I was accused of eavesdropping, am I supposed to miss class for job interviews, and more

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

1. I was accused of eavesdropping at a coworker’s door

Yesterday my direct supervisor pulled me into the office and told me that our CEO, Kathy, pulled her into her office and stated that there was a complaint that I had been seen eavesdropping outside of my coworker’s door. Kathy wanted me to be moved into one of the other buildings away from the main office.

My jaw dropped. I do not do anything like that and this came out of left field. I told my supervisor that I have no idea where this is coming from and I don’t understand why someone would think this. She stated that she went to bat for me, argued for me to stay where I am and not move offices, and said that I have worked for her for years and she had never seen anything like this sort of behavior.

But I’m at a loss of what my next step should be. Do I tell Kathy that I have no idea where this is coming from and I would never do such a thing? Or does that come across as defensive? Should I let my boss handle it?

Kathy would not tell my boss who accused me. I thought I was on friendly terms with everyone, though I know a couple are drama stirrers. Am I just a casualty in them wanting drama? Is there something going on I don’t know about? Is my employment at risk and this is an excuse to start compiling evidence?

I work in a position with a lot of confidential client data. I feel like my integrity is being attacked. I am wondering if I should find another job. If they think I am eavesdropping on conversations, why am I trusted to touch client data?

It’s possible this is just a misunderstanding! You were walking by and stopped to look at your phone or tie your shoe, and someone thought you were purposely lingering outside their door. Or who knows, you and a coworker were dressed similarly that day and they mistook that person for you or a bunch of other possibilities — but it’s more likely that this was a honest misunderstanding than a deliberate plot to smear you (unless you work in an office where people routinely hatch deliberate plots to smear each other, in which case that’s the bigger issue).

Go back to your manager and say this: “I’m still thinking about someone saying I was eavesdropping, and I’m really bothered by this. I would never do that. I work with confidential data so it’s crucial I understand the importance of confidentiality! It feels like my integrity is being questioned, and I want to talk about how I can put this to rest so Kathy isn’t left with these concerns about me.”

You might hear that Kathy has already forgotten about it and it’s not going to be an issue, or your manager might say she’ll reinforce with her that it’s not something you’d do, or she might have other advice. But by insisting on talking about it again, you’ll be signaling that you take it seriously and are horrified anyone thinks that, which on its own will help emphasize that you’re not cavalier about people’s privacy.

2. Could my religious education be turning off employers?

I have a undergraduate degree and a masters degree. I double majored in undergrad, and half my bachelor’s degree is religious studies (from a very secular university). My master’s degree, which I got last year, 10 years after my bachelor’s, is in theology (and the specific college it’s from is not immediately identifiable as religious as it’s part of a secular university). The specialty of my master’s was along the lines of pastoral counseling.

I’ve been struggling to find a job and trying to pinpoint the problem (or problems). I’m wondering if my education is the problem? I feel like I can’t remove it because so many jobs require degrees — many even expect graduate education. Moreover, I’m proud of my education and it imparted me with many useful skills and knowledge.

Should I be worried about what people think of my education in secular fields? How do I present my education in a way that won’t leave people worrying about my running around trying to convert people? People are quietly religious all the time. I just have the misfortune of possibly raising biases about it during hiring because of my education.

If I had to guess, it’s less that they’re worried about you running around trying to convert people and more that your recent master’s degree indicates your real goal is to work in a different field than theirs. That impression might be intensified by your bachelor’s being in religious studies, but it’s the recent master’s that’s most likely the issue. Typically employers consider recent master’s degrees to signify the specific work you want to do — more so than a bachelor’s, since people are less likely to get graduate degrees out of a general desire to learn and more likely to do it because they have a focused professional interest … or at least that’s the narrative most employers will assume, especially with a degree that suggests a specific career path like pastoral counseling does.

If you’re applying for jobs unrelated to your master’s, you’ll want to make it clear to employers why you’re seeking work in their field. If that’s not clear, that’s likely getting in your way.

3. My organization says they can’t pay me market rate because of it wouldn’t be fair to non-attorneys

I recently met with HR to request a raise and was soundly denied. It was a frustrating experience, but one thing I’m hung up on is that I was told that they would not be able to get my salary up to market rate because of “internal equity.” I work at a nonprofit that has a lot of different types of employees — social workers, advocates, relief staff, admin, etc. I’m a lawyer, and was told that it wouldn’t be fair to the non-attorneys on staff for the attorneys to be paid more and that they need to maintain “internal equity.” Is this an actual thing? My googling shows that usually internal equity is talking about people doing the same work getting paid the same amount, but is it being used differently in other places? My thought is that if you want a flat-ish salary structure, it would be much more equitable to pay all staff the higher salary instead of keeping one or two departments way under market rate, but mostly I’m just curious if this is a real thing other orgs are doing or if mine is just weird?

Yeah, that’s not what internal equity means! It doesn’t mean “we pay everyone the same, regardless of job” — and if they do it mean it that way, they’re going to have a hard time hiring people, because they won’t be paying market rates for the work (and the market rate for, say, a lawyer is really different from the market rate for, say, an assistant). It typically means exactly what you said: ensuing that people doing similar work are being paid the same and that you don’t have disparities by race, gender, or other demographics.

They’re misusing the term to justify not paying you more. And if their philosophy really is that everyone on staff should be paid the same regardless of role, experience level, or contributions, that’s something they should be very up-front with applicants about from the beginning, because unless they’re pegging everyone’s salaries to the jobs with the highest market rates, they’re going to be seriously underpaying a lot of people.

Read an update to this letter

4. Am I supposed to miss class for job interviews?

I am a college student who recently was offered an interview for a summer internship that I was pretty excited about. I originally had scheduled the interview for a date and time that worked very well for me. Then, the day before the interview, the internship coordinator called (I am not actually sure if this person was HR, the hiring manager, or someone else) asking if I could reschedule the interview to a different, specific date and time. The time she asked for was during one of my classes, so I told them that time wouldn’t work. She said unfortunately, if that was the case, then they wouldn’t be able to fit the interview in, and then hung up.

I’m quite disappointed about this outcome. My mother thinks that by indicating that I prioritized class over their interview, I might’ve made it seem like I wasn’t very interested in the job. Do you think I should’ve handled this differently?

No, it’s very normal to have conflicts with a proposed interview time and to say, “I can’t do X, but I’m available Y or Z.” An employer who refuses to offer you anything other than a single time and date is an employer who’s being overly rigid or just isn’t that interested in the first place (unless they’re apologetic about it and offer context — like “I’m sorry, that’s the only day the manager is available before she goes on leave”).

Your mom’s advice is off-base — it’s normal to have schedule conflicts that you need to prioritize (you don’t work for this company yet! of course you would prioritize something like school or a current job over an interview for a job that you may or may not get) and a company that frowns on you prioritizing school while you’re a current student is a company that’s going to be problematic in other ways.

does it look bad to be unavailable on one of the dates an employer suggests for an interview?

{ 358 comments… read them below }

  1. nnn*

    #4, don’t listen to your mom on this! Of course you can say you have class then and ask about other interview times. The person who called you sounds kind of rude.

    1. Francie Foxglove*

      Yeah, if a potential employer doesn’t want you to honor your commitments, you probably don’t want to work for them.

      1. Jackalope*

        That goes doubly so for a prospective employer who calls you the day before the interview and expects that you will be available at one specific time that is not the time that you had previously scheduled. It’s possible that some emergency on their end made it truly impossible to do the interview at any other time or date than the proposed new time and if so that’s super lousy even if understandable. But any employer worth working for would not a) schedule you for a specific interview time, then b) call you the day beforehand to change it and c) get upset with you and refuse to hire you because you couldn’t make the new time. If that is in fact what happened (and you didn’t say and may not know) then you actually lucked out. If not (if they just plain couldn’t do it at another time) then you’re still right not to have rescheduled to a time when you had class, even if this was lousy timing.

        1. Lenora Rose*

          This is interesting to me because right now we’re doing interviews with internal candidates, and yes, they have been expected to drop everything and be available at the decided-upon time and no other. I can think of two possible differences, of course:
          – being internal and during the work day, their commitment is to us either way
          – the union says staff must be allowed (paid) accommodation for travel time plus interview for an internal application, so they aren’t using PTO or losing funds.

          1. Panhandlerann*

            Yes, I think this situation is very different. Internal candidates who are “on the clock” can be required to be available for the interview at specific times during their work day. But an external candidate? No.

          2. SpaceySteph*

            Honestly, even with these differences this seems overly restrictive. Can nobody have a preplanned vacation or appointment during the interview period? Can nobody take a sick day?

            1. OfOtherWorlds*

              Presumably, that would be treated like missing any other part of the job due to time off.

          3. GlitterIsEverything*

            I interviewed internally about a year ago. I work in medicine, and my primary role in direct patient care. The role I was interviewing for is behind the scenes.

            I was told I had to accept an interview time that was in the middle of clinical hours, right in the meat of clinic, or I would forego the interview altogether.

            Agreeing to the interview meant my boss had to schedule an extra person in clinic that day, to accommodate the demands of non-clinical leads.

            The amount of disrespect being shown to me, my role, my doctors, my coworkers, and my boss, all to accommodate the schedules of people who have more flexibility than clinical staff, told me a lot about how that role would be run. Watching it now, it’s even worse than what that showed.

          4. Nina*

            Internal candidates: don’t have a problem with ‘can’t change plans on a flimsy excuse at the last minute because current employer might find out what’s going on’, you’re paying them for the interview time and for the ‘everything’ they’re expected to drop for the interview, are probably in the same building as you so travel time isn’t really a thing. So yeah, feel free to screw around with times to your heart’s content or until you feel like it might turn them off the job.
            External candidates who have a job: May well have booked a day off work to take this interview (on ‘I had to go to the dentist’ or another excuse that doesn’t allow for quick changes), you’re not paying them, their current job that currently pays them is, y’know, paying them to do the ‘everything’, and they’re probably not in the same building as you so making changes the day before, let alone the day of, could have huge consequences for their ability to get there, depending on whether they have one car to themselves, use public transport, told their partner or flatmate to take the car that day…
            External candidates who are in school: are in school. Not all lectures are skippable (or recorded) and almost no tests are. Again, quite possibly had absence notes arranged for the day you originally scheduled. In my country, where uni fees are much more reasonable than in the US (but still high), skipping 1 lecture is effectively throwing $200 in the trash.

        2. Anon former teacher*

          When I was still teaching, I always gave leeway to students who told me they had to interview during my class. Employers have the upper hand here and I suspect they prey on students’ financial desperation to pull stunts like the one OP describes and to disregard students’ needs or schedules. I told students exactly what Alison did above – and I tell them the same thing now that I work in career development: this isn’t a company that will respect their time once they work there. (Of course I recognise that students may be in situations where they cannot pass up a chance at any internship or job, in which case I hope their initial impression of the company does not prove true.)

          1. LW4*

            This is what my mom told me (she works in education). She was like, as a teacher I would understand if you needed to duck out of class for a job interview. I am grateful for Allison and commenters’ reality check here!

            1. SpaceySteph*

              I think both are true at the same time. Some self-important professors would expect you to behave like their class is your only commitment, but plenty would understand the value and necessity of a job and would allow you some slack.

              Also, let’s be honest, not every college class is more important than a job interview, but some classes are (maybe that particular day you have something big due or you are struggling in the subject and need the extra instructional time, etc). So I don’t think its that your mom is totally out to lunch, but she should believe you when you say you needed to prioritize class.

              1. Cohort 1*

                Have you ever had one of those classes where the professor reads to you out of his book for the whole class? Those are skippable. Then there’s the professor who can lecture for 2 hours about other aspects of the course that is not in the assigned text and having you hang on every word. Short of being at death’s door, that is not a skipable class.

                1. Ace in the Hole*

                  I’ve had classes where I skipped 90% of lectures and still passed with top marks. Heck, I had one class where I skipped most of the lectures and *missed the midterm exam,* and still passed with an A.

                  This is an argument I’ve actually had with professors. A surprising number of professors like to make lecture attendance mandatory for intro-level classes, docking a student’s grade if they have too many absences. The reason they give is often that it’s to teach students good study habits and good time management. But if I’m getting perfect scores on all assignments and exams, wouldn’t it be poor time management to waste hours every week sitting through lectures on things I clearly already know? The most efficient thing to do is skip the lecture I don’t need to spend more time studying for difficult classes.

          2. CLC*

            It doesn’t necessarily matter to the professor if this person is in class or not. There might an attendance or class participation element to their grade they are worried about, but more likely they just don’t want to miss class because then they will miss the material. I could have skipped class in all or most of the classes I took in college but if I did I would be at a disadvantage for the exam and/or understanding sequential topics.

      2. HailRobonia*

        Conversely: If I were an employer I would think that I’d want to hire people who have demonstrated good judgment and an ability to honor their commitments.

        1. Orora*

          This was my thought. They made a commitment and are honoring it. That’s a quality I value in an employee.

          Also, when I recruit, I try to provide a range of dates and times, because I know not everyone is available all the time. It’s weird to me that people expect candidates to not have lives outside of interviewing.

    2. Madame Arcati*

      Indeed, this is no different to if you were already in employment and seeking a new job; if they propose a last minute change you might not be able to agree as it’s eg too late to move that important meeting, or it’s just before your deadline on an important project. As Francie suggests, if this company expects you to drop everything and renege on (proper serious) commitments for them, what other unreasonable expectations will they have?

    3. E*

      +1. The just hanging up is incredibly rude as well. Sorry for the disappointment but you dodged a bullet

    4. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Is this egregious enough to tell the college career center? If it’s not a one-off I’d think the college would want to be sure it’s not a discriminatory pattern (only women, only people with non-European names, etc)

      1. Zephy*

        It can’t hurt to mention it to them, especially if OP and people in her program have to go through the career center to set up their internships.

        1. Anon former teacher*

          Yes, this. Even if there’s no discernible pattern other than expecting students to miss class and rejecting anyone who can’t, the career center’s primarily obligation is to the students. They need to know that an employer they’ve vetted is behaving like this.

      2. Pink Candyfloss*

        Agree – if this is an internship through the college center, they should be made aware of what happened.

    5. BethDH*

      This is out of the norm enough that if you heard about this internship through the school’s career office, I’d tell them. They may have relationships at a higher level or outside the “internship coordinator” contact and could speak to someone about this in a way that doesn’t sound like it’s complaining about not getting an internship.
      I am a little suspicious that the coordinator mis-recorded the internship time and was trying to cover up the mistake. Switching to a specific other time is so unusual, especially without explanation!

      1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

        Totally agree this is worth flagging for the career center if this was through them or through the school in general.

      2. OP4*

        Yeah, I am actually wondering if it was this. Like maybe the coordinator had written down the wrong interview time and then, when I couldn’t do the time she’d written down, just canceled it to save face. I mean, I hope that’s not it, but I’m having trouble coming up with a more logical explanation.

    6. ScruffyInternHerder*


      With our interns, it was a written expectation that we did NOT interfere with their classes (times, exams, etc) and we expected the college courses that they were taking to take precedence. Because they’re paying for college courses. We’re not paying them enough to skip them.

      I’m of the opinion that I’d probably at least mention the call to whoever at your school coordinates internships and career placement, because the call was just that weird.

      1. londonedit*

        Exactly. You’d have thought that an employer that specifically hires people for summer internships, of all places, would understand that students have classes to attend, and they can’t just miss one whenever they feel like it. Really weird response from the person who called the OP.

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

          Especially right now. Many colleges and universities are in the last weeks before finals. One college in my city had finals 2 weeks ago! Usually those last few weeks are important. You have class presentations, wrapping up projects, final papers due, etc.
          OP I would ignore your mom and perhaps reach out to the company and reiterate that you have an important class you cannot miss but you are still interested in the internship. I’m hoping that this was just a cranky admin or HR person and not the hiring manager.

          1. Snow*

            Yep. I did the final presentation for one class yesterday – I could not have missed that unless I could give proof that I was hospitalized at the time. My plans for the weekend consist of writing stuff for other classes’ final projects. (One on the differences between two philosophers, one on traffic problems at a nearby intersection.) Give me two weeks and I can interview whenever you like, but right now? No.

          2. I have RBF*

            … perhaps reach out to the company and reiterate that you have an important class you cannot miss but you are still interested in the internship.

            No, I would not advise this. They have told the OP who they are, they should take it onboard and avoid them. Any company that is that kind of rigid and rude on interviewing interns would be hell to work for.

            I do strongly advise telling your career center about it, though. That company can’t be a good place to work, especially if they have a habit of pulling this crap. They have demonstrated that they will not prioritize the OP’s education over their corporate whims, which is a bad thing to do to an intern.

