updates: I’m drowning in work, the fan accounts, and more

It’s “where are you now?” month at Ask a Manager, and all December I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past. Here are three updates from past letter-writers.

There will be more posts than usual this week, so keep checking back throughout the day.

1. I’m drowning in work (#2 at the link)

I wrote to you back in late 2019 when I was completely overwhelmed at work. Your advice helped me reset my personal expectations, and I stopped caring quite as much about the things not getting done (which was a good thing because a couple of the senior folks ramped up their demands heading into Christmas, sending emails where they told me to work exclusively on Project A while also complaining about the lack of progress on Project B which they had specifically told me not to work on – fun times!). Things continued to be challenging until we wrapped up a large project at the end of February 2020 (ominous music starts …). Two weeks later, we were told to work from home for the foreseeable future. To be fair, my employer did an amazing job of supporting everyone throughout the pandemic – got laptops for everyone who didn’t have one, provided all the gear we needed to work from home and let us expense office furniture, sourced masks from our overseas supplier when they were sold out everywhere and couriered them to employees across the country, pivoted our social activities to online happy hours and trivia contests … they were incredibly thoughtful and diligent about making sure we were all supported.

However, because I’d been absolutely swamped for close to a year, no one wanted to bother me with new projects and I went almost 4 months without talking to anyone other than my boss. I was seriously burned out, so it wasn’t a terrible situation, but it was very weird to have to go looking for things to do.

We eventually filled the vacancies and my workload returned to normal, but I realized the position was not going to change and I’m someone who thrives on learning new things and tackling new challenges so my motivation was dwindling. When they announced this spring that we would be back in the office 2 days a week, I decided it was time to ramp up the search again (boring job was tolerable; boring job plus a 90-minute drive each way, not so much). I followed all of your advice on resumes and cover letters, and interviewed for 3 positions in as many months. The first ghosted me after the interview. The second offered me the job but the pay was the same and I would have given up 3 weeks vacation so turned them down. I’m happy to say I was offered and accepted the 3rd position 2 months ago. It’s 15 minutes from home and came with a 10% salary increase and gold-plated benefits. I figure it will take me at least 2 years to learn everything I need to know here, and when I run out of things to learn on the job, it’s a college and I can take 2 classes a semester for free!

Thank you so much for your excellent advice, both dealing with challenging times at work and on looking for a new job. I’ve recommended your site to all of my friends and family, it’s been incredibly valuable to me.

2. Can my boss legally pay me through PayPal? (#5 at the link)

Based on what you and the readers said, it gave me the confidence to address the issue with my boss/head of the company. We had a one-on-one in which I expressed my issues with having to pay to get paid. I actually felt comfortable enough to tell him I found it insulting.

As it turns out, he’s not as shifty as I once thought: Just the head of a start-up doing his best to keep the lights on and make everyone happy. So, he offered me a 15% raise to cover the PayPal fees, which I gladly excepted, as I like my job! He has also since given all employees the occasional token bonus (small things like $50 gift cards to have “drinks on him” or Amazon gift cards for the holidays).

While these kind gestures won’t pay my bills, I’m happy to say that my hours have increased and I’m doing much better than before. Thanks to the confidence you and my fellow readers gave me, I was able to advocate for myself and get what I wanted out of that situation. Here’s hoping I can do the same when my two-year mark hits. Thanks for always providing much-needed insight into the confusing work-world!

3. I run two fan accounts for musicians — can it go on my resume? (#5 at the link)

I wrote in a little while back about putting my fan accounts on my résumé. I’ve already updated once, but I have another happy update: long story short, my fan accounts got me a new (paid, full-time) job!

It’s not in the music industry, but I can now say that I made the seemingly-impossible leap from tech to marketing. My boss has specifically said, multiple times, that part of the reason he chose me was for my experience with my side projects. Turns out that whole “working a full-time job + part-time internship + managing multiple fan clubs” thing is also a pretty good way to show that I’m a competent multitasker, which is a HUGE asset in my new role. Who could’ve guessed? :)

I reread my last update, and I can’t believe it’s been more than a year since I met my top artist for the first time! I’ve since created a third account, met all three artists, traveled across the country and to another continent for various concerts, and worked on several projects with the smaller artists’ managers. Though I’m not officially working with any of them, at this point I’m able to call the artists and their teams my friends, which is pretty much the coolest thing ever for a fan.

Finally, I’m out of my internship (which turned out to be a hot mess, but that’s another letter). But since I just can’t seem to sit still, I have a new side gig: I’m managing an artist of my own!!! I met him through one of my fan accounts, further confirming that sticking with them was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

Thanks again for your advice and for all the lovely comments on both my original post and the update. I really do love this community.

{ 21 comments… read them below }

  1. Loulou*

    #2 is…not that great an update! I hope OP heard something more substantive from their boss than “I’m just trying to keep the lights on and make everybody happy,” cause yikes.

    1. FashionablyEvil*

      Yeah, I’m seriously concerned for #2 about the tax implications of payroll being done incorrectly. They could be on the hook for some big tax payments if the employer isn’t doing withholding correctly and the employer could be on the hook for penalties if they’re misclassifying the person as a contractor when they should be an employee.

      1. Clobberin' Time*

        The OP also mentioned “This is really only the tip of the iceberg with this company and I’m already looking for other options”, but seems to have been talked out of it with a pay bump and handwaving about how startups are different than all other companies. I hope it turns out OK for them.

    2. irene adler*

      I have worked at a start-up and that is par for the course- at times.

