing. I offered to help out with the student services work, and that offer was gratefully accepted.

After two years of learning on the job, I was promoted a month ago into a student services position. I bring to this job 34 years worth of administrative and people skills, and I could not be happier. This is the job from which I hope to retire in a few years. It was worth the wait.”

{ 30 comments… read them below }

      1. Storm in a teapot*

        I’m going to spend all weekend trying to use the word defenstrate…

        Brilliant post OP1 and totally with you on the strange atmosphere that was the mourning period. It felt heavy and I think Sleeping Beauty’s castle pretty much nails it.

        1. OP 1*

          I’m commenting here to say that my spouse and I are sitting here laughing out loud at everyone’s responses to my use of ‘defenestrate’ in my letter. It is one of those memorable words that I seem to have passed on not just to my (now ex) colleagues, but to friends and family, and their colleagues. If you’re in the UK and there’s a sudden spike in the use of this word around you, I’m afraid I’m to blame.

          1. Spikygiles*

            Fantastic letter OP1, and can I say 1) totally agree re: national mourning – we all had to wear “sombre” outfits for the 10 days so my dark laundry got totally out of control, and 2) welcome to the labyrinthine hilarity of the UK civil Service! I’ve been working here for 3 years, and it certainly has its share of red tape and silly quirks… but can honestly say I work with the smartest, funniest people ever and so far have had zero compulsion to eject any of them via window.

  1. Volunteer Enforcer*

    Yay what great news from all the OPs! Gives me new hope that I can eventually love work again.

  2. Scott*

    #2 – This is awesome and, ngl, I got a little misty-eyed reading how great your company is taking care of you.

    1. OP2*

      They’ve really been good to me! I won’t say we’re without our issues because there’s definitely been some problems in the time I’ve been here, but we got a new CEO before Covid and he’s been making a lot of solid changes. And, terrifyingly, he knows me by name since he had final approval of my transfer!

  3. HugsAreNotTolerated*

    Can we talk about the absolute GOLD that is #1’s writing?
    I feel like this sentence is one that should go down in AAM’s historic lore alongside Wakeen and the “I quit” in Cod.

    I am learning more and more that it is possible to love what you do, really believe in your organisation’s work, really really like most of the people you work with, and still want to defenestrate specific people and projects.

    I would like LW#1 to mentor me so that one day I too will be worthy of using defenestrate in a compound sentence in the correct context.

  4. Wordnerd*

    Agree that LW1’s writing style is compelling and funny! I did do a double take and thought you’d said “your blog in my favourite bar” meaning you visited your local pub just to read AAM.

    Congrats to all our FGN letter writers!

    1. OP3*

      Thank you. It’s fun being in late career and doing work I love in a field that matters. I also love the wit and wisdom of OP1 and OP2

  5. Johannes Bols*

    I saw ‘religious reader’ as ‘religious LEADER.’ Time to focus my eyes on something else! Ha!

  6. Emily Dickinson*

    I paired the magic question with “are there any concerns you have about my candidacy” in my last interview as well. It was a good combo, and it was nice to get immediate feedback about how the interview had gone!

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