    7. HonorBox*

      Absolutely! It sounds like the conflict was pointed out and an inquiry was made about alternatives. That’s VERY normal. The person on the other end of the phone wasn’t acting normal.

      1. ferrina*

        Yep. This is ridiculously normal for any type of work meeting. “I can’t do that time, what about Thursday at 2?”
        There are very limited situations when you only offer a single time, and most of those are when the meeting is a favor anyways. An interview is not a favor- it is exploring a potentially mutually beneficial arrangement. Employers that treat interviews like a favor are usually the same ones that treat paychecks like a favor.

        1. amoeba*

          I mean, I can see interview situations where that would be the case – mostly assessment centres with multiple candidates. But for those, you’d normally know quite long in advance so that most people can hopefully make it work. Definitely not “change the day before, take it or leave it”.
          (Also would be way over the top for an internship, anyway…)

    8. rayray*

      Totally! No matter the reason, it is incredibly rude to reschedule with someone and then be so rigid about it. People have other obligations in life besides potential jobs.

      It is insane that someone who works with college students would expect a student to skip class to go to an internship interview, truly absurd.

    9. WillowSunstar*

      I agree, it’s a huge red flag for that particular company, and you probably dodged a bullet there. Who knows what else that company would have been very rigid about?

    10. Ann Onymous*

      When I was in college, our career center actually told us most employers would not look favorably on people who were willing to skip class for an interview because it makes it look like you’re not committed to your education.

    11. Samwise*

      Or the person who called genuinely could only offer that one time, so that’s what they told the OP. Just because OP has a legit reason not to be able to reschedule, doesn’t mean the employer has to meet the OP’s schedule — especially if they *can’t*

      1. constant_craving*

        It’s problematic if an employer of college interns has so little flexibility in addition to being unable to plan in advance. But even if that were the case, they should at least be apologetic about it not working out rather than acting like OP was being unreasonable.

    12. I have RBF*

      IMO, you dodged a bullet. By refusing to accommodate your class times and presenting you with a rigid, my way or the highway, interview time they have told you exactly who they are and what they would be like to work for.

      Make a spreadsheet of “Companies to never work for”, add them to it, and put the reason as “rigid and rude to applicants”.

      Oh, and let others know what you experienced. You will help your classmates avoid the glassbowls.

    13. Recovering Grad Student*

      I think both things are true. The internship coordinator was a jerk for moving your slot last minute with no alternative times. I’d have serious concerns about working for that person if they would have any impact on your internship experience.
      I also think your professors would have been fine excusing you from class if you could only get that one time slot for an interview. Unless, of course, they are jerks. When I was in undergrad I missed whole days for research conferences and grad school interviews. Ideally, profs should *want* you to be working on your professional development.

  2. Fikly*

    If they were actually interested in equity, they would raise the salaries of everyone to be in line with what the highest salary should be, rather than lowering all salaries to the lowest one.

    This is just an excuse to try and underpay people, and then gaslight them into thinking they are morally in the wrong for wanting to be paid appropriately.

    1. Irish Teacher.*

      That was my thought. It doesn’t help anybody to say, “OK, we don’t think wage inequality is fair so we’re going to pay other people as little as the norm in your field.” And it’s honestly kind of patronising as it implies people in low-paid positions just want to have similar wages to people who are well-paid and won’t realise their wages are low if other people’s are too, as if their motivation for wanting higher wages is jealousy rather than financial need.

      That just makes those whose fields pay more resentful and likely to leave and possibly those in support roles feeling patronised by the “oh, your job doesn’t pay a decent wage. Well, we’ll pay everybody else poorly too. Now are you happy?”

      Yeah, it’s an excuse.

      1. Silver Robin*

        “as if their motivation is jealousy rather than financial need” – thank you for putting words to it! The logic always rankled but I did not have a succinct ways of explaining why.

    2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      This is what I came to comment. We had something similar happen when, following a merger and a leadership change at the corporation that bought us, our new (now departed) CEO spent two years slashing our benefits (cut the 401K match, then the medical, 401K again, PTO, medical again), explaining it all as “your guys’ benefits are very generous and that isn’t fair to the rest of (corporation)’s employees.” We all had the same question! if it’s not fair, then why not raise theirs?? or be honest and say it out loud that you’re trying to save the company money at our expense. (Did it trigger a mass exodus of people at the senior professional and management levels, yes yes it did.)

    3. There You Are*

      What’s the over/under on the C-Suite (or whatever the equivalent is in non-profits) NOT being paid the same as, say, the website content creator or the accounts payable clerk?

      Hell, what’s the over/under on the HR person not being paid the same as the AP clerk?

    4. LR*

      Or require that everyone in every role have a JD. They’re not cheap. Opportunity cost is huge as well. This is insultingly stupid.

    5. fantomina*

      I actually read what the HR person said about internal equity not as “everyone who works here must be paid the same” but as “we can’t give you a raise because we can’t afford to also give the other attorneys a raise”

      1. constant_craving*

        That would be much more reasonable but unfortunately doesn’t seem to be the case.

        “I’m a lawyer, and was told that it wouldn’t be fair to the non-attorneys on staff for the attorneys to be paid more”

    6. LW3*

      Yes! This was my thought as well. If you think everyone should be paid the same, pay us all a living wage. I’m not against admin staff, advocates, etc making *over* market, just us being woefully *under*

    7. b*

      This is depressingly common in non-profits, and I think it is equal parts cynical and sincere but misguided. The next level is saying, “since our attorneys (or other professional group) are more predominantly white than our other staff, it would create inequity to pay them more.” That one grinds my gears even more, because the racial wealth gap in this country means that it’s going to be mostly white people who can afford to take a below-market job to pursue their passions. If you want to recruit more staff of color, you can’t expect to pay people less than they’re worth and make up the rest in good vibes. It’s the compensation that creates the inequities!!!!!

      1. Lizzianna*

        Yeah, I wonder if that’s what’s happening here.

        If you’re primarily hiring white men to be attorneys, if you pay them market rate, your internal numbers are going to show that you’re paying white men more than other demographic groups.

        Of course, the answer to this is to increase your efforts at diversifying all levels of your organization, not just to just maintain your lack of diversity but pay them less.

      2. Blue*

        Surely the answer in that case would be to diversify their hiring practices, not underpay their employees?

    8. Some Dude*

      There is an org near me that is very equity focused and they pay all their staff the same amount, whether they are attorneys or admin folks. Which means they pay attorneys way under market because they think it would be unfair to the admin folks to be make a lot less.

      I don’t agree with this philosophy and from my understanding (second hand gossip), they have trouble hiring and retaining attorneys.

  3. Jo*

    That seems like a ridiculous escalation. One report, no discussion with you to stop (not that you were), but straight to moving you to a different building.
    Are there any other office politics at play? Is it possible that someone else wants your workspace and is using this as an excuse to force management to move you?

    1. Jackalope*

      And no discussion to see if there was a misunderstanding or anything; just straight to punishment.

      1. Bilateralrope*

        Nor any possibility of someone investigating because Kathy refuses to name the person who complained.

        Which makes me wonder if there even was a complaint.

          1. Looper*

            Kathy is the CEO who told LW’s manager she wanted LW moved to another building, so clearly she knows something.

            1. Artemesia*

              If I were the OP I’d be very worried. The CEO of the organization without evidence is trying to damage her. I don’t see how you come back from this. What can the OP say to erase this impression? This is a serious situation and I’d be escalating it and not just letting it go.

              1. ferrina*

                Exactly! If the CEO believes this about you and doesn’t even give you the chance to explain, you will be undercut in other ways. At that point your options are to 1) stay off the radar of the CEO and anyone who has her ear and doesn’t like you, 2) be ready for a battle, or 3) find a new job.

                There is no option where you perform well and get rewarded. This is not a CEO who is looking for data or evidence, or who will be swayed by logic or reason.

                1. I have RBF*

                  Yeah, that CEO is unreasonable. I would start looking for a new job. Irrational C-suite people who have it in for you are career killers.

              2. EavesdroppingHellNo*

                OP1 here!

                definitely a worry. My HR isn’t very good, so other than raising it with my manager so she can continue to back me, I decant really go to anyone else

            2. Jo*

              #1 only has their manager’s word that Kathy said something. It is possible that Kathy did. Or this is weird enough that it is possible the manager is making stuff up.

              I have had a supervisor that would claim the manager demanded something. When I spoke to the manager they would know nothing about it. My supervisor was just making stuff up because they thought I would work harder if the instruction was from someone else, and they didn’t think anyone would dare question the manager. They stopped with me once they realised I had a preexisting work relationship with the manager so I was free to speak to them directly. Didn’t stop them lying about other things though.

              1. Office Lobster DJ*

                I wondered about OP’s manager as well, but only OP can know for sure. In general, when you’re presented with a story that makes the teller look like the hero who is the only one who has your back, saving you from secret plots against you that don’t make logical sense, it’s good practice to consider what you know about everyone involved.

              2. EavesdroppingHellNo*

                OP1 here!

                In my case I am fairly confident it was not my manager in this case but I appreciate your insite!

                1. Office Lobster DJ*

                  Hi OP. I’m very glad you have that level of trust with your manager. It sounds like you’ll need it, especially based on some of your other comments — installing cameras in the hallway?!

            3. NameNameName*

              Manager said CEO said that… Maybe manager lied? It’s a weird situation so I wouldn’t rule it out.

              1. All Het Up About It*

                I think the cameras being installed (if it really happens) would be a clue that the CEO is really invested in/believing/concocting this banana pants story and your manager IS telling the truth. Unless your manager has a lot of power and influence and is deciding to use them to run this campaign against you there’s no way that a CEO would install cameras in that situation.

                I wonder if it would be worth it to ask for a meeting between yourself, your manager and Kathy? I don’t know. I think I agree with the commenter who said that it’s time to be proactively looking, but not in a panic. Like something is just stinky.

        1. EavesdroppingHellNo*

          OP1 here!

          it has me second guessing every action with the CEO and wonder if my job is at risk :( like I don’t know who or why

          1. Ama*

            You have my sympathies — I was in a similar situation once where my boss told me she’d received a complaint about my attitude and wouldn’t tell me who said it or what I did. It made me extremely paranoid because I honestly couldn’t think of any time I’d been rude or even short with anyone. And I still to this day don’t know what I did.

            In my case just smiling at my boss more when she passed by seemed to fix the issue (which might mean she was the actual source of the complaint, but it definitely meant she knew I was taking her feedback to heart) but in your case I’m not sure how you demonstrate you are not doing something you already were not doing — I think Alison’s suggestion is probably the best one, to demonstrate to your boss you really are taking it super seriously.

            1. I'm Tired*

              Anonymous complaints are not actionable and are actively destructive. I hate them, they are childish and ruin group cohesion and working relationships. Any manager who receives one should either refuse to act on it until the complainer is revealed or immediately call the complainee into the meeting. Deal with the situation like adults, and nip it in the bud. If I were a manger, folks would know not to bring such gossip to me. That’s all it is destructive gossip that has no place in professional environment.

              OP, I feel you so hard having been on the receiving end of this kind of nonsense. I’m aggressive, though, and would perhaps seek a meeting with Kathy myself. I can’t stand being lie on. You have a right to confront your accuser. Moving you is bananapants, it’s assumed this gossip is true without even talking to you! Sorry, your org sucks and may not change. Good Luck!

        2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          Did Kathy recently do a DNA test perchance??? I agree this is very odd and I’d be losing sleep if I were OP! It’s great that your manager has your back though, OP! Maybe you two can work together to find answers and a resolution to this.

          1. EPLawyer*


            Amazing call back. Also a reasonable explanation of why Kathy suddenly wanted OP in another building. for a given value of reasonable.

      2. Myrin*

        Yeah, I was immediately reminded of a letter I re-read recently where the OP, although well-intentioned, always immediately reprimanded her employee X when employee Y – who clearly had an agenda – complained about X, without every actually trying to get X’s side of the story. Today’s letter is basically X’s side.

      3. pinetree*

        Agreed, the immediate push to move OP to another building without any type of investigation is bizarre. The only thing I can think of is that if the complaint came from multiple people or there was some sort of evidence involved. But if so, why didn’t the CEO mention that to the manager?

        If I were OP and after following Allison’s advice, I don’t feel fully reassured that everything has been put to bed, then yes I’d start job searching. Less from concern that I’m going to lose my job soon, but because clearly this workplace has underlying issues and who knows how that will manifest itself going forward.

        1. Some words*


          And even if one can push back & demonstrate that due diligence wasn’t done about the complaint it’s not going to win brownie points with management. They don’t like to be made aware they fell down on their responsibility.

    2. JSPA*

      I’d wonder if either the coworker or Kathy perhaps has one or more of the following:

      a) a guilty conscience
      b) a history of having been surveiled
      c) a history of feeling surveiled
      d) a history of lying to achieve an end

      Yes, this is speculation (by way of “how could this happen”), but then, so is Alison’s “maybe you were tying your shoe.” They’re all legitimate for-instances; And there’s nothing like bad prior experience, and/or a guilty conscience, to make one feel surveiled.

      RE option A, it doesn’t have to be financial improprieties! I’ve noticed that changing my clothes, in a completely private office with the door locked, can give me a momentary sensation of, “I wonder if anybody is peeping”–in a way that changing completely in the open, in the locker room, does not.

      RE option C, some people will deal with (say) too much perfume, a loud laugh, or someone who reminds them of an old enemy, by making up an actionable accusation, rather than making a simple ask.

      “Has Kathy ever indicated anything else about me that she finds irritating, that I could easily change?” might be a useful part of the follow up with your immediate manager.

      Walking wide around Kathy’s door, if there are multiple options and your standard route takes you past Kathy’s door, might be wise (so she never opens the door and finds you right outside).

      Keeping an eye out for financial shenanigans is probably already in your job description. Because Kathy has created a situation where you could have a personal grievance against her, if anything funky comes up, make sure to document the heck out of it, and to tell you’re immediate supervisor.

      1. Looper*

        My read of the letter was not that LW was supposedly eavesdropping outside Kathy’s door, it was that she was accused of eavesdropping outside another coworker’s door. So LW’s manager was pulled into Kathy the CEO’s office in regards to a mystery accusation that LW was listening outside another person’s door and Kathy wants her moved to another building due to the complaint she heard.

        1. JSPA*

          A nameless coworker, no identifying details, and we have a long list of examples where a bad boss claimed that the objection started with a coworker…I fairly immediately presumed that Kathy herself was most likely be the officemate in question.

          Because otherwise, why not go to the letter writer’s direct manager to complain? Jumping directly to the CEO seems off.

          1. Looper*

            Yeah, everything about it is weird and I think LW is right to be concerned and to address it.

            1. EPLawyer*

              Very weird. WHY would you move someone out of the main building and exile them over this? It just seems over the top. Something else is at play.

              1. Office Lobster DJ*

                Right? “We think an employee is untrustworthy, so let’s move them to where they [seemingly] have less supervision.”

                A big piece of this puzzle is missing.

          2. Shnikies*

            *ding-ding-ding* I think we have a winner

            This was my thinking as well. Which makes Kathy a pretty bad manager if she can’t be forthright about these kinds of concerns, and jumps immediately to moving OP to another location (?!).

            I hate to say it, but if this were me, I’d take Alison’s advice and try to repair my reputation, but I’d also be polishing up my resume and starting a job search. If you’re in the US, you’re likely in an at-will employment situation and Kathy could get rid of you on a whim. If you’re fired for cause, this could affect how/whether you get unemployment benefits.

          3. EavesdroppingHellNo*

            OP1 here!

            It is definitely possible, though I will admit this didn’t even occur to me until you comment.

            I thought it may be the Drama Stirrer because she is know to overstep. both are possible

          4. Ama*

            Yeah I got a mysterious anonymous complaint forwarded to my by my boss once and although I never confirmed for sure, I’m pretty sure it was my boss who was just mad that I didn’t look happy to see her when she stopped by my desk to waste 20 minutes of my time with small talk when I was overwhelmed with work. (The complaint was that someone had said I “didn’t seem happy to help them.”) As soon as I started smiling every time she approached I got praised for “how well I responded to feedback.”

            (I also immediately started job searching because the whole incident reinforced that I was actually miserable there and that that workplace was always going to value surface appearances over the actual work I was doing.)

      2. Tiger Snake*

        Option 1 is what I was wondering about. Re-reading the letter, it doesn’t even say that the OP was accused of eavesdropping on Kathy.

        The CEO wants the OP moved because a third party said they saw her eavesdropping outside of her coworker’s door. Not the CEO’s.

        Not only are there so many other explanations for what that could be (“Hm, is Ginny on the phone or can I interrupt?”); but is it really such a a damnable crime that you get banished from the building entirely even if it were true?

