it’s your Friday good news

It’s your Friday good news!

1.  “In 2019, I found out some of my firm’s clients were… very not aligned with my values (namely, private prison companies). Anxious to get a new job, I jumped into an agency role in a new industry—in January 2020. Looking back, I absolutely ignored some red flags, but I was excited for something that wouldn’t support an industry I found reprehensible.

I was fired less than 30 days after I started for reasons that are still unclear to me; I think they wanted someone who could ramp up faster (I was honest about my experience, or lack thereof, in this industry, and 30 days is a short amount of time for anyone to adjust to a new job, in my opinion).

This was the first time I have ever been fired, and neither my partner nor I had significant savings. I was so embarrassed and ashamed — I had shared the update about my new job with my entire LinkedIn network, for crying out loud — but reading your blog reassured me that sometimes, things don’t work out. It doesn’t mean I’m unemployable forever, or that no one will ever want me to work for them again; it just means that particular company wasn’t right for me.

A week after I was let go, the world shut down. My partner was also unemployed, studying for (the repeatedly delayed) bar exam, and dealing with an increasingly disruptive health issue. It was a really bad summer.

In June of 2020, I found a temp job in an industry I love (healthcare). Funding ran out for my position at the end of the year, but my boss at that job was a literal godsend. She saw that I was capable of more than just the narrow slice I was hired to cover and let me take on new and bigger projects in the short time I was there — projects that helped me move into a longer-term temp position that I worked at for two years. The longer-term temp position paid well and had lots of things I enjoyed, but (1) there was no guarantee of conversion to full time and (2) the role wasn’t one I wanted to be in for literal decades (which is what generally happened once temps converted to full time). Consulting AAM once again, I polished my resume and cover letter and began the job hunt.

My experiences made me very wary of jumping ship this time. I applied very selectively to positions I thought would be a good fit, at companies that matched at least the majority of my values. Again, AAM was an incredible resource for every step of my job hunt — from the nitty gritty practicalities of writing a resume to knowing what questions to ask about culture that will provide real answers.

Finally, after a year of job hunting, I just started my new, full-time position on Monday. The benefits are amazing, the PTO is generous, and the work itself is interesting and just challenging enough. It’s everything I’ve ever wanted out of a job. The people here are wonderful (so far!) to boot. I never would have made it past 2020, much less to this position, without your help. Thank you!”

2.  “In an open thread recently, I posted a comment about feeling dispirited that in the first round of merit raises in my position in a few years (merit raises having been suspended because of Covid), I ended up getting a smaller raise than someone in a very similar position who has been consistently underperforming while I’ve been listed as either exceeding expectations or outstanding in all categories. I’m now earning less than them, while doing more and doing it better.

I ended up meeting with my boss about it, and he acknowledged the disparity and told me that he was surprised it had happened and was due to someone else setting her salary higher because she was being supported this year on an external grant rather than internal money. He told me he’d nominated me for a college-wide award that would have come with a permanent salary boost had I won it (I did not) and that he will renominate me for it next year. He also said he understood why this was disappointing, and it was neither fair nor expected, and I was correct that I’d been contributing more and at a higher level than the colleague had. While this meeting didn’t change anything, it was useful to at least know my views weren’t unfounded.

A day or two after that, he asked for a meeting. It turned out that another colleague’s maternity leave was going to last longer than he previously anticipated, and he wanted to see if I was amenable to covering her role while she’d be gone, and how we could divvy up the work that I normally do to make it possible. His initial suggestion was something that would have taken away a number of the duties I prefer in my own role. In part from reading this site for the past few years, I felt comfortable pushing back with ‘I would prefer to keep tasks A and B, for reasons X, Y and Z, but I could offload tasks C and D during this time.’ We agreed to a plan of an increase in my workload for the duration of my colleague’s maternity leave to be accompanied with a temporary increase in pay for the extra workload, to be arranged later. I managed to keep the most important parts of my job and offload some of the grading so that it’s possible to take on the other work without completely burning out.

Just this past week he sent me an initial number he was proposing for the extra pay, and an explanation of how he calculated. It is several thousand dollars more than I was planning to ask for. In meeting with him about it, I thanked him for the explanation, said that it was in the ballpark I was thinking, and brought up the concern that sometimes maternity leaves end up being extended for reasons that can’t really be expected, so this number was certainly fair for the anticipated time, but I’d like to be able to adjust it if the leave lasts longer than we expect. He agreed to this immediately, and said that due to university accounting rules it needs to be paid as a lump sum after the extra work is completed – academia is its own weird world – but that if the leave goes longer than expected we’ll adjust the number of weeks of higher pay to match the weeks of additional work. If the colleague comes back earlier than planned, I won’t lose any of the extra pay. This feels like a major win to me.”