      More than a few times I observed the CFO rifling through drawers in the lab and employee’s desks for ink pens because we were out and there was no money to purchase more.

      Talking your basic Bic black ink pens.

    3. Hlao-roo*

      Caveat that I don’t know anything about running a business, but it sounds like a payroll service would be more expensive than PayPal, and once the boss realized OP2 was losing money in PayPal fees, the boss increased their paycheck to offset the fees (presumably the 15% in fees is still less expensive than a payroll service, so this solution allows OP2 to earn the money they deserve in the least expensive way for the boss).

      1. xl*

        There are other implications than that, though—mainly the possibility of OP being misclassified as a contractor as an employee and therefore not having the correct taxes taken out of their paycheck. This could lead to big problems down the road.

        Even if the taxes are being withheld correctly, it’s entirely possible that payment through PayPal doesn’t establish the right paper trail to show the necessary proof.

      2. Harried HR*

        There is still the issue of probably misclassification and failure to take appropriate taxes. My opinion is to dust of the resume and start looking because all signs point to failure particularly in a declining economy

      3. Reluctant Mezzo*

        Sometimes state government entities offer software for payroll in that state because a) they would like to see their share and b) starting out doing things right makes everyone’s lives easier. And you can find cheap payroll software.

    4. Roland*

      Their only problem with paypal was losing money because of fees and that was offset by a raise, that sounds like a good outcome to me.|

      1. I am Emily's failing memory*

        That was LW’s main concern, and for a part time early career job it’s probably not as bad as it could be, but being misclassified or not having your taxes handled properly by your employer can come back to bite you even if you personally don’t care. Aside from potentially being liable for a big tax bill, it also means that they’re not paying into social security, which can affect how much benefits they’re eligible for in retirement, and if the employer isn’t carrying unemployment insurance (which covers employees, not contractors) it could mean LW wouldn’t be eligible to collect unemployment if they’re fired or the company becomes insolvent/stops paying them.

    5. ecnaseener*

      I’m also surprised LW2 did such a 180 on their overall feelings about the job — the original letter said “This is really only the tip of the iceberg with this company and I’m already looking for other options” …did they give up on getting out? Was the whole iceberg along these same lines?

  2. differing opinion*

    Congrats to LW3!

    I would argue that a musician fan club is far more “palatable” than other forms of fan club so I’d be curious if a runner of an anime fan club or a mod of a discord for a certain pairing would have as much luck.

    (I don’t think one is more or less palatable, just the way different interests are viewed)

    1. As Per Elaine*

      From what LW3 has described, they have more accountability than someone running a discord or an anime group. The artist isn’t their boss, but on some level they are responsible to the artist, whereas most fan groups for other sorts of media are, in my experience, more separate from the creator(s) of the work. Alison also pointed out initially that their work is visible from the outside, which another fan group might not be.

      (That said, I absolutely listed the officer roles I held in my college sci-fi group in the “Other Activities” section of my resume.)

      1. curmudgeon*

        This makes me want me to put my work on a zine that’s reached attention of show runners (including interviews with the executive producer & one of the leading actors) on my resume but I still feel like people would find it weird.

        1. I am Emily's failing memory*

          I probably wouldn’t put that on a resume, but could definitely see it being a positive addition to a cover letter to demonstrate enthusiasm for the work – you enjoy X so much you’ve even done YZ with it in your spare time just for fun, and the production team even acknowledged and thanked you for your work, which you found very rewarding. It’s not a credential but it does help to paint a more interesting picture of you as an individual candidate.

        2. 3lla*

          If you’re putting in for a position where the work you did shows a key skill, you can definitely put publications on your resume! Just cite the zine like you would a source for a college paper. Bold your name if there are multiple contributors. Take credit for your work!

    2. I need a new name...*

      I don’t know how the much the ‘genre’ of fan club necessarily matters, I would think that it’s more a) the visibility (as you say, a discord channel wouldn’t necessarily read the same) and b) the overall professionalism/added value

      There are plenty of visible fan clubs, even for musicians, that you would *not* want to own up to running in a business context.

      LW3 is clearly running some professional-level accounts that are providing clear value. I think even if it was for an anime, as long as it was professional and added value (in terms, of events, interviews, BTS access etc) then that could still be fine.

      *I do agree that a fan club focused on a ‘ship might have more of challenge keeping things Appropriate/SFW though just by its nature though.

  3. Mindy*

    LW1 reminds me of my current situation: I’m very overwhelmed trying to complete my work at a new job (especially since the training ended up not lining up well with this). I keep getting yanked off this high priority stuff to do other high priority stuff, other staff are overwhelmed too but they can at least finish things without the risk of making everything worse. Even keeping track of all this is mind-boggling. Apart from that training issue, it’s like what drove me out of my previous job, but in a few months instead of a few years.

    Meanwhile, both these jobs are in the same narrow field, and I don’t know if I can get any office job outside this field (it feels like all my other skills are rusty, I don’t have any specialized credentials, my social skills aren’t good enough to network well, and I might have to just temp forever). Also, I heard that everywhere is understaffed and I’m afraid of just ending up in this situation *again*.

  4. DivergentStitches*

    #1 – “someone who thrives on learning new things and tackling new challenges”

    Oh hi it’s me! That’s great verbiage and I’m totally stealing it to use in interviews! I’ve been using it as both a strength and a weakness – I learn/pick up new software, processes, etc. extremely fast and I’m very open to change, but at the same time I can get bored easily. It seems to go over well.

Comments are closed.