        Sometimes you overhear things and realise its related to you, so you join in – that’s a part of working in an office. We respect the closed door, sure, but accidentally eavesdropping is normal enough that seeing someone do it – well it’s not great, but if its not a pattern the response seems very extreme.

        1. I edit everything*

          It’s also weird that whoever reported it went straight to the CEO, not LW’s manager.

            1. EavesdroppingHellNo*

              OP1 here!

              Not gonna lie this fact has me making guesses on who it could be. I think I have a guess but I have no idea why this person would start all this outside of her being a drama stirrer

              1. ferrina*

                If the Office Drama Director has it out for you and they have the CEO’s ear, there’s not a lot you can do. The Office Drama Director is not going to be a reasonable person that you can have a reasonable conversation with. Often you don’t even have to do something to them- maybe you looked better in a meeting than they did, or they overheard someone praising you and they got jealous. These are not things that you can or should be policing.

                It’s up to the authority figures to have a handle on the Office Drama Director. When the CEO indicates that she’s fine with the Drama, you need to start working on an exit plan. You don’t need to leave immediately, but this environment is or will soon be poisonous and warp your office norms. It is not normal for a CEO to believe a serious accusation without evidence and to take such weird steps. Start working on an exit, because this is very unlikely to get better.

                1. I have RBF*

                  When the CEO indicates that she’s fine with the Drama, you need to start working on an exit plan. You don’t need to leave immediately, but this environment is or will soon be poisonous and warp your office norms. It is not normal for a CEO to believe a serious accusation without evidence and to take such weird steps. Start working on an exit, because this is very unlikely to get better.

                  This. Something or someone(s) are seriously bananapants there, and it’s a big piece of dysfunction popping up all over your department.

                  You would be well advised to “seek new growth opportunities elsewhere” as a priority. This won’t get better, considering the players involved.

                2. Megan*

                  In my experience, if the Office Drama Director has it out for you, it doesn’t matter whether they have the CEOs ear or not. They will do all sorts of sneaky things to sabotage you if that’s what it takes. It also comes back to what authorities allow. The CEO is part of the problem.

                  Ultimately I had to leave my situation but managed to do so in good standing. I honestly should have left sooner. Please don’t find yourself in my shoes. Leave as soon as possible.

        2. EavesdroppingHellNo*

          OP1 here!

          Hm, is Ginny on the phone or can I interrupt?

          I wondered if something like this line was the case but its such a commen thing post covid I don’t understand why they escalated. like why not say something like “Hey OP1, what’s up, you looking for Ginny?” not a go to Kathy and make this into a thing.

          But myself and my supervise aren’t being told much about the complaint

      3. Dumpster Fire*

        I’d add another option (e): has done eavesdropping/surveilling herself. That would definitely lead one to think that someone else, seen pausing outside a closed door, is eavesdropping (rather than just stopping to read a text, tie a shoe, etc.)

        I guess that could probably fall into option (a), guilty conscience, as well.

      4. EavesdroppingHellNo*

        OP1 Here!

        I am now calling or emailing before I even knock on most doors. There isn’t a way to avoid Kathy’s door if I need to be on that side of the building but I am mostly avoiding being over there period

        thanks for the advice

    3. EavesdroppingHellNo*

      OP1 here- thats what I thought to! there may be a potential of someone who wants my office maybe but I would be a loss as to who! our offices are very similar and at this time no one is sharing so I don’t think that would be the idea.

      It did feel like an escalation! I have never had a complaint and in fact have glowing records and compliments.

      I heard they wanna install a camera in the hallway now. Part of me doesn’t want to care but now I am going to feel watched when it goes up. I know I did nothing, but if I pause to check my phone, is that going to be a problem.

      I bring up my feeling with my superviser and she reiterated than my job is safe and she trust my but the anxiety is still there

      1. learnedthehardway*

        Perhaps you might want to bring this up with HR, assuming you have HR at your company. At any rate, before any actions were suggested / taken, HR SHOULD have been asked to do an investigation to establish what the facts are. There’s a very clear methodology and process for HR to do investigations. It’s not foolproof, but is a lot fairer than having random unknown people make accusations that the CEO takes seriously without getting all sides of the story.

        You might also want to document your side of things in an email to your manager. Ie. “As discussed, I am very upset and dumbfounded by this accusation, categorically deny doing it, and am disappointed that disciplinary actions were considered without any investigation to establish the facts. I appreciate your support and advocacy on my behalf, but want to request an investigation (or whatever outcome you want to see).

        That way, you have something your manager can share with the CEO, and you have a record yourself. CC HR if you have an HR manager.

      2. Emma*

        Im sorry what?? They are putting up cameras in the hallway? This is nuts. I’m so sorry OP but you should probably start looking at other jobs. They have obviously lost their marbles.

        1. Clorinda*

          Let the cameras in the hallway show OP going briskly about their business, then. If I were OP, I might welcome the cameras. Of course, I would also be looking for other employment, not in a panic, but persistently, because this feels like the opening shot in a long campaign.

          1. jasmine*

            > Of course, I would also be looking for other employment, not in a panic, but persistently, because this feels like the opening shot in a long campaign.

            This. It’s great that OP’s manager trusts them, but the fact that they’re not aligned on how concerning the incident is doesn’t bode well.

          2. EavesdroppingHellNo*

            that’s what my manager said when she said they were installing cameras. “Let them put cameras up, all they will see is us walking to the bathroom ”

            I’m more worried about once they are up, will every pause or moment be used as ammunition?

        2. MigraineMonth*

          I’m sorry, OP, something has gone horribly wrong in your company. No reasonable company goes directly from “anonymous complaint about eavesdropping” straight to “punish employee” and “install surveillance cameras” without any steps in between.

          Do you by any chance work on a Hellmouth?

        3. JSPA*

          I assume you know for certain that your supervisor is not the type to yank your chain, or be manipulative?

          As I read your letter–which may of course have been edited–you only know about all of this through your direct supervisor…who comes out of this as your only trustworthy friend, to whom you owe everything.

          If you don’t know your supervisor all that well, It might be worth figuring out the way to cross check.

          I’m of two minds about approaching Kathy directly, as it may seem like stirring drama, if the scenario was amplified or concocted by your immediate supervisor. But routing it through any third party seems even more like stirring drama.

          Here is the direct tack:

          “Dear [however you’d address the CEO],
          after hearing from [supervisor] about an odd accusation, I feel I must ask you what would make anyone, question my professionalism and my commitment to privacy. Respecting privacy is a core aspect of my job, and a core personal tenet.”

          indirect…HR? Asking to verify if any statement has been put in your file? Asking for advice on how to handle the situation? Asking to put some sort of… proactive rebuttal (?) in your own file, in case the statement filters down (or up) later?

          Regardless, don’t call anybody out, and don’t play guessing games regarding who did what. That’s super important: take a “just the facts / this is what I was told / i know it makes no sense, but I’m not going to play guessing games, even if you ask me to” attitude.

          1. EavesdroppingHellNo*

            I do not think it’s my supervisor honestly

            thank you for your insite. I’d still figuring out my full next steps.

      3. Some words*

        They’re so concerned about people being surveilled (eavesdropped on) that they’d like to install permanent surveillance equipment? Yeah, this is logical and makes all sorts of sense.

        I’m sorry your in this situation. I don’t really have much actionable advice that hasn’t already been said. But just maybe they can be encouraged to dial it back a bit & re-examine the situation a little more calmly. Currently it sounds like all sorts of knee-jerk reactions getting out of hand.

      4. Arthenonyma*

        Hmm. Installing a camera is such a weird escalation that I am starting to wonder if there’s something going on that you don’t know about. Like maybe there have been office thefts or snooping (or Katie thinks there has been snooping) and someone said to her that you’re the culprit – but the only “evidence” they have is this one time they saw you “eavesdropping”, so that’s all they directly accused you of.

        I don’t think this changes the advice- the only reason I’m speculating about it is that if something like that is going on, it might make you feel less like they’re watching you specifically, which might make your work life less stressful. But even if that was what was happening, Katie accusing you without investigating is still a huge red flag.

    4. Rose*

      Especially because there is literally nothing that would make me report this unless it was someone literally pressing their ear against a door for an extended period of time. There are a million reasons you might stand right outside someone’s office (or otherwise look like you’re ever dropping): you’re psyching yourself up before you knock, you were about to knock but now you think there’s someone in there so you might just come back, you’re silently farting in the hall before you go in, you’re doing a deep breathing exercise because this coworker makes you want to scream…

      I can’t imagine what kind of nut would see someone generally hanging around and go report it.

      1. I have RBF*

        Yeah. When I worked in an office, when people had actual offices, I would stop outside someone’s door before knocking to listen to see if they were on a phone call. I wasn’t evesdropping, I was listening for sound only. I couldn’t make out what was said, but I could tell if they were using their “phone voice” and would move on and talk to them later. That way I wasn’t interrupting a client call with knock, knock “Want to go to lunch?”

  4. Bilateralrope*

    #4 is an employer that wants employees who put their job above their education. Without explanation. You should listen when an employer says something that important about the job. If they are willing to tell candidates that the job is more important than classes, what do they say to employees ?

    The letter writer got lucky to find this out before starting the job.

    Maybe try to see if they could have worked out your class schedule from what you told them and other public information. I wouldn’t bother.

    My only advice is to share this story. Warn others about this employer. If someone reacts like the LW’s mother, don’t listen to any job advice from them.

    1. BethDH*

      If I were OP (though I admit I wouldn’t have done this as a 21-year-old), I would write a carefully worded email to the head of HR. No accusations, no guessing about what happened, no whining about not getting the role.
      Just “here are the facts” (who called, the timing of reschedule call and only time offered being during class with less than 24 hours notice). End with something like “I was disappointed that #company had so little understanding of student educational requirements that they wouldn’t work around class schedules for a student internship. I hope this is something you can adjust for future students who apply.”
      That last bit is to indicate that it’s not you complaining about not being chosen and is actionable feedback.
      I still suspect that the coordinator went rogue in some way (I notice that it’s not a “supervisor,” which suggests to me that it’s someone doing admin like scheduling, not the person responsible for the whole program). Could be their prejudice or preference for another candidate, could be them covering for their mistake in scheduling, could just be them being lazy or having a power trip.

      1. rayray*

        Yeah, I’d actually support that LW if they did something like that. Maybe the whole company is like this, but maybe this particular person is just bad. They definitely represented their company very poorly.

      2. Riot Grrrl*

        I would counsel LW against this sort of action. (1) Your time is better spent simply looking for a new position. (2) An email from an outside rando will carry very little weight. You’re not a customer. You’re not board member or a client or a former employee. You’re a person who tried to get a job and didn’t get it. No matter what you say, the assumption will be that it’s just sour grapes and that you’re just trying to take someone down with you. (3) Lobbing an accusation against a company’s values when there’s every possibility that this was a rogue actor and that the company itself doesn’t have those values will not make them look bad, it will make you look bad.
        You don’t have enough information in this case; it’s time to move on.

        1. rayray*

          All good points, but if I were the big-boss somewhere, I’d like to know if people were treating job seekers this way.

          I may be bitter because of a bad experience I had with a talent acquisition person recently, who genuinely did sour my opinion of a company I’ve really been interested in working for.

          1. Riot Grrrl*

            I would challenge this notion. After 2 months of being the “big-boss somewhere” I suspect you would not want every complaint from rejected applicants. Most of them will be arguments about why they actually were the best human on the planet, and the hiring process was somehow inadequate or unfair because it didn’t reveal that fact. There’s no way to differentiate that from this.

        2. learnedthehardway*

          Agreed. Better for the LW to raise the issue with their co-op program / internship program manager at their institution. That person will have standing to bring it up to the employer’s head of HR.

      3. Yeah, nah*

        This is a horrible idea. The only thing that letter would do is get the sender put in the company’s “Never Hire” pile.

      4. JSPA*

        No. This is like the intern dress code strike.

        There is no such thing as a “right to an interview.” There is zero requirement that a business take only the best possible intern.

        “The interview slots were full” (or “we hired somebody before we got to your interview so we are canceling”) is just how life is (as opposed to the careful, artificial construct of educational institutions).

        You have learned something very important about life: 95-99% of the time, nobody is going to hold a job for you just because you might have turned out to be the best.

        And I can vouch that’s even true in academic hiring, where practical matters still intrude. There’s “will she stay or are we just a stepping stone” and “but can they teach the two large intro courses we desperately coverage on” and “department faculty subgroup A and subgroup B are willing to accept a new hire from either subgroup, but would rather see the position go unfilled than have yet another person from subgroup C” (etc).

        Provided there’s no Discrimination on the basis of legally listed characteristics, “We’re looking for someone we’ll be glad to have, and who will be glad to be here” is a full and complete description of the requirements of the intern hiring process.

      5. Nina*

        LW who is one (1) intern who isn’t even working there does not have the standing to pull this kind of stunt.
        LW’s college’s careers office (who funnel potentially dozens of interns to the company and have the influence to turn potentially hundreds of students off working there) does. Take it to the careers office.

  5. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    I was first assuming what they meant was everyone gets paid below market rate (relative to their own role) so it wouldn’t be equitable for OP to be paid actual market rate. My eyebrows went up when I saw they’d explicitly stated that it is ‘unfair’ for lawyers to be paid more than support staff etc.

    OP will never get market rate here and I would agree with people suggesting seeing what other opportunities are out there. In the exit interview make clear why.

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Sadly even being honest that the pay being so below market may not be enough. It would have taken the entire company at one place I worked before anything like bad pay would have been addressed (for the record this place paid market rate to the exact penny and not a penny more – but the hours were super flexible which at that point in my life I needed more than extra salary).

    2. Smithy*

      I am being cynical here, but having read the comment a few times and having worked in nonprofits (legal ones that specifically hire a lot of lawyers and not just having a few in-house legal counsel attorneys) I somewhat suspect your first reading is right.

      In nonprofits, there are roles like attorneys or accountants that can compare their salaries to the private and public sectors for comparison of market rates. Those numbers will be vastly different. However, nonprofits will also hire a number of positions that don’t really have an analogue outside of the nonprofit world. So that nonprofit’s intake staff member or client advocate really won’t have that ability to look at the same “market rate” data when saying that their salary should be XYZ. Which is where the point about equity and not looking at that kind of market rate data comes into play.

      If this nonprofit is genuinely paying their lawyers and social workers and intake officers all the same based on a flat structure around years served n such – that would be such a wild take, that I’d imagine it tied to a fairly aggressive social justice philosophy. Which if the OP doesn’t agree with, then a totally fair reason to leave any nonprofit where you’re not aligned with the mission. But I’d need to see that to not believe the OP didn’t bring in local data that an attorney with X years in Y city is making $Z on average, and the nonprofit wouldn’t agree to a raise close to it.

      1. ferrina*

        I had to re-read the letter several times, and I’m not sure. It isn’t clear what LW means when they say “it wouldn’t be fair to the non-attorneys on staff for the attorneys to be paid more”. More than what?

        1. The organization said lawyer will be paid the same as other roles. Which is a wild take- the requirements job requirements are different! I assume they actually hired LW as a lawyer, and that comes with certain costs (try telling law school that it’s tuition is inequitable). I could see a non-profit trying to do this, but that would only be the tip of the dysfunctional iceberg.

        2. The organization said that pay is capped at 80% of market rate (or something like that), and they won’t pay anyone more than that. This would make more sense for a non-profit…it’s pretty normal for non-profits to not be able to pay as much as for-profits. At this point, it’s up to the market forces. If the organization generally is able to recruit and retain different types of employees at 80% market rate, the LW is the outlier and the org may be right to hold firm. If lawyers are harder to recruit/retain, then LW may have a point.

        1. LW3*

          It’s 1. I would be more ok with #2, but also when I’m talking about the market data, I’m talking about other, similarly mission driven non-profits. This “internal equity” stuff does come on the heels of some weird anti-legal program stuff from various parts of the organization that it unfortunately wasn’t totally surprising that they’re not super interested in paying us even close to market (or retention I guess)

      2. Spero*

        I disagree that non profit employees don’t have for profit analogues to look at…I’m a career non profit employee whose roles have always been titled something non profit specific, but it’s never been a challenge to find a different title whose roles compare. Ex as a grants manager I have been at agencies where that was a project manager role, some where that was a compliance role, some where that was a relationships/account manager role. You just have to look outside the language your industry uses to the core skills. I’ve also been poached for internal training roles out of HR departments and have done a lot of that on a consulting basis for everything from hospitals to fintech companies.

        Many non profits are invested in convincing their staff that what they do is so unique and special that they could not get it from a for profit role and industry. It’s a way to keep our wages artificially low and reduce negotiation for raises. The mission doesn’t pay the bills though.

        1. Smithy*

          As a fundraiser, I may be more inclined than most to say that not all nonpofit jobs do have a genuine analogue. I understand that there are transferable skills in what I do to for-profit and public sector jobs. And certainly politicians also hire fundraisers, but it’s not exactly federal or state government work in the same way.

          This isn’t to say that I’m in support of keeping nonprofit employees wages low or depressed, but I’m far more in support of nonprofit staff unionizing or working together to advocate for raises as opposed to finding analogues in the corporate world. It may be because of the types of positions I’ve seen fundraising compared to, but I find there to be greater value when we try to elevate the value and support of the labor in our field than compare ourselves to the corporate world.

        2. riverofmolecules*

          I agree. Even the examples (intake staff or client advocate) are things that definitely exist at for-profit companies. There are a lot of for-profit behavioral health organizations that exist to provide mental health services and bill Medicaid for it.

    3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I read your first paragraph and had the “Why not both?” meme flash before my eyes. My first read was that they were making everyone’s pay the same regardless of the work they do – but you’re likely right that everyone’s pay is below market to begin with!

  6. Chrissssss*

    About #3, I wonder if they also pay managers (including CEO or any equivalent you might have) below market rates because of fairness towards non-managers.

    1. Brain the Brian*

      Hah! I had the same thought. Seriously, though, this is a screwed-up way to weaponize equity.

      1. Artemesia*

        The very concept of equity is fairness not equality. Time to look for a lawyering job somewhere else.

        1. I have RBF*

          The very concept of equity is fairness not equality.


          The fact that a non-profit is deliberately distorting the meaning of equity here to mean some sort of race to the bottom “equality” makes me wonder what else is being distorted.

          As a legal professional, you should find a non-profit that knows what the **** they are doing. This place sounds like it puts the “dys” in dysfunctional.

    2. Stitch*

      The whole concept is just absurd, especially considering the costs associated with education. If anything their policy makes anyone who needs to pay their student loans self select out.

      Run, LW.

    3. Antilles*

      This was my exact thought too: Do we think the CEO is making the same salary as your college interns because “it’s not fair” for certain roles to be paid more than others? I sure don’t.

    4. Iris Eyes*

      It is a non-profit, I wouldn’t put it past them. Especially if the CEO is the founder and has a mission first mindset there is at least a small chance that a market competitive salary might make them the highest paid employee in the organization.

      1. LW3*

        CEO definitely makes more than the lawyers haha. Did some tax return digging after this convo

    5. ferrina*

      Absolutely. Obviously the CEO and the intern need the same salary- otherwise it’s not fair

  7. Joan*

    #4 – I’ve been interviewing potential 23-24 interns all week, and would never ask them to miss class, that’s absurd. Take it as a warning sign.

    1. JSPA*

      I’m unclear on whether the LW said, “no, sorry, I have class then” and perhaps also, “is there any other way we can make this work, perhaps if you have a cancellation?”

      If it was only, “that doesn’t work for me,” it’s not clear what sort of conflict it is.

      A company should not expect someone to cut class (or lose a term-time job), but they might reasonably expect a would-be intern to make the interview a priority over a range of other conflicts.

      Especially if the time in question was, say, a friday afternoon or an early morning, the interviewer might have defaulted to, “If they don’t specify, we’ll assume they’re prioritizing starting the weekend early / prioritizing sleeping in” rather than, “it’s probably a class, they’re right to make a priority of schooling.”

      Of course, it’s even more possible that the company had 30 excellent candidates for two positions, and 12 interview slots, so they chose to interview only as many people as slotted easily into the predetermined schedule. Even with interns, “we don’t need to find the hypothetical best employee, we only need to find someone that’s a solid mutual fit” is a reasonable way to handle things.

      1. Peanut Hamper*

        I think the fact that they called the day before the interview was originally scheduled and then proposed a specific date and time means it doesn’t matter how LW responded.

        The company is being ridiculous and rude. LW dodged a bullet.

        1. House On The Rock*

          Exactly this – the red flag popped up before any mention of LW missing class. The company asked a candidate, who had a confirmed time, to reschedule last minute without explanation, only provided one other option, and then terminated the whole process with LW said she had a conflict. This shows, at the very least, a lack of respect for potential interns’ time and likely speaks to their whole culture.

          1. I have RBF*

            This shows, at the very least, a lack of respect for potential interns’ time and likely speaks to their whole culture.


            Any company that jacks around interview times like this, even without a schedule conflict, is suspect, IMO. They either A. don’t have their sh*t together, or B. don’t regard an intern’s time as valuable, so they jack them around out of habit.

      2. wordswords*

        That’s still a ridiculous and unfair conclusion from the interviewer, though, and a red flag about the internship. Why should OP have to disclose their reason for being unable to make a single specific time so the interviewer can judge whether it’s an acceptable reason? And why should the interviewer leap to the assumption that any schedule conflict is probably slacking off unless proven otherwise? Any company that approaches its interns with that attitude is one I definitely wouldn’t want to work for.

        1. Rose*

          Exactly. I was getting multiple colonoscopies while internship hunting in college because of a cancer scare. Should I have been disclosing this? It’s ridiculous to expect candidates to justify prior obligations to you.

          If OP just said “no, I’m not free then,” and didn’t offer alternate times etc then that’s not completely ideal, but it’s also the kind of thing that’s totally reasonable for a college intern. Calling someone out of the blue, when they might not have their calendar easily available, canceling an appointment last minute, and offering exactly one very specific time slot is by far the bigger faux pas.

      3. Kella*

        Okay but see, if I am an adult and I am not being paid for my interview time, I do in fact get to decide to prioritize sleeping in over an interview if I’ve decided that’s what’s necessary in my life structure, and my interviewer does not need to assess and approve that decision. It doesn’t mean that’s the best decision to make but if you’re approaching interviews from the perspective of “this candidate can’t possibly make good decisions about their own availability” then that’s not an interview I want to attend.

        1. JSPA*

          This assumes that someone has to be in the wrong, for an interview to not happen, though. While in the real workd, neither the interviewer nor the prospective intern are required to bend over backwards to make the interview happen.

          This isn’t some sort of high-stakes job for the company, frankly. They could well have already found a set of people they’d be happy with, and have settled on a hard deadline, so as not to lose those people and go through the bother again, and then the person who’s supposed to interview the LW (and, say, two others) the next day, calls in with a positive covid test.

          They have one interview slot left, before their deadline, to accommodate any one of those three people. They decide to interview whichever person can make it to that interview.

          That’s just not weird to me?

          1. Buffy Rosenberg*

            There’s a lot of room between “bending over backwards” and “changing the time last minute and offering only one slot then rudely hanging up.”

            Even cancelling the interview, or politely explaining eg ‘unfortunately that’s now the only time available because of XXX, we know it’s late notice but we have to move the interview. That doesn’t work for you? I completely understand. I’m sorry but that’s the only time we can do because XXX. What do you want to do?”

            That would be inflexible but different from what happened.

            I don’t think the hypothetical you give sounds weird, exactly, but it doesn’t fill me with confidence about the organisation and their ability to handle changes in circumstances if they responded the way the person in OP’s letter did.

  8. Emma*

    #1 – it’s such a weird reaction from Kathy. The normal response would be to ask what had happened and discuss with OP. Not try to move them to another building.

    OP, it makes me feel that details are missing here. Is Kathy usually this unreasonable? It seems her patience with you is wearing thin and that she immediately jumps to conclusions based on her already negative view of you. I would suggest to try to get a better relationship with Kathy, even if you think you have a normal relationship already.

    I’m sorry this is happening to you.

    1. rayray*

      Even if they were eavesdropping, moving them to a whole different building is a super extreme overreaction.

      Kathy seems like a bad boss, a good boss would have at least asked that person about it to hear them out.

    2. EavesdroppingHellNo*

      OP1 Here!

      This continues to leave me at a loss because I thought we had a good relationship. I was asked to assist her with an extra project next month and she always had compliments for the work.

      To my knowledge she is not this unreasonable but she has only been working at my agency for a bit over a year. I don’t know if this is another side of her or if the drama stirrer who went to her put more details or what.

      the missing details are sadly still missing to me too

      1. House On The Rock*

        OP I’m sorry you are dealing with this. It’s upsetting when someone questions your integrity, especially without context or cause, and especially when it’s a higher up and you don’t feel like you have a lot of recourse.

        In addition to Alison’s suggestion to circle back with your own boss about this, is there any chance you could talk to Kathy directly or at least broach the subject with your boss? If you and Kathy will be working together on a project soon, it feels like it would be good to address it head on. The only semi-rational explanation I can think of is if the accusation came from another C-Suite level person and she feels she has to take action. Otherwise it makes no sense that she’d escalate to moving you to another building without any discussion.

  9. MostlyMarried*

    I could 100% see – needing an important boss’s input on something – seeing they’re in a meeting – and pausing at the door a moment enough to hear the TONE of conversation or WHO was in the office with them to determine if I should knock. I could also imagine some busybody calling this “eavesdropping” – but agree with the other commenters that ordering a move without any questions signifies an unreasonable reaction that likely has nothing to do with OP.

    1. londonedit*

      Yeah, even if it wasn’t the boss’s office, I’d still pause and briefly listen at a colleague’s closed office door, just to see if I could hear whether she was in discussion with someone before I knocked. If I heard voices, I wouldn’t listen in; I’d just make the decision to come back later. But if all seemed quiet, I’d knock on the door and see whether she was available. If someone decided that was me ‘eavesdropping’, I’d be really annoyed, and if someone used it as a reason to go straight to the CEO to accuse me of eavesdropping, and the CEO went straight to ‘well this person must obviously be moved to a different area’, I’d be REALLY annoyed. Seems like a total overreaction to me, especially as they don’t seem interested in listening to the OP’s side of the story at all.

      1. amoeba*

        Ha, yeah, I regularly did this in front of my PhD supervisor’s office. The reason: he’d always have his door closed (not really his fault, the doors were for some reason designed to fall closed), and if somebody knocked while he was busy/on the phone/in a discussion, he’d just… not acknowledge the knock at all. As it also wasn’t easily visible whether the door was locked or not, basically you had no idea whether he was just busy and you should come back in 30 mins or not in at all that day/already gone.

        Unfortunately, the sound-proofing was also quite good, so I regularly stood there for a minute or two trying to hear whether somebody was in that room or not. Luckily, everybody knew the problem, so no weird accusations. But it could have very easily looked that way to an outsider!

        I do not miss that and am very happy that I’ve only had bosses with an open door policy since (and Teams helps as well!)

        1. EavesdroppingHellNo*

          I wish more folks would be open to using quick messages. People at my work tell me, Just call or email!

          that doesn’t work when you don’t answer the phone or check your email Jan

      2. EavesdroppingHellNo*

        OP1 here!

        I still have only talking to my direct supervisor about it. I was never asked anything by HR or The CEO herself.

        I’ve been flip flopping between fury annoyances and sobbing.

        thank you for your impute. this is really helping me feel validated

      3. I have RBF*

        When I was in an office, with actual offices, I would listen first to see if a) were they on the phone (sounds like “phone voice”), or b) in a meeting (multiple voices). If there was no sound I would knock to see if they were in there and available.

        I could not make out what people were saying, only that there were voice(s) that I didn’t want to interrupt.

    2. Lily Rowan*

      I do that even when I don’t need anything important! Or even, especially when it’s not important — I definitely don’t want to interrupt, but some people just keep their door closed generally.

  10. Varthema*

    LW4 – My only thought is that HOW you state your unavailability can be super important. Generally, when you’re scheduling and a time doesn’t work for you, it’s expected that it’s your turn to propose a time or (in this case) give some idea of availability; otherwise, it just turns into a one-sided guessing game. A common habit I see among students and the newly graduated (or just young, if degrees aren’t involved) is a tendency to “dead-end” conversations – “Oh, sorry, I can’t do that.” full stop. and then nothing more. In a professional context, I’d only do that if I were truly uninterested in something and also it was no part of my job, and most importantly wanted to signal that. Even then, I’d probably close the loop with, “Sorry it won’t work out!”

    It’s normal for students to not be used to doing this since their lives are still largely organized and handed to them, but in this context, it would have been good to either propose another time, or at least start to and allow the interviewer to jump in (“Oh unfortunately I have class that time tomorrow and can’t miss it, but let’s seeee…”). I know that the unfortunate thing about student schedules is that they can be very Swiss cheese and big windows of free time can be hard to come by, but even “Wednesday after four or Friday morning before 11” would signal your interest.

    I still think they should have given the OP the benefit of the doubt and proposed at least one other time, but if this had already happened several times that day and the interviewer already had a bank of good candidates, they might have just been done with playing availability guessing game.

    On the other hand, maybe the OP did do all of this, in which case, yeah, the workplace is being wholly unreasonable.

    1. *kalypso*

      Alternate theory: someone forgot to tell someone they needed an immediate start, and they had to speed up and adjust the hiring timeline, and whoever couldn’t accommodate the new people/timeline was just dropped. It’s happened to me that I’ve been promised an interview in the morning, been at the doctor and missed a call, returned contact ASAP and they’ve hired someone because the morning person (recruiter) didn’t have the same info as the afternoon person (hiring manager). Absolutely not an applicant’s fault in any way, just sometimes businesses do stuff.

      1. Jackalope*

        That’s a possibility too, but given that the OP already had an appointment for the interview the next day and they were rescheduling, it seems less likely. I think OP would have mentioned it if the proposed reschedule was the same day as the call, and anything else would have been later (or possibly earlier but on the same day which is… not a serious time savings).

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

          I agree. Also this is for a summer internship, so I don’t see how or why they would need an immediate start date. For a regular job I could see that but not this.

    2. jasmine*

      > a tendency to “dead-end” conversations – “Oh, sorry, I can’t do that.” full stop. and then nothing more.

      This isn’t a big deal. I wouldn’t even call it unprofessional. At worst its a little socially awkward, and someone getting turned off at this sort of thing would still be weird. The normal response to would be “when would you be available?” or “would X or Y time work better?”

      I just don’t think it’s helpful to encourage the OP to nitpick their words.

      1. mr egg*

        Agree- I actually encourage people to dead end on certain scenarios because in many cases, it’s used to ask marginalized people to take on more work/responsibility for a situation.

    3. daffodil*

      Generally I think this is good advice, but in this case I think the interviewer needs to justify changing the already-scheduled time. The way OP recounts the interaction, maybe OP assumed original time was still an option if the change wouldn’t work.

    4. Kella*

      While this can certainly help the conversation flow, it sounds like the interviewer didn’t say, “Can we reschedule to a different time? Would X Day work?” but said, “Can we reschedule to X Day?” to which the appropriate answer would be, “Sorry, I can’t make that time.” It may not have been clear to OP at that point if the alternative was to keep the time they already had scheduled or to find another time and OP may have been waiting for the interviewer to share enough information that the negotiation could continue.

      But it sounds like even if OP had gone above and beyond and said, “Is there another time that would work?” that the interviewer’s response would’ve been that she couldn’t fit the interview in at any other time. And if the interviewer was petty enough to take the fact that OP didn’t offer a second potential time as so offensive that she no longer wanted to interview OP, that’s still a bullet dodged in my opinion.

      1. OP4*

        Yeah this is basically what happened. When she asked “Can we reschedule to X time on X day?” my first instinct wasn’t that it was if I said no there was no interview, I think in the moment I assumed I could keep the original time. If this had come over email I probably would’ve been able to think more clearly about it

  11. Allonge*

    LW4 – this does not change anything about Alison’s advice or how you should handle such situations, but I wanted to mention that sometimes a scheduling conflict like this happens and it’s nobody’s fault.

    Indeed giving just one timeslot for interviews is rigid from the company, but there are genuinely times when it’s not realistic to do otherwise all the same. It’s possible for everyone to do their best and for things not to work out.

    Again, this does not mean you need to ignore your existing obligations; you did everything right.

  12. Earlk*

    #2 I know someone who struggled to find work in one field when they included the teaching qualification they’d studied for before deciding to go in a different career direction. Their logic was that they were proud of the hard work, which showed the ability to work at a certain level. They eventually applied to jobs without including it (as it was irrelevant to the work they wanted to do) and were more successful.

    This was in the UK though and I think post-grad degrees are less of a requirement here than in the US.

    1. Artemesia*

      If you just got a masters degree in Pastoral counseling and now are looking for a secular job I am going to assume you couldn’t find something in pastoral counseling and will be gone the moment you do. A career oriented recent masters is a red flag if applying to other career paths. And jobs that privilege a masters? Why would they care about one that is so unrelated to the job? I’d drop it from the resume and see what happens. And no need to include the religious studies undergrad major when you are a double major either, although I doubt that anyone would much care about that.

      1. Sloanicota*

        Yes, there’s certainly no harm in OP trying a few applications without the specialized degree. I do understand the frustration that some jobs say “masters preferred” when it shouldn’t really be necessary, but they usually mean a *relevant* masters, not just any random masters. (Except apparently in some government jobs, where I had a friend tell me recently she’s getting a completely unrelated masters because any degree bumps you up the payscale).

        1. BethDH*

          It may also be needed to explain what OP was doing during that ~2 year period. Not a big deal if it wasn’t recent, but it sounds like it was.

          1. OP2*

            This is a huge factor. If I remove it, now it’s like “what were you doing?” So I feel like either option isn’t great. At least I know that it might not look great optically and to lean into that a bit more on my cover letter.

            1. Slow Gin Lizz*

              I’m curious how far afield from your master’s the jobs you are applying to are. I got a master’s in music performance right after college and now 20 years later I still do some music but I have a day job that is completely unrelated to music. If you have a degree in pastoral counseling but are applying to, say, IT jobs, I can see how the degree might be confusing to the places you’re applying. If you’re applying to fields where regular counseling are part of the job, then it wouldn’t be much of an issue.

              That said, it might be something worth addressing in your cover letters. “While I recently received a master’s degree in pastoral counseling, I realized I wanted to go back to the career I had chosen before receiving this degree,” or “After 10 years working at [wherever you worked before], I decided to continue my education so I spent two years working on a master’s degree. Now that I have finished that degree, I’m ready to pursue a career more in line with my interests in [whatever field you’re applying for now] because I realized while studying that I have a knack for [solving some kind of problem].” Or something along those lines.

            2. Gan Ainm*

              OP2- Are you applying to jobs where a degree in pastoral counseling is relevant/useful/required? I can’t tell from the letter, and if not, I don’t think it’s the religious nature of the degrees, just that they aren’t relevant, the same as a degree in underwater basket weaving or interpretive dance wouldn’t help. It’s a pretty competitive market right now for many industries.

              1. OP2*

                It’s relevant. “Pastoral counselling” is just the closest approximation to what my specialization was in because the specific degree is the only of its kind of North America.

            3. Michelle Smith*

              This was actually going to be my advice to you OP. It took me two years to find a job that was JD-preferred, but not a practicing attorney job. Everyone assumed that since I was practicing I would want to continue practicing. Why would anyone leave a field they put so much time and effort into? Granted I was 6 years into the work at the time, so even more invested than you in your religious counseling degree.

              I put a ton of effort into my cover letters, explaining my career progression and why X non-legal job was a logical next step for me in addition to how my education would provide a value-add to the organization in that specific role. It’s not just about explaining why I would want to be there (and not leave 6 months in because I was bored or broke and wanted to go back to practicing law) in a lower paying, less fast-paced job. It was also about explaining why my background would actually be an asset. I don’t know what kinds of jobs you’re applying for, but if there is a way to explain the skills and knowledge you gained from a counseling degree and how they would apply to secular jobs, do that! I’m sure that excellent communication skills such as knowing how to talk to people in crises, managing difficult emotions, and processing vicarious trauma in a healthy way may all have been things you learned that could be useful in a lot of roles. So is your understanding of religious backgrounds. Maybe that gave you an appreciation for diversity of viewpoints, for example. Really think about what might be relevant outside of enrichment in your personal life.

              If you have presence online elsewhere, make sure that narrative is clearly fleshed out everywhere too. I pay something like $10 or less a year to have a website hosted with my full legal name as the URL. I put it together very easily in Weebly and it explains my career, the things I’m passionate about, my degrees and what I did with them, and gives writing samples that demonstrate my understanding of and commitment to different issues (e.g. one of my passions is animal welfare and so one of my writing samples is a school-award winning research paper I did in law school on a particular legal topic in that area). My LinkedIn profile also has a fully filled out about section that covers many of these same topics in different words. I want any employer that Googles me to know exactly where I stand and to be reassured that I am committed (publicly) to moving my career in a particular direction and have given it lots of thought. It eventually worked out for me. I hope it works out for you too!!

              1. ferrina*

                This is a great way to approach it. If I saw an MA in Theology (Pastoral Counseling), I’d assume you wanted a job in Pastoral Counseling. I’d assume my job opening was a back-up plan, and you’d either a) move on as soon as you could or b) try to turn my job opening into a pseudo-pastoral counseling job.

                This can be true for anyone applying outside their feild of study, and comes with additional pitfalls for pastoral counseling. I’ve known more than my share of people who study or work in religion/pastoral roles. While there are a few of them that are rigorous, hardworking professionals (and a couple I would hire in a heartbeat), I’ve met more who think they are God’s Gift of Wisdom. “I am wise and my calling is to tell people what to do.” These folks can be…..less than professional. One way to quickly distinguish between the two types is that the rigorous hardworkers also tend to be incredibly astute and understand how it looks for them to be applying to a seemingly non-sequitur role, and they take the time to explain the apparent discrepancy–the others assume that I would be lucky to have them and their Godly Wisdom ™ and tell me how great they are without thinking about the needs of my organization or role, or really about what my perspective might be. Without any additional information about you and why you think my job opening is a good fit for your unique combination skills and what you want to do, I wouldn’t spend time interviewing you.

              2. OP2*

                Thank you. This is an excellent suggestion as I recently started a website to showcase some of my work. This will be useful for the content I should create.

                1. Clisby*

                  Also, at the (public, secular) colleges I’ve attended, a major in religious studies is very similar to a major in philosophy – it includes study of religions around the world, how they’ve influenced different cultures in the past, and how they’re reflected in diverse cultures today. To me, it would be very weird to assume someone with a religious studies major would try to proselytize people in any particular religion. That would be like looking at someone with a philosophy major and wondering whether they’re going to get into workplace arguments about Emmanuel Kant vs. John Stuart Mill.

                  A religious studies major (like a philosophy major) should have equipped graduates to talk about recognizing how to deal with diverse populations.

              3. Hats Are Great*

                “Why would anyone leave a field they put so much time and effort into?”

                hahahahaha, have they MET any lawyers? Don’t we ALL want to get out?

                1. Gumby*

                  I worked at one company (internet startup) that had:
                  * someone with a JD who worked in quality assurance
                  * someone with an MD who was a system administrator
                  * someone who got their MS in materials science and engineering right before joining us as a user interface designer
                  * someone with a masters in astronomy who worked in accounting

                  And it wasn’t a huge company – generally between 50 and 100 employees.

                2. Arabella Flynn*

                  I’ve a friend who graduated with his JD and went into practice doing family law. He lasted slightly less than three months before he quit and went back to teaching dance for a living.

            4. Pogo*

              OP2 I’m wondering why you ended up doing Masters in pastoral counseling but now don’t want to do it? And also what jobs you are now trying to get. Maybe that background will be helpful.

            5. DJ Hymnotic*

              Hey OP2. I’m in a very similar boat–bachelor’s degree from a religiously unaffiliated school but religiously-oriented graduate degrees–and I recently had to execute a pretty big career shift after burning out on my original career arc during the pandemic. That included applying to a lot of secular employers with my religious degrees on my resume because I often needed them to meet the job requirements, and I felt a lot of the exact same concerns as you. It honestly just took me a lot of trial and error to get the messaging just right in my cover letters and interviews that I was qualified and my skills were transferable *and* that I wouldn’t proselytize in the workplace. Some employers had an easier time picking up what I was putting down than others, but over time I got better at it and by the end of my job search I was getting significantly more interview requests than I was at the start.

              If you need someone who has been there to vent with or bounce stuff off of, let me know and maybe we can find a way to connect somehow? Totally your call, just wanted to offer that in case you might find that beneficial.

        2. amoeba*

          Yeah, I think there are some (public service) jobs like that here as well, where you’re basically just paid on the basis of your highest degree. But then you can always disclose it during the interview process. I wouldn’t keep it a secret or anything, anyway, just not mention it on the application!

          If it was full time schooling and a longish programme, I guess you might then have a gap on your CV then? I can imagine that not looking great if you’re fresh out of school (like, basically if it would look like undergrad and then a two year gap and nothing else. Not sure if that would be better than the unrelated Master’s?)
          In that case, maybe leave it in but at least make sure to clearly explain in your cover letter? Or make a point of describing the parts/subjects of the programme that might be relevant for the current application? (Not the counceling, I guess…)

        3. WillowSunstar*

          Right, that’s why for both my 4-year and Masters, I majored in marketing. At least it’s business-related and it got me hired. If you want primarily office jobs, a degree related in some way to business is the way to go. If you want other kinds of jobs, then definitely get that degree.

          That being said, I know someone who has a journalism degree, but didn’t go into journalism, and made it to middle management. Corporations also value communication skills.

      2. AvonLady Barksdale*

        Agreed. The recency of the degree is a big part of the challenge. I have an MA in something that is mostly unrelated to my current job (I could argue that one class was relevant) but I earned that degree almost 20 years ago and have built up a career with various twists and turns since then. I still put it on my resume but at this point it’s a footnote.

      3. hbc*

        Yeah, an accounting job that requires a masters degree is going to be looking for accounting degrees, MBAs, finance, etc.. You’ll have to explain why something outside that range is relevant (say, your engineering masters had a focus on business and finance), and one that’s completely irrelevant is worse than not having one at all. Especially obtained so recently.

        1. Gan Ainm*

          Yeah I don’t think it’s the religion aspect, and the mindset of jumping to the conclusion that it is religion when there’s an obvious alternate explanation, probably isn’t helping either

          Those degrees are for a very specific field/skill set, and it sounds like OP2 might be applying to roles in a totally different field with a different skill set she isn’t trained in / prepared for.

          I do a ton of hiring for supply chain and I’ll hire someone with a lot of experience and an irrelevant degree from 20 years ago, or a recent grad with a relevant degree (supply chain, finance, contracts/law, general business, something quantitative) and no or minimal experience, but not someone with an irrelevant degree AND no experience in our field, that’s a non-starter when we have so many qualified applicants.

          1. OP2*

            So I’m definitely not making that big of a leap. We’re definitely looking at counseling versus career coach kind of differences and most of my peers work in hospitals and social services, which is where I’m applying too. I get your point; I just want to clarify that this isn’t “I trained in something religious and now want to be an accountant and don’t get why this isn’t working”. It’s like “I trained on pastoral counselling and have the skills to do something in social services, is the religious specification the problem when I otherwise have the skills needed?”

            1. Hats Are Great*

              Is the degree in pastoral counseling from like an Emory/Vanderbilt/Yale? (and if so, are you being clear that it’s Berkeley Theological Seminary – Yale? Not everyone knows)

              Or are we talking Liberty/Regents/Hillsdale? That’s going to raise red flags not so much because of the theology but because of the low quality of instruction combined with the affiliation with Trumpism.

              In between you have like SMU and Wheaton, which are good schools but also have a loooooooooot of Jerky McJerkface alumni, where you are going to have to triangulate how you present yourself.

              The final possibility is that it’s from a “Bible Seminary” or a New-Age “College” or similar that is not actually an accredited graduate program. Which can be enough for you to work at some places in a pastoral role, but probably not in a social work or hospital setting.

      4. tamarack fireweed*

        Yeah, the LW didn’t say what they were applying for jobs in. If it’s something very far away from their degree they presumably have other qualifications and experiences to justify that they’re a good candidate. If it’s something more closely related – eg. social work, counseling – then I would absolutely make sure the cover letter tells a compelling story how everything fits together, and why the job they’re applying for is, indeed, something they want to do long-term (and are prepared for through their education etc.) .

        It’s not rare that someone’s education’s outward label is an odd fit. There are many people in tech with initial degrees in just about anything, from music performance to business. The question is just how to integrate it all.

        Plus, unfortunately, if the desired career is very competitive, some employers will triage applications on a narrow set of criteria and be inclined not to give the oddballs a second thought.

        I agree with Alison that this is unlikely to be a bias against religion. The same would be the case if the degree was, say, in history (presuming it’s for a career where history graduates are rare).

    2. L*

      Post grad degrees aren’t a widespread requirement in the US, either. When they are, it is in specific fields, and they’d expect a specific degree, not just “any masters.” Unless you are applying to be something related to a pastoral counselor or a religious educator or something, the degree in theology is not going to be a job requirement.

      1. Stitch*

        +1. I’ve never seen a posting that wants a master’s degree in just anything. It doesn’t sound like you are applying for jobs for which you have the right qualifications.

        Do you have any kind of mentor in the relevant field who you could talk to?

    3. Santiago*

      Replying here for threading purposes – I have a “niche” MA degree tangentially/unrelated to my career (in a social science). I just focus on the data analysis stuff and hit my cover letter hard.

      For example, if you have an MA in theology, you could put a bullet point underneath it like 1) experience in comparative analysis of XYZ or 2) conducted survey research in XYZ perhaps.

      Then in the cover letter I just explain that I am developing a career in education/my-area and I emphasize the areas of things that associate with that. So if you were applying to idk an editing job you could list experience editing published research (without getting into the nitty gritty.)

      I actually did an internship at a monastery once, but I listed it as an internship at XYZ farms since it’s name was XYZ farms, and I listed some generic tasks there related to the internship.

      This isn’t a complete answer to your points of course but hopefully will be helpful.

    4. Hats Are Great*

      “Should I be worried about what people think of my education in secular fields? How do I present my education in a way that won’t leave people worrying about my running around trying to convert people?”

      I have two degrees in theology — one from an obviously Catholic university, the other from a Protestant-affiliated but officially secular university — and this has basically never, ever been a problem. (I have never worked for a religious employer or in a religious-related capacity.) I have had weird individual interviews, or individual employers who were jerks, but I’ve had a lot more where someone has mentioned, “Oh, I studied theology too!”

      You have to be able to talk about it in a sensible way and connect the skills you gained through your education to what corporate America is looking for. But like, “really good at reading complex texts and sorting through multiple competing interpretations” is a great skill in any field.

      It actually very occasionally has been useful in my career. Some colleagues have a case right now where a significant chunk of a particular scripture is being used in a legal proceeding (for reasons that are totally relevant but hard to explain), and they were bitching about it over lunch and what any of it meant and how they hadn’t been able to find an expert and I was like, “Oh, hey, I actually wrote a paper on exactly this issue in grad school — do you want me to take a look?” I was able to give them a summary and analysis, and suggest a few experts for them to contact if needed.

  13. Musings of an Absent-Minded Professor*

    For #4, while I find the dismissiveness of the internship coordinator a little baffling unless the student was a) unclear that they had class or b) not suggesting other time(s), as a college professor who teaches in STEM, if a student has to miss class for an interview (especially as seniors for in-person interviews), that’s something that I’ll work out with them. If internships are a normal thing in your field, I wouldn’t be surprised if your professor would help you work around an interview that takes place during class.

    That being said, I don’t think you’re wrong to prioritize class, but there may be more flexibility than you think.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      The person who called them also hung up on them. It doesn’t seem like there was any flexibility, quite frankly.

    2. amoeba*

      Yeah, the person doing the scheduling just sounds really unreasonable.

      However, as a former student in Europe I’m actually quite surprised how uncommon skipping class appears to be in the US! My first thought was “well, obviously this is much more important than one class, why on earth would I postpone an interview for a lecture?”

      Guess my uni was much less strict, haha! (Lectures were pretty much take it or leave it – and for any kind of mandatory course, “I have an interview” would most probably have been absolutely acceptable as an excuse…)

      1. KatCardigans*

        I don’t think skipping class is uncommon in the US, but it also depends very much on your school and your track. As a humanities major at a small college, my professor and classmates would have noticed my absence because many of my classes were discussion-based. I only skipped for illness. My brothers both went to larger schools and majored in STEM subjects, and they both frequently skipped large lectures. Individual students wouldn’t be missed, and they could get the material elsewhere and then practice in study groups or labs.

        The US does privilege attendance in public schooling (there is often a reward for perfect attendance—or, at least, there used to be), and I’m sure plenty of US college students still carry the understanding that attendance=good student. I’m not sure how that’s changed since COVID or what attendance expectations are like in other countries, though.

        1. Jackalope*

          At my university, almost all of my classes had an attendance requirement (as did the community college I did some courses at). I had exactly ONE professor during my time there say that we could miss as much as we wanted as long as it was not a quiz or test day (which he provided on day 1 of classes). Every single other professor had an attendance requirement which amounted to not missing more than a week of class (which was especially a pain for classes that only met once or twice a week). I was fortunate in being able to meet those requirements, and not having any huge crises during my undergrad, but even at the time as a young person with little life experience I thought it was unfair to anyone who, say, might have life intervene and cause them to miss class. And the penalties were something like for each additional day missed you’d drop a letter grade or something along those lines, or missing two weeks (or maybe 3? It’s been awhile) meant an auto fail. So there’s no way I would have considered skipping class for an interview. (It should be noted as well that my school was on the smaller side so I never had a class of more than 30 students, meaning that it was easy to take attendance and notice if someone was gone. Doubly so for some of my classes in my major which only had 8-10 students and all of us knew each other because we all had the same major or minor.)

          1. Sparkle Llama*

            Attendance was only graded for me in larger lecture classes – generally professors that weren’t very engaging and otherwise wouldn’t have a lot of people come to class. I could have asked the professor or TA for an excused absence for an interview.

            My other classes I would have wanted to avoid missing but if I needed to for an interview I probably would have. Doesn’t seem like the person scheduling gave the opportunity to respond that if that is the only time available you could make it work, which I feel like would be normal. If I was offered one singular time my immediate assumption would be that is their preference but not the only time available.

          2. Darsynia*

            I’m in the US; I was told I’d fail a class if I didn’t attend while actively miscarrying. Zero miss attendance policy. Some professors really are up their own ass– and while I ordinarily would have just called it a medical emergency, he actually said to me ‘is someone DYING?’ to which I replied ‘kind of, yes!’

            Got a vindictive A in that class.

            1. DocVonMitte*

              Yep, I had a mental health crisis during college (active psychosis) and flunked out due to missing too many classes despite providing documentation and asking for accommodations. Not even missing any assignments or tests, just not going to enough classes.

              I never finished my degree. Luckily I broke into tech via analytics and my degree hasn’t been missed but I still feel salty about getting flunked out due to attendance a semester before graduation. Esp considering I was a Dean’s List student every semester leading up.

            2. Adultiest Adult*

              That is terrible and I am so sorry for your experience, but also cheering that you had the strength to return terrible right back to sender!

        2. londonedit*

          At my (UK) university, lectures were pretty much take-it-or-leave-it. Seminars and tutorials were in smaller groups, but no one would notice if you skipped a few lectures. You’d only be harming your own chances of doing well in your essays or exams. In England the vast majority of students are over 18, and (certainly with my English degree) we were very much expected to be responsible for our own learning, as adults. If someone was regularly absent (as in, not attending seminars and not handing work in) then their tutor would speak to them, and they’d risk being thrown off the course if their attendance was bad enough. But most of the time the outcome would be a lower classification of degree than they might have got if they’d gone to lectures more regularly. Then again, degrees in England are far less costly than in the US (when I was at uni they’d only just introduced student loans and tuition fees, and the fees were just over £1000 a year – they’re now £9000 a year but even that is far below the sort of fees I see mentioned by US commenters here) so maybe people feel less pressure with the whole thing. The US college experience seems – to me, from my British humanities degree experience – to be far more intense than going to uni is here.

          1. Francie Foxglove*

            The vast majority of American college/university students are also over 18. Unfortunately, over here, the vast majority of 18 year olds get treated as if they are 12.

        3. Musings of an Absent-Minded Professor*

          Yeah, I teach super small classes (8-10) students. I know if someone is there or not; I just ask for notice if its something they can give notice for and we work around it. But I don’t penalize based on attendance unless I’m having serious issues with it; the penalty normally comes when the attendance issue is also a lack of effort issue. I realize that individual courses and students are all different, though.

      2. rural academic*

        As a university instructor, I can assure you that skipping class is very common, but it’s not really appropriate for an internship site to demand that someone miss a class.

      3. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        I have had classes (including big lecture hall classes) where missing x many classes would dock your grade in the class by 10%, no matter how well you did on the actual graded material. Drives me crazy. If I can pass your class without actually attending it except on test days, that’s on you, not me. Give me a valuable reason to attend and I will, but if all you’re doing is reading me the material from the book, I can do that on my own without sitting in a crowded room full of 200 people at 9am who aren’t paying attention either.

      4. Michelle Smith*

        It can really vary from class to class and professor to professor, as well as from college to college here. I have had professors who did not care if you showed up at all except on exam days. I have had professors who would flunk you if you missed X number of days, even if you were legitimately too ill to come to class. And in some programs, such as when I was in law school, a lot of the learning came from the class interaction and missing out on it could mean a knowledge gap in an environment where people tended to be competitive and sometimes unwilling to help each other catch up (because of the grading curve where one student’s failure means another’s increased success). I just trust that OP knows what their priorities are in this case without knowing the specific circumstances, but it could be any number of legitimate reasons. And I had dozens of internships in college and law school, none of which ever required me to miss class to interview. I really feel the employer was a bit unreasonable here.

        1. amoeba*

          That’s for sure! I mean, even if missing a class would be fine doesn’t mean you’d never have any conflict at all – it might be an important presentation, an exam, or whatever (also non-school related). That they directly hung up is just bananapants.
          I mean, if they’d asked “is there any way you could miss that one, really sorry, but this is the only date we have for X reason” – maybe. Not great, but at least not as weird and impolite as this.

      5. Lyudie*

        It’s also at the end of the semester and academic year, so as mentioned there are finals, final projects, and so on that are going on right now. Missing that class could very well have impacted OP’s grade negatively.

      6. Paris Geller*

        It’s not uncommon, but for a lot of us, we’re paying big $$$$$ for college. I never skipped class unless I was sick or had a crisis or something like that–I was paying too much money for my education to skip class! I know a lot of my classmates had the same mindset.

    3. PlantProf*

      I was going to say the same thing, even in classes where participation is very important, pretty much every professor I know will work to make an exception for something like an interview. The internship was unreasonable in handling it, and I certainly wouldn’t fault the student for prioritizing classes, but if it comes up again it’s a reasonable call to do the interview instead.

      1. LtBarclay*

        Yeah, heck, I went back to school as an adult, and I needed to be late to a couple classes for physical therapy. Reached out to my professor beforehand, explained (I couldn’t pass up a 530 slot that meant not missing work!) and she was absolutely great about it. And I think she would have been if I was 19 as well, as long as I reached out to her beforehand.

        It was at a community college, though, and reading some of the stories above I wonder if the students tend to get treated more as adults there than they do at traditional colleges. Pretty sure everyone in that course was already working full time, at least one had kids, etc…

    4. Rock Prof*

      I’m pretty flexible about basically anything attendance-related in my class, but I definitely would not fault a student for having interviews for jobs, internships, graduate school, etc. that overlaps for my class.

    5. OP4*

      Yeah this is exactly what my mom said (she works in education). She was like, as a teacher I’d be fine with you ducking out for a job interview, I see kids do it all the time. I was a bit blindsided because I’d never even considered that an interview should take priority over class.

      1. highelec*

        I think it must depend on your field. I work in a university dance department and the profs there are very vocal about encouraging students to communicate with them about needing to miss class for auditions (for summer programs or post-grad jobs), always with the promise that “we will work it out”. But Dance and Education are both pretty vocational.

      2. Musings of an Absent-Minded Professor*

        In my field, internships are as important as coursework to timely employment after college. Students who have had internships get the first and the best job offers when they graduate, in addition to having great educational experiences through those jobs. Class material they can make up by getting notes from classmates/reading textbooks/watching videos/coming to office hours, so under these circumstances specifically, the interview would definitely take priority over my class.

  14. YetAnotherAnalyst*

    LW2 – I’ve got a MA in an unrelated field (anthropology/archaeology) from a well-regarded university, and yes, it was a struggle to get employed outside my field for me, too. And honestly, some of the bias was fair; if I could’ve been gainfully employed in archaeology, that absolutely would’ve been my preference! What worked for me was a three-part approach:
    1) Early on, I looked for jobs that didn’t require a graduate degree, but where I could argue my degree would be an asset. If a job wants a graduate degree in X and you have a graduate degree in Y, you’re disadvantaged versus all the applicants with degrees in X. Where would you be able to argue your graduate degree gave you bonus applicable skills your employer wasn’t expecting? I don’t know much about pastoral care, I imagine it’s great for customer-facing positions, where you can argue your degree gives you excellent communication skills and experience with distressed customers.
    2) I made a point of laying out the benefits of my degree and the specific skills that came with it in my resume, especially as I moved towards more specialized work. Most hiring managers don’t have an archaeology (or pastoral) background, so they aren’t going to know what the training involves. Break out the relevant skills for them! Don’t rely on a layman’s understanding of the field, because it won’t be favorable. Be realistic, though – my archaeology background may make me familiar with working with incomplete data and be a reasonable starting point for an analyst job, but it’s not the technical background needed to be a database administrator.
    3) I used my cover letters to express real enthusiasm for the job, even if I had to workshop that enthusiasm a bit. I prepared answers to the inevitable interview questions about why I wasn’t working in my chosen field, and practiced until they were breezy and natural. This took a little soul-searching – I was actually pretty bitter about the situation, and I needed to grapple with that a bit to find answers I could actually use. You’re going to need some neutral/positive answers for why you’re not going into the ministry and for why you got a degree in theology rather than X.

    Depending on where you’re looking, the job market can be really difficult right now – best of luck with your search!

    1. Sloanicota*

      These are great tips. OP, if you got this degree never intending to be a pastoral counselor and it was just personally important to you, you might be able to explain it that way, or yes try to emphasize the things you learned that can be relevant to the job you’re looking for. If you were in fact hoping to become a pastoral counselor and it hasn’t worked out, the comment above is useful for reframing mentally. Also, do you have to list the degree as “masters of pastoral counseling” – is there any way to zoom out a bit on that?

      1. OP2*

        It’s actually listed as an MA in theology; specialization – I’m not naming the exact specialization as it is the only degree of it’s kind in North America and pastoral counselling is close enough :)

    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      The way you’ve phrased it I’m now thinking of many roles where it could be useful background. OP if you’re here, what field are you looking in?

      If you’re all over the map, this might be a way to narrow yourself down. Hospitals & schools & social services come to mind first. Religiius oublishing or entertainment companies. Negotiations for law enforcement, emergency response lines, prison administration…

      If you say you’re interested in ideas I’m sure the commentariat will have more.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        BTW you would still want to address how the skills are generally applicable in a secular setting.

      2. OP2*

        Yep, I’m applying in the places you just mentioned plus academia a bit. I’m also taking additional courses in things like statistics (not that generic, but for privacy’s sake…) to help.

    3. Delta Delta*

      These are really good tips. In a time that I did some hiring I always tried to glean an applicant’s skills from their resume that maybe were’t facially obvious. Worked at a busy ice cream shop in the summer for 2 years? That person is probably tenacious, cool under pressure, and patient with customers/strangers/clients. Substitute teacher for a couple years? That person is flexible and can put up with curveballs. I think the same is true for degrees. Someone with a master’s degree likely has good writing and analytical skills, regardless of the field.

    4. OP2*

      Thanks! I’ve been applying for a lot of jobs in social work and health care so I image that this will help.

      1. Gan Ainm*

        Healthcare and SW have specific degrees, and adjacent degrees, so youre most likely competing against people with much more relevant backgrounds, you’ll have to really sell how your background is supportive to the roles you apply to. Certainly not impossible, but you haven’t made it easy on yourself either.

        I’d consider getting some certifications that are relevant to show your interest/commitment to the field as well as gain some useful skills, and possibly part time or volunteer work in the industry that doesn’t require a degree.

      2. M2*

        Have you looked at religious k-12 or higher Ed universities that are affiliated with a religion? If interested apply to entry level roles to get into the job.

        Did you have any internships during your masters? Does your university from your masters have a career services you can speak to who could help with the search?

        If you can’t find anything soon look into temping and temping for universities. I have a few friends who work name-brand (people know them) universities and have hired a couple temps. Many are then hired full-time.

      3. Relentlessly Socratic*

        Echoing the above–as a hiring manager, I really appreciate when people submit a cover letter with their applications when their background isn’t an obvious fit for a job.

        As a job hunter, back when I made the leap from academia to the regular work world, I had a lot of trouble convincing people that a PhD builds many translatable skills (and I had some real, concrete skills like statistical analysis and science writing to point to!). Cover letters were my friend.

      4. Scandinavian Vacationer*

        Have you explored chaplain options? Hospitals, Hospice agencies, police/first responders all use chaplains. Many are weekend/casual/on-call, but it would get you exposed to see if you want to pursue more vigorously. The Hospice Chaplain for my elderly mom (covered by Medicare as a required service for Hospice) was fabulous. She ministered both to my mom and her family.

      5. Just working*

        Do you have any relevant certifications or licenses? That may be more interesting to highlight. Also – if you don’t then you are likely competing in those fields with people who do have those credentials so that may be part of your issue.

    5. Delta Delta*

      Additional thought – I read the word “pastoral” not as “that of a pastor” but “that of a pasture” because a) I live in a rural area with lots of pastures and b) in the context of this comment with archaeology I’m thinking that pastures might be connected to archaeological sites. I clearly need more coffee! (and apparently I glazed right over the fact OP 2 mentioned pastoral counseling in her letter)

  15. Sloanicota*

    I wondered if it was related to what the other lawyers at the org were making … if they have a few lawyers who are working for very cheap (which happens sometimes if someone has family money, or something) the org may be unwilling to give OP a raise that pushes the salaries too far apart, but maybe they couldn’t put it that way as OP would blame her lawyer coworkers. Otherwise that comment really is quite silly and OP needs to leave.

    1. Stitch*

      If anything, deliberately underpaying lawyers would lead to them either hiring a group that doesn’t need the money (and so comes from privilege) or is taking advantage of someone who is desperate and can’t find a job elsewhere.

    2. AngryOctopus*

      It’s still silly even if you have a lawyer on staff who is taking very little pay because they don’t need it. That’s not how salaries are supposed to work. They don’t pay me more than a colleague because I have a mortgage and an equity loan. They don’t pay me less than another because I don’t have kids. I’m paid market rate for my job based on my experience, as is everyone else. Weird “I have $$ so I don’t need your salary” arrangements have no bearing on what you should be paying people for their work.

    3. LW3*

      Not surprisingly, there’s only two attorneys on staff right now (bc they keep leaving) and we are making similar amounts. But we both have 5+ years of experience and are making what a recent law school grad would make at most similar organizations.

  16. I should really pick a name*

    I would be very concerned working for someone who goes from a complaint directly to “move this person to another office” with no discussion. Might be good to make sure your resume if up to date.

    I come down somewhere between the LW’s Mom and Alison.
    The company was being unreasonable. Rescheduling the day before and saying this day/time or nothing is ridiculous.
    But I also don’t think it’s a reasonable expectation that you can always get an interview that doesn’t conflict with class. School hours and work hours overlap quite a but, so it can be difficult to make it work. Most companies aren’t going to hold interviews after business hours.

    1. Riot Grrrl*

      You’re right of course about the general overlap between business and school hours. However, students are usually not in class all day every day. I don’t think LW is implying that they would need an appointment after-hours. It’s very common for students to be able to find free time during the day that are still during business hours.

      1. I should really pick a name*

        I’m probably biased because I was in a program with a lot of hours. It was a co-op program, so professors definitely understood that interviews were a thing.

        1. amoeba*

          Yeah, my programme was pretty much 9-5 during at least the first semestern (lectures in the morning, lab in the afternoon). But then skipping a lecture would not have been a problem, so I guess it evens out!
          I’d imagine the LW was applying to something related to their field of study, so I’d guess the recruiter would know what’s the norm…

        2. Lavender Provence*

          Even when I was taking 18 credit hours, there were hours when I was not in class or working when I could have interviewed. If you legitimately had zero non-class, non-work hours, then you are a corner case.

          1. I should really pick a name*

            Not every hour has to be accounted for on one side. The employer isn’t available for every working hour either.

    2. MCMonkeyBean*

      If the interview is for a summer internship, then they absolutely should prioritize working around applicants classes.

      1. Spencer Hastings*

        At the same time, though: this might be because it was business school and not liberal arts, but in my experience, most of my accounting professors considered it totally normal for students to miss class a couple of times during the semester because they were interviewing for accounting jobs/internships and would work with them and not be punitive.

  17. lilyp*

    For what it’s worth, I totally would’ve skipped class for a job interview my senior year in undergrad (assuming the class wasn’t something like a lab or a big presentation that day). In my mind, a primary goal of college was to secure the skills & credentials needed to acquire a job in my field (my true end goal), so a direct opportunity to actually acquire a job in my field would’ve just felt higher priority to me (although I know not everyone sees college that way and that’s fine!). Yes, good companies should work around schedule constraints, and they shouldn’t take it as a mark against you that you have other commitments, but sometimes schedules truly are tight and if they have a lot of promising candidates, not being able to meet when they have time can mean they don’t move forward with you. This is especially normal for internships and entry-level roles, where there’s a large candidate pool who often have flexibile schedules.

    If you’re ever in this situation again, I’d respond with a softer pushback, like “that time would be tricky for me, would work instead?” or “that time would be tricky for me, are there other slots open?”. Then if they say no, it’s this time or nothing, you can decide if it’s worth missing class for. In this case, it sounds like this opportunity would’ve been worth missing a single class for.

    1. Spearmint*

      I disagree. An internship that doesn’t respect the academic obligations of interns is not worth taking. To me, it signals either a generally toxic culture or a culture that doesn’t respect interns. I don’t think college students need to submit to the whims of any potential employer who deigns to talk to them. The LW can find another internship (and even missing out on an internship one summer won’t make or break a career).

      And I don’t see how schedules could be tight for a summer internship hiring process when it’s April.

    2. Working it out.....*

      I am going to caveat that every situation is different so I agree with the writer above. It is annoying that you are forced to make a choice but it is not unusual. At my MBA program when I was applying for internships, there typically was a “super day” in which the company would interview all the applicants. This was a common practice. If a student couldn’t make the super day then they wouldn’t be interviewed and wouldn’t get an offer. The company would just offer the interview spot to another student.

      My suggestion next time is to skip class and ask the professor for an excused absence if that is the only time that the company offers you. The career center should be supporting you in making sure the professor doesn’t penalize you. It definitely sucks and it can be stressful to have to make that choice but the university should understand.

    3. No Tribble At All*

      It really depends on the class. Some classes I had could be easily skipped (professor posted notes online, homework wasn’t collected that day, no test/quiz.) Other days/classes could be unskippable (group project assigned, no online notes, test/quiz in class, a really tough class, prof doesn’t like premeditated absences). I think it’s hard to generalize whether or not students should skip class for an interview, because it also depends on how interesting the interview sounds!

      OP, the interviewer was being silly. Everyone needs lead time to schedule appointments. Next time make sure to offer an alternative date/time, but even if you didn’t, they hung up on you. You’re not in the wrong here.

    4. Jackalope*

      That so depends on the school, though. I went into more detail above, but at my university almost all of my classes had an attendance requirement and missing more than the allowed number of times (which usually amounted to a week’s worth of classes, so 1-3 absences depending on how often the class met) would result in an automatic reduction in your grade or even failing automatically. So it would NOT have been worth it to skip. I could see in a situation like what someone else here mentioned if there was a local company hiring in a specific major and you had a class in that major at that time that you might petition for the class to be attending the job fair instead, for example. But otherwise, skipping class for an interview could potentially have very bad results.

      1. Recruiting college fun*

        This likely is not be the case for the OP. I thought to the group that it may be helpful to share how university recruiting for summer internships at big corporations can be quite different than normal interviewing. When I went through the process I started interviewing in September for a June internship start date; for full time hiring post graduation I was getting final interviews in October. Employers typically arranged dates with the career center to do on-campus recruiting and it would occur when there was classes which meant students would have to choose to miss class (even if attendance was mandatory— students are expected to figure it out.). Employers often might choose to interview 10 students who get a one weeks notice (and even then might only have one or two times slots to choose from to interview) and then the employer would have an alternate list of students. If a slot opened up last minute (because an other student cancelled) then there may only be one time for an alternate student to interview and if it doesn’t work then the company would offer it to the next student.

        This may not be the case here but it’s not uncommon either so I wasn’t surprised that the recruiter just moved on.

    5. Batman*

      As an academic who has had students miss class for interviews, I am right there with you. I see other commenters citing grading and attendance policies, but I think there is a common misconception among undergrads (and people who have only gone to undergrad) that course policies are ironclad. Most professors are reasonable and will happily accommodate a student needing to go to a job interview (or a funeral or…). Please ask for an exception to the policy when you have good reason to do so!

  18. Damn it, Hardison!*

    LW #2, I have a bachelor’s in religious studies and a master’s in theological studies, and a job that utilizes neither! I do get asked about it, mostly inquiring how I got from those degrees to my current field. One employer thought it was so interesting that he always mentioned it when introducing me, calling it “so cool.” I think the key is being able to explain why you have pivoted to something else, in your cover letter and in the interview. For me, it was because I realized I didn’t want to get a PhD. Good luck in your job search!

    1. OP2*

      Thank you! This helps. For me, it was burning out super hard during my internship (which was providing therapy actually at a secular org) and realizing I’d rather use the education to still help people but more indirectly.

      1. Velociraptor Attack*

        Definitely utilize this in your cover letter. The internship burn out is surprisingly common, actually. I previously worked in higher ed overseeing internships and every spring I had an accounting student do their internship during tax season and realize they were VERY wrong about wanting to be a CPA.

        It also helps to remove questions about why you’re applying for jobs outside of that field when your degree is SO new. You realized during your internship it wasn’t the right fit but obviously it didn’t make sense to not finish the degree, so you’re utilizing the skills you learned and pivoting.

      2. Zarniwoop*

        “burning out super hard during my internship (which was providing therapy actually at a secular org) and realizing I’d rather use the education to still help people but more indirectly.”
        Put that in your cover letter.

  19. ImGladImNotAlone*

    I had someone once tell my boss that I had fallen asleep in a big meeting and was snoring! She approached me (very confrontationally, I might add) and told me this. I was so stunned I said, “Not only did this absolutely not happen, but I was the ONLY ONE ON OUR TEAM even asking questions of the speaker. I vehemently and categorically deny this and demand you tell me who told you this so that I know who I can’t trust.” She was visibly shaken and refused to tell me who had accused me of falling asleep and snoring in the meeting. I told her I heard an executive (who was behind me, and who I named) breathing in a ragged manner, and I think that’s what the snitch heard. I never found out who did that, but I was upset for weeks and to this day, get all heated thinking about it.

    1. MicroManagered*

      YIKES! I understand being upset by this, but if one of my direct reports told me “I vehemently and categorically deny this and demand you tell me who told you this so that I know who I can’t trust.” we’d have a serious problem. This response sounds unbalanced and paranoid.

      You need to be able to handle misunderstandings or miscommunications at work like a rational, calm adult. It’s certainly a weird mistake for someone to make, since you were clearly awake and participating during the meeting, but responding with a verbal attack like this turns a simple misunderstanding into a bigger problem. I hope you are remembering this more… heroically… than it actually happened.

      1. WantonSeedStitch*

        Yeah. I would not be happy with a response like that either. The boss shouldn’t have been confrontational: “Someone at X meeting mentioned you were asleep during the meeting. What’s going on? Is everything OK?” would be a good approach. But regardless of the boss’s phrasing, ImGladImNotAlone’s response is unprofessional. It would be much better to say something like “I can tell you with certainty that I wasn’t sleeping, and I expect if you ask other attendees at the meeting, they will probably be able to confirm that, as I was actively engaged and asking questions of the speaker that they would have heard.”

    2. Random Bystander*

      Oh–that accusing you of doing something someone else was doing! Sometimes, you end up feeling like you were in a bad game of telephone.

      I still remember, way back at the beginning of Covid … my daughter-in-law is Chinese (as in her parents still live there, she’s in the US now on a green card after meeting my son when they were both at university). So, they had both gone to China in December 2019-January 2020 …. I don’t need to rehash the history there, but she’d wanted to stay longer than my son could to be with her parents for the new year. So son was back in the US and she’s still in China when it became a matter of great anxiety regarding her ability to get back home to my son (her husband). I shared that with a few co-workers, and then when she *did* get back, I related to that small group that I was so relieved that she was back. Note, too–my son and I live about a 6 hour drive apart from each other.

      So, you can imagine how surprised I was to be called into a meeting with my supervisor (like a write up on the verge of happening) because there was now a rumor that I’d just spent time with my son and daughter-in-law who’d just returned from China and now I was at work coughing. Well … a) I heard my daughter-in-law was back by phone … pretty sure a virus cannot travel by phone line b) the person who was coughing was the person at the desk next to me.

      I strongly suspect that the rumormongers were the same group who’d gone to complain that someone was encouraging another co-worker to commit suicide (!) when what was far more likely is that they heard that same person-at-next-desk to me who would routinely, whenever she got stressed, start muttering “I’m just going to kill myself. I’m going to get a gun and shoot myself. I’m going to open the window and jump out” on repeat for *hours* a day. Note that we were on a fifth floor with windows that didn’t even have the capability of being opened, much less enough for a person to get through and from other conversation I’m quite sure she didn’t even own a gun … she used those sorts of statements to relieve her stress without any concern for how stressful *I* found it to hear it … it was not uncommon for this to go on for 2-3 hours *a day*. Am I glad that we went remote and I no longer have to be near her? Yes. Yes, I am.

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Whoa. Both of those stories are bananapants! That coworker of yours who threatened to kill herself…that’s someone who should have been shut down pretty much the first time she ever did that. Wow. And the covid story….I have no words.

    3. EavesdroppingHellNo*

      OP1 here!

      That’s so bizarre when other folks were at that same meeting.

      Drama Stirs gonna Stir everywhere I supose

    4. Rocky*

      The other day my boss (who is lovely) was on a very tedious training, after a big lunch, and he was dozing intermittently. I can confirm I was on the same training and it offered nothing new. He had his camera and mic off so no harm, right? One of the staff for a different team decided to mention it to her manager (located in another city). That manager then got on Teams and gave my boss a hard time, in a joking way, but nevertheless my boss felt pretty hurt. Now neither of us would trust that staff member further than we could throw her. Why do people do this stuff?

  20. Delta Delta*

    #3 – WHAT? Your workplace is bananasuit with this rationale. No, it is not equitable to pay skilled positions (lawyers, social workers, etc) the same as positions with lesser responsibilities, licensure, education, etc. Get out. Get out now. This is insanity and they are not going to change. This is not how equity works, and they know it, and are using it as a weapon to underpay their professionals.

    Frankly, I’d also be very concerned about the organization’s solvency, but that’s probably a different kettle of fish.

    1. LW3*

      Thank you! It’s nice to hear my general thoughts reflected! I’m definitely actively looking for a new position. Which honestly might tank the legal program because I am currently half of it and doing the work of 2+ employees so you are right to worry about solvency

  21. Bookworm*

    LW4: You dodged a bullet. I’ve been in that situation before (not an internship, but hiring orgs that refuse to budge on interview times or try to change them to a time that now conflicts, etc.) and it’s usually a bad sign on them. I am sorry that happened to you but this is definitely a reflection on them and not you.

  22. Coco*

    LW 2: It tough to answer this question without knowing what specific types of secular jobs LW is applying for. Accounting jobs, this degree wouldn’t be very relevant. Teaching jobs, perhaps relevant. LW could try leaving the degree off the resume and see if that makes any impact.

  23. Irish Teacher*

    LW4, that internship coordinator sounds ridiculous. You had already agreed a time, they wanted to change it. I have had this happen once or twice and generally it’s a case of if you can’t, the original time stands, not “then the interview is cancelled.”

    I don’t really know anything about internships, but certainly for teaching jobs, a situation with anywhere near that level of inflexibility would indicate they were interviewing dozens of people or even that the job was “already gone” (for legally reasons, teachers in Ireland have to reinterview at the end of their first year in a job before they can get permanency and sometimes schools will call other people for interview just to tick a box even though they have decided they are happy with the person in the role and are going to re-employ them, barring perhaps a real rock star candidate who blows them away). In any case, lack of any kind of flexibility usually means the odds of getting the job are fairly low (again, this is how things are in teaching in Ireland, in my experience. It may or may not apply to internments in your area).

    My general experience is if they are really interested, they will make the effort to meet you (especially if they are the ones who asked to reschedule at short notice).

    My current job rang and asked me for interview on a day I was subbing somewhere and I didn’t feel I could ask for the time off as it was a very short term subbing job – 2 or 3 days – and would make employing me pretty pointless. I explained to the deputy principal of my current school that I was subbing that day and he asked if the following Monday would work for me, which it did. I got the job.

    I don’t think that turning down one time, after accepting a previous one, makes you look like you aren’t interested in the role, but I do think changing the time at short notice, then basically saying, “OK, we won’t interview you at all then,” when the changed time doesn’t work indicates they weren’t very interested in employing you. Perhaps they have a lot of interest in the role and are interviewing lots of people or perhaps they already have somebody they want to employ and are only interviewing for the sake of form.

  24. Riot Grrrl*

    Unfortunately Equity has come to mean everyone is/gets the same. Equity of outcomes not equity of opportunity.

    Well, no. I would push back against the notion that equity has “come to mean” that. I do think there has a growing recognition that “opportunity” plays out differently for different populations, and I think that is legitimate. For example, all children in a particular class may have equal access to the teacher’s instruction. But if a child is deaf or dyslexic, is that actually the same opportunity? These are complex questions not easily resolved by simple slogans.

    1. A Poster Has No Name*

      Yeah, agreed. I took a large retailer’s equity training just yesterday and they VERY SPECIFICALLY call out the difference between equity and equality and how equity is about doing what is necessary to ensure people have the same access to opportunities regardless of their starting point or circumstances, vs. implementing a one-size-fits-all and calling it equal.

  25. ADHDattorney*

    I work for a non-profit with all types of staff. They structure their pay based on the type of work you do, for example all attorneys are on the same pay scale with designated steps depending on experience and role (ie managers make more even if they have less years of experience). This is a very common setup in the non-profit field from my understanding. Your non-profit is just trying to underpay you and your colleagues.

  26. Keymaster of Gozer*

    OP2: Not a religious degree, but I had a problem when I wanted to change careers and knew I’d get the ‘why are you applying for an IT job when you have multiple degrees in virology?’ question.

    Here in the UK we don’t have cover letters either so that was fun.

    Basically I made more of *any* work I’d done in the IT field, volunteer or part of the lab job, highlighted all the different software I’d had to use to get the epidemiology qualification and downplayed the actual work (nobody outside the virology lab cared much about research into herpesviruses anyway).

    1. Call Me Dr. Dork*

      I was in the same boat transitioning to IT from my smallish STEM field. I worked up a spiel about how that field was computing intensive and small enough that everyone had to write their own software. Plus, I could argue that my graduate degrees indicated that I knew how to learn fast and work hard and independently and that I wasn’t scared of math.

    2. londonedit*

      We’re all about cover letters in publishing! I think it’s industry-specific here really.

      Agree though that the OP should make the most of anything that can be seen as a transferrable skill, and any experience they do have that supports their move to a different industry from the one their degrees would suggest they want to go into. From my perspective, my degree is from long enough ago that no one would care what subject it’s in, but if you’re looking to do something that looks like a bit of a handbrake turn, you need to make more of an effort to explain why that is.

    3. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      OP2: Not a religious degree, but I had a problem when I wanted to change careers and knew I’d get the ‘why are you applying for an IT job when you have multiple degrees in virology?’ question.

      I get the same question about my Economics degree and programming (although less lately as I have job history to fall back on). My strategery, which I think worked, was to point out both Economics and Programming are applied math modeling, and tried to describe how it improved my crafting of the algorithms I would implement.

      The problem you’ll still have is that anyone with the right degree will look more attractive, but I can’t solve that for myself, let alone others.

  27. It Takes T to Tango*

    OP 2: If you’re in the U.S., with the current social and political climate, the theology degrees may hinder your job search. Unless your university is well-known as secular (like Harvard or Yale) then people may think you graduated from a very religious university like Bob Jones University or Liberty University, both of which have some … interesting … cultural views.

    In your cover letter, I’d suggest emphasizing not just how your degree prepares you for the job but also prepares you for working in a diverse environment. (Ah, the joys of dealing with a coworker that believes women need be subordinate and silent or the one who must tell you every day how your immortal soul is in danger!)

    You may want to treat your theology degrees like philosophy degrees – explain how the in-depth training in logic and structure has prepared you for analytical positions, for example, or how they help you understand different cultures, depending on the classes you took. Like everyone else, you need to show how your education and experience will benefit them, but you have to connect the dots with thicker, bolder strokes than most.

    1. MicroManagered*

      The letter states that the degrees are from “a very secular” university. We can take OP at their word on that.

      1. amoeba*

        Sure, but I think the comment meant – if the very secular institution is not known to the hiring manager, they might still assume (just from the field of studies) that it was a religious one. (Although I’d say if the application is strong otherwise, they should at least take the effort of quickly googling it!)

  28. MCMonkeyBean*

    Yes, that is very specifically not what Equity means and personally I have not at all observed a trend of the meaning changing. Some people are just wrong. But I think the overall fight for equity is still full of people who understand the concept correctly.

  29. Badatnames*

    On letter #3, I think it depends on what the internal group is that they want to keep consistent. My organization employs both attorneys and non-attorneys in similar staff roles, doing research, analysis, advocacy, training, and partner relations. There’s nothing specifically requiring a law degree except that the analysis often involves reviewing laws so you have to have that skill set or ability somehow (I have a non-law graduate degree that had a lot of classes on legal topics). It actually makes me a little crazy that they don’t keep the salaries of these staff positions the same across degrees, since the work being done is identical and both legal and non-legal staff have advanced degrees. No one is actually practicing law! My organization was founded by and is heavily staffed by lawyers and tends to have a little blind spot on this issue (I’ve been told they have to advertise positions as lawyers because, basically, I’m the only non-lawyer in the world they think can do the work, which is flattering I guess but also not true). So if that’s what they mean by internal equity, I’m less bothered. But it should be based on market rate *for the work done* – if they’re underpaying on that metric, that’s bad.

    1. pittiepie*

      I generally agree with pegging salary to the position rather than degree but the only issue I’d have with this is if they do need at least some lawyers on staff for whatever reason. It makes sense to me to pay those positions more given the greater education costs and licensure requirements. For instance in-state tuition at the public university in my state for a masters in public policy (which includes plenty of legal topics) costs around $25,000 whereas a law degree from the same school is over $120,000. And as a previous commenter said if you don’t pay market rate for that role you’re selecting out anyone with student loans to pay off.

      That said though, if you have to have lawyers on staff presumably they would be doing work that actually requires that sort of license which doesn’t seem like it’s necessarily the case in your position.

  30. ResuMAYDAY*

    Religious studies: I recommend enrolling for a certificate program for whatever industry/role you’re pursuing. If you’re trying to get into project management, or accounting, or sales, or customer service, you should be able to show some kind of pull in that direction, whether it’s by way of jobs you held, or education. Since you’re struggling to land that job, a certificate will show a transition towards that goal.

  31. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

    Re #3:
    You say you are an attorney, but are you working as an attorney in your current role? I’m not just talking about that you use your (albeit I am sure very valid!) education and it helps you do your work, but that the job actually requires you to be an attorney and the title is something like, say, “Staff Attorney.”

    I ask because see this a lot, unfortunately: just because you have an advanced degree/credential doesn’t mean you should be compensated for that. For example, if I am hiring for an HR Specialist and you’re my candidate, I am not going to pay you more than my other HR Specialists JUST because you have a law degree, as the role doesn’t require a law degree.

    Not saying this is necessarily the case here, but thought it was important to point out that compensation should be evaluated primarily on what is required of the position, and then taking into account what sort of experience the candidate brings in with relation to that role. (THAT is what internal equity looks like.)

  32. cabbagepants*

    I have missed class for interviews but it was final round interviews for full-time professional jobs, not the first interview for an internship.

  33. CommanderBanana*

    LW#1, it’s really alarming to me that your CEO’s response to this accusation was not to follow up on the accusation to try to get more info, but to immediately believe it AND go directly to demanding that you be moved to a different building! Does she have a pattern of flying off the handle like this?

    LW#2, you didn’t say what fields you are applying to or if you have relevant professional experience in those fields, which I think is an important piece of information here. I work in events, and if I got a resume from someone who had just gotten a masters in theology and also didn’t have much relevant experience, I would be confused.

    1. EavesdroppingHellNo*

      OP1 here!

      She does not be She has only been our CEO for a year. I don’t knoe if this is the first case of something like this, if there are other factors for her, other factors around me I don’t know.

      part of my frustration is not knowing

      1. CommanderBanana*

        Yeah, this reaction is so over the top – to leap straight to removing you from the building without even talking to you or verifying that it even happened – that I would be very leery of this CEO, and would definitely want to pay attention to whether or not this is part of a bigger pattern of behavior.

        1. EavesdroppingHellNo*

          It definitely has me sideeyeing a lot of things. and wondering if some yellow flags are a big more red

  34. Kate*

    Can I just say, as a college prof, I’m very proud of you, #4! I try to be understanding when students ask to miss class for job interviews, but I’m also with Alison that an employer should understand and honor that you have previous, important commitments.

  35. My Useless 2 Cents*

    I had a different take on letter #1. Given that the CEO of the company was advocating annexing OP out of the office this is much bigger than a misunderstanding.
    I’d go back to manager (or HR?? OP doesn’t really mention that dept) and say you have been thinking about these slanderous eavesdropping accusations that could have serious repercussions to your reputation. You want it made crystal that there is no evidence to support these charges and that you have proven yourself to be a trustworthy employee. That, so far, how the company has handled these accusations is very disappointing and concerning and you would like to discuss what else is being done.

    1. EavesdroppingHellNo*

      OP1 here

      I ended up going back to my manager and stating the first part, though I am not voicing my concerns about the company. Part of me wants to, but with the reactions already happening I am a bit afraid to stir the pot myself. I am probably going to document document document and keep my head down

      1. Lavender Provence*

        This is what I was trying to say without using the word “slander” in the comment I left below about how a lie someone spread led to a write and made it hard for me to work with new people. It is quite an escalation to start throwing legal terms around. In my case, the write was already quite an escalation, and I wish I had pointed out that spreading lies about me did have a legal term and that they should be worried about it. I think it would have been appropriate. Everyone has to make that decision for themselves, though, and if you feel like using words like “slander” would stir the pot too much when you really just want to keep your head down and look for a new job, then that is a legitimate position to hold.

        1. My Useless 2 Cents*

          I think I went to “slander” to emphasis that this isn’t just a silly rumor but a serious accusation that could really hurt the OP’s reputation. Every job has some aspects of confidentiality but OP mentioned their job deals with a lot of client confidentiality. Rumors that damage OP’s reputation could have greater consequences than for others.

          1. Lavender Provence*

            Legit! Sometimes it’s worth stirring that pot!
            And sometimes it’s more trouble than it’s worth, you know?

  36. Knope Knope Knope*

    I wonder if #4 isn’t a case of massive red flags and just a case of miscommunication between two junior people. For instance, maybe the person making the call to schedule the interview was put on intern duty because it is their first foray into hiring. I could see the exchange going something like this:

    Hiring Manager/HR/Whatever: Hi LW, we need to reschedule your interview. Are you available on Day B at time 2?

    LW: Nope, I’m sorry I cannot make the interview.

    Hiring Manager: Ok, thanks for letting me know. I’ll cancel it. Bye.

    Rather than the very commonplace:

    Hiring Manager/HR/Whatever: Hi LW, we need to reschedule your interview. Are you available on Day B at time 2?

    LW: Unfortunately I have a class I can’t miss at that time. Do you have any availability on days C,D, or E at times 3, 4, or 5?

    Hiring Manager/HR/Whatever: Let me see, time day C at time 3 is perfect. We’ll see you then.

  37. Clever Alias*

    OP1: In a previous job, I had an executive who — if she wanted you gone, for whatever reason, would find a way to make it happen. The reasons and accusations were ludicrous. She wouldn’t fire you, she’d just find a way to send you to exile in (another building). Everyone knew if you were sent there you should just quit. It was the office joke.

    When I shared tales of this behavior with outside friends, they’d convince me I was overreacting or overthinking or oversensitive for *years* because what executive has time to do this? Spoiler alert: I wasn’t crazy. (And I’m not mad at them, because it really was crazy).

    I share this story not to suggest that this is what’s going on here, and with some hesitance because I don’t want to make you more paranoid, but to suggest look at the bigger office pattern and to see if she has done similar things to others. It might give you some context on whether you can clear it up or need to cut and run.

    1. EavesdroppingHellNo*

      OP1 here!

      its not a pattern but its so wacky that I’m wondering if it’s the start of a pattern

  38. Nea*

    LW4 – If a company doesn’t accept that you have other things going on in your life before you work with them, they’ll expect you to not have a life when you do work for them.

    It’s been 23 years and I have not had a single day’s regret that I turned down a desperately needed job because they wouldn’t push back the start date 3 weeks so I could complete my degree.

  39. Knope Knope Knope*

    LW 2: I am no resume pro, but this might be a case for a resume with a “Goals” section to really succinctly explain what you’re trying to accomplish in your next role, and really spell out the transferable skills you gained in your masters.

    I agree with Alison’s point, and might even take it further. I don’t know what field you are in or want to be in, but I am in one of the fields that is getting hit by layoffs. That means power is firmly back in the employers’ hands and we have a wealth of overqualified candidates for every open job. So seeing someone with a Masters in theology for one of my open roles wouldn’t automatically disqualify you, but it probably wouldn’t do anything on its own to give you a competitive leg up in this market either. To paraphrase what a recruiter recently said to me “there are times you will hire someone who can grow into a role. This isn’t one of them. You have access to a stronger than average candidate pool, and we don’t when you’ll get to hire again, so let’s get this right.”

  40. Chidi has a stomach ache*

    LW#2, I not only have a BA and master’s in religious studies, I did a PhD in it too! I had a really long and hard job search last year (~8mos) when I decided (for similar reasons you’ve mentioned) to pivot out of direct service work into a different field. The things that helped me the most: 1) make it very clear in you cover letter why you’re leaving the field. Also use the cover letter to identify how your degree is still able to serve you in the jobs you are applying for (search this website for cover letter templates that help with this! There’s a bunch that address changing fields). 2) If you have your education listed at the top of your resume, put it at the bottom. The first things recruiters should see are skills and experience that will be most relevant to your job. If you can just list “BA” or “MA” without a concentration, give that a try (I couldn’t, because my masters was actually an M.Div, with gives the religion bit away).

    Lastly, I had a lot of conversations with folks who made a similar transition to find out how they found their positions and how they described their skills and background in cover letters and interviews. They helped me target organizations that wouldn’t count my educational background against me.

    You may not want to work for a religious org (I was originally hoping not to), but I did find that religiously-affiliated orgs were generally more open to interviewing me for jobs outside of what I had originally trained for. That’s how I landed my current position — it’s a large NGO with a religious affiliation, but its employees are religiously diverse enough that I don’t feel like I’m still doing ministry.

  41. Parenthesis Guy*

    #4: The problem is that as a summer intern you’re a low level of priority. Everything you did is reasonable, but the problem is that they’re not going to spend much time accommodating your schedule.

  42. DivergentStitches*

    #2 if I were in hiring and saw that the OP had just last year gotten a master’s in religious theology from a religious institution, and majored in religious studies in undergrad 10 years previously, I would definitely be wondering why OP was looking for a job with my company that didn’t have anything to do with religion.

    Definitely a good use for the cover letter. Like, if OP got the master’s degree in order to be an ordained minister in their private life, that can be in the cover letter as to why the recent education that’s not being utilized in the person’s work.

    Otherwise, I wonder why OP got the masters degree if they weren’t going to apply it to a workplace, and the hiring team would as well.

  43. ZZ top*

    I work in education (secondary schools) and eavesdropping is a fairly common bad habit among school staff. I used to work for a community ed director that required us to keep our office door open so she could send her secretary to listen at the door to our conversations.
    At another school, the principal routinely eavesdropped outside of classrooms in the morning to listen to teachers talk to each other; then used that information to send reprimanding emails (for example one teacher complained to someone that teacher X seemed upset so the principal emailed Teacher X and told her she needed to smile more to make her coworkers more comfortable)

    Don’t become a teacher if you want a professional atmosphere :(

    1. EavesdroppingHellNo*

      I did an internship at a school. so much drama! about the teachers, the subs, the parents, the kinds,and the administration

      so much gossip

  44. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*


    That “internal equity” thing is pretty obviously an excuse to underpay you. I also wonder who else they are–and aren’t–underpaying compared to market. In particular, how much are they paying the person who told you that it would be unfair to give you a raise?

    It might be worth talking to your coworkers about their pay rates, and see if there’s anyone at all who is being paid significantly less than you are, or anyone doing similar work to you who is being paid more. I strongly suspect that a company that misuses “equity” that way is also systematically and illegally discriminating on the basis of gender and race.

    1. LW3*

      For all my orgs faults, they are at least paying everyone on my team consistently. I have *~thoughts~* about our almost all white upper management team being just that (and of course getting paid more despite “internal equity”) in my limited knowledge it’s not based on race or sex

  45. Lavender Provence*


    I had something similar happen to me, although the accusation was much less serious. Somebody claimed that he came to talk to me, and I put up a hand and told him I was busy. It was completely invented. My manager did not have my back, and I was written up for it. I managed to get the write up revoked, but that did not stop my accuser from spreading the story to other people and damaging my reputation within the company, making it very hard for me to find people who would work with me. In retrospect, I wish that during the process of getting the write up revoked, I had also included a discussion about telling him to stop spreading the story about me.

    You can’t have that exact discussion since you don’t know your accuser, but I think it is worth talking through with your manager the potential damage to your reputation with other people in case Kathy is not the only person the accuser told (or in case Kathy tells other people).

  46. bamcheeks*

    so, was the conclusion of that that we should find ways of communicating that worked for everyone even if they have noise machines on, or not.

  47. AnotherSarah*

    OP2, my spouse has 2 years under his belt of a 5 year theological program (he dropped out), and he has been able to show how his pastoral skills translate into the work he does now (libraries and archives–he works with a lot of people who both want to donate materials but also want to keep them, because they’re family treasures). I think if you address what you learned and what skills you gained up front, you should be okay.

    1. OP2*

      Thank you. That’s helpful. Reading through the comments it really sounds like figuring out how to translate my skills better will be key and I’ll have to reflect on that.

  48. Pretty as a Princess*

    #4, I think for the future what I would do is say “I have a class then that I can’t miss – but I am available between X and Y every day…” Basically, explain that it’s class (you’re a student so they should expect this) but then give the recruiting coordinator some good windows that work for you. This recruiter should not have replied the way they did – that was a crap move.

  49. Zarniwoop*

    Your employer’s reasoning on setting pay certainly strikes me as uniquely ill advised.

    But maybe I’m wrong and there’s some part of the non profit world where it’s common practice. You’d still be faced with the important practical question of “Do I want to work here at below market rate?”

    Are you willing to leave if they won’t budge?

  50. Jack McCullough*

    “Internal equity”

    Is it possible that the LW who is a licensed attorney is not in an attorney job?

    I agree that people should be paid for the job they’re doing, regardless of their education, background, licenses, etc. In this case, though, that could mean that an attorney doing a non-attorney job should get paid the salary set for that non-attorney job, and not what someone in an attorney job would get.

  51. Stormfly*

    There’s an argument for this at a societal level, since it’s true that the workers that add the most value are also the ones that are worst paid, like farm workers, teachers, cleaners, etc.
    Someone who works as a hedge fund manager essentially moves money around, and gets paid very disproportionately well, considering they don’t add any actual value.
    But moving to a model that either pays people proportionally to the value they actually add would involve a move to a socialist/communist model that would require huge changes to corporate structures and the social safety net (Free college, so all those doctors we still need will be able to get training without bankrupting themselves, free childcare and adequate state provided carers to ensure that people’s cost of living doesn’t increase disproportionally as they get older.)
    I’d advocate for at least a step in that direction at a societal level. But a company doing it is almost certainly just looking to pay people less. (It would be interesting to see a company doing it that paid out a sum in salaries that totals the market rate for each role, but divided it equally among each person in the company. It would be fairer to the likes of admin assistants who are undervalued, but it would still be too hard to staff attorney, etc. roles, unless your company had an excellent mission that people were willing to take a paycut to support.)

    1. LW3*

      Yeah I think that there is potentially a way for this to work! Like I don’t think I necessarily should be paid more than a lot of our staff who work so hard and add so much value – but I think they should be paid *more* not me (and my team) being paid significantly less. It’s also only something that came up when I asked for a raise and not clearly communicated as a part of the organizations overall mission or strategy. And my org honestly has an amazing mission that I feel strongly about – but there are also several other places in my geographic area that support the same or a similar mission that have more competitive pay, which makes it difficult to stay!

      1. Stormfly*

        Yes, if a company was to make a genuine go at this, there would need to be major transparency around it internally and externally to make sure that new employees knew what they were getting into, and everyone could be sure management and the C Suite were facing similar restrictions.
        Really sounds like this might be some sort of post hoc justification for selectively reducing salary bands.

    2. pittiepie*

      I think that the social safety net and free education pieces you mention are particularly important for this being workable at a societal level (or things like loan repayment assistance and tuition reimbursement at an individual org level). Given that as it is now even in-state at a public university tuition for a law degree runs well into six figures, so equal pay across all roles regardless of the required credentials ends up selecting out people with student loans who end up essentially making less in terms of take home pay.

  52. JustMe*

    LW 2 – I’m not sure what kinds of jobs you’re interested in, but I think jobs in the nonprofit/education sphere would maybe be good places to apply with your MA in theology. Even if the work is not religious in nature, you can discuss in your cover letter what your degrees taught you about helping people, serving your community, helping others reach their full potential, etc. Those hiring managers will probably be more receptive than, say, a tech startup. Once you have work experience in the secular sphere, it will also be easier to move into other jobs in the secular sphere.

  53. Musings of an Absent-Minded Professor*

    Yeah, I teach super small classes (8-10) students. I know if someone is there or not; I just ask for notice if its something they can give notice for and we work around it. But I don’t penalize based