3.  “I wrote you last year with a question about how to explain to interviewers that I was leaving my job because I was bored. It was never answered, but that’s okay because I have a wonderful update! After writing in to you, I decided to take the bull by the horns and make some changes. I used my free time to study for and obtain a high-level certification I’d never had time to pursue before. Over the summer I reached out to a former boss asking him to be a reference, and he encouraged me to seek a higher title and more pay than I’d originally intended. I reached out to a handful of recruiters and was really picky with my job search, and things worked out better than I could have expected.

At the beginning of this month, I started a new job with a 30% pay increase and a high-level title, I have plenty to do, and my husband says I haven’t seemed this happy in a long time. As for my original question: when interviewers asked why I was leaving my then-job, I was honest and said that I just didn’t have enough to do despite asking for more and had realized that was not going to change. No one had a problem with that answer, and it all worked out for the best.”

{ 24 comments… read them below }

  1. English Rose*

    I just love reading these, I look out for them every Friday. What a great end to the week. Congratulations to all.

    1. Sariel*

      I agree — reading these are the highlight of my week and a nice boost (especially if it’s been a very long/long-feeling week). Congrats to everyone!

  2. Artemesia*

    #1, That sounds like it was just the worst and you should feel really good about your resilience and ability to get the panic under control and plow ahead doing what you needed to do. So happy that it has worked out so well — but it wasn’t luck it was pure perseverance and competence.

    #2. It sounds like your boss really does have your back and appreciates you. I was once in a position of managing people who were not fairly paid and it really sucks. I was able to get a number of people raises to bring them more in line with what others were making. This was after a merger where the old company pay was so much less than new company norms but people came in as a unit with their old salaries. It was satisfying to be able to get 20 and 30% raises by really fighting for them. But in several other situations I had people who had been promised unrealistic benefits or raises (perfectly fair ones, but unrealistic in our setting) and I could not deliver. (we had an overpromising boss). All I could do sometimes is tell them the truth and reinforce their sense that it wasn’t fair. It is an awful position to be in when managing — but of course worse when not getting properly paid.

    1. Love to WFH*

      “I had people who had been promised unrealistic benefits or raises” — that gave me a flashback!

      In a reorganization, I got a direct report who had worked at the company just 3 months (I wasn’t involved in hiring him). Two months later, at review time, I told him that his raise was 2%. The company had a max of a 5% raise, and it was pro-rated, so he was getting the maximum.

      Long silence from him.

      Then he told me that during the recruiting process, the president of the company told him that if he did well, he’d get a $100,000 raise.

      I investigated, and HR and the hiring manager knew that the president had taken him to lunch, but had no idea what was said.

      That pay level would have been far above what anyone else in the department was making. There was no way I could get that approved, or would want to due to internal equity.

      Needless to say, he gave notice almost immediately.

      1. Artemesia*

        Sounds like you had a CEO like my boss — not entirely. He was not that out of line. But he would blow smoke and then the people who got hired could not have what he had promised. It really did suck.

  3. Well...*

    #1, that was really brave of you to look for new work and not support private prisons, and I’m really happy that in the end things are looking up for you. Congratulations on the new job!

    1. PhyllisB*

      I don’t want to derail this whole thread, but if one or two people could respond I would appreciate it: what is so terrible about private prisons?
      As we say in the South, I have a dog in this fight. I have a grandson in a state penitentiary, and he wants to transfer to a private one that is closer to us for visitation purposes. I really don’t know enough about it to either encourage or discourage him.
      Please don’t engage in a lengthy debate, I just want an answer to a simple question.

      1. Artemesia*

        oh so very many things. Like you make money by not spending it on food and medical care. People lie in their cells and die for treatable illnesses or injuries. Like you cut a deal with local judges to imprison people who should not be imprisoned. In one notorious case teens in very minor scrapes with the law ended up in private juvenile prisons — a really great way to ruin lives; the judge made quite a fine living on the kickbacks. There is a huge lobby by private prisons to oppose any programs designed to keep people out of jail. Private prisons are jobs for rural areas and so policies that try to find alternatives for people besides long incarceration get opposed in legislatures on economic rather than public safety grounds. For starters.

      2. Velociraptor Attack*

        There’s a lot to this and multiple different aspects so this is going to be a very base-level view without much nuance.

        Generally speaking, private prisons are run by organizations for profit so there are ethical concerns about the idea that a private prison is going to want more people in the system in order to make more money.

        Also, there has been some data that suggests private facilities tend to have more safety issues for staff and inmates.

        1. PhyllisB*

          Thank you for your replies. I did of course know that private prisons are for profit, but didn’t know the other things. I appreciate your respectful answers.

  4. Momma Bear*

    I especially like how #2 has a boss they can talk directly to and collaborate with. People are willing to step up when they are properly supported and compensated and treated like professionals. I’m glad that no matter how long the leave is, OP won’t be getting less.

    1. Ama*

      I worked in academia for almost a decade of my career — a boss that’s willing to be that honest about salary decisions and where they can and can’t try to find you some flexibility is rare and extremely valuable. As the OP notes, academia has all kinds of weird salary structures and institutions can have very strange internal policies and I had soooo many bosses just kind of shrug their shoulders at me if the first thing they tried to get me a raise didn’t work out because it ran into a policy wall.

  5. It's Marie - Not Maria*

    As someone who also decided to change positions in December of 2019, I can completely relate to LW #1. As the new kid in the department, I was the first to go when they started laying people off in June of 2020. It was demoralizing, but I knew I couldn’t let that stop me. A few months later, I took a contract position, just to have some income. They liked me so much they hired me as a regular employee a month later. That job lasted until April of 2022, when I was let go in the 4th round of layoffs in six months due to business decisions made in 2020. And weirdly enough, I ended up back at the company I left in 2019, for more money than I would have been making if I would have stayed. The world is weird sometimes.

    1. Maglev No Longer to Crazytown*

      The world is very weird. I left a toxic work situation, and was all too vulnerable at the time to a recruiter who just ushered me into a just as bad environment. I was missing two levels of management above me for most of my time because my direct manager walked in my first month with no heads up or job lined up, and the boss above that almost died from stress-induced heart attack. Still not 100% sure whether it was the refusal to engage in federally illegal activities or reporting sexual harassment that did me in, when I got walked after 5 months.

      Was a humiliating experience but one that thankfully led me to NOT going back into toxic environments anymore.

    1. Snow Globe*

      From a tax standpoint, you get taxed when you actually receive the payment, not when it is earned but not received.

      My concern was what if the LW ends their employment before the maternity leave is up – they could end up taking on all this extra work, but not get paid for it in that case, I would assume.

      1. A Genuine Scientician*

        OP #2 here

        Ending early wasn’t a significant concern. Unlike the vast majority of US workers, we have employment contracts (mine is currently 1 year long, but relatively soon gets converted into a 5 year contract). The person for whom I was covering is back from maternity leave.

        I will end up paying taxes on that extra money entirely in this calendar year, since the money will be issued to me this year. But I’ll be in the same marginal tax bracket this year as I was last year, so it makes no net difference whether it’s all this year or split with last year.

  6. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    Update 2 (pay disparity) – so what happens when the maternity cover ends and OP goes back to their original role? The existing problem (paid less than someone doing the same work at a much lower srandard) will come back at that point… It seems to me that they’ve given OP this maternity cover work to temporarily “resolve” the situation, but ultimately (we know because there’s already a policy for it) this is a standard thing that happens and a standard way of getting someone’s work covered for a short time. It doesn’t seem like it solved the real problem at all…

    1. Academics Anonymous*

      As a fellow academic, I also see some red (well, maybe pinkish) flags in this situation. An increase in pay for increase in workload makes sense, though temporary, but the core issue of being underpaid for the current workload/high performance hasn’t been addressed at all, and in fact is likely to get worse over time. This feels like the sort of sleight of hand I see a LOT in academia, and I would urge the LW to push back if they feel comfortable with their chief/chair.

      1. A Genuine Scientician*

        OP #2 here

        The underlying underpayment is primarily a symbolic thing. The actual monetary difference is small (a few hundred dollars per year), it’s just demotivating to be paid less than someone else while doing more and doing it better, and without some easily understood reason behind it. A lot of people speculated on the original post that the other person must have had [insert reasonable reasons for being paid more], and none of those speculations were accurate — she’s been here a shorter time, same degree from a less prestigious university, fewer publications, less teaching experience, serves on no committees (I’m on several), worse teaching evaluations, worse peer evaluations, etc.

        Based on our boss’ handling of things, I’m willing to see how this plays out over the next couple of years, rather than assume the worst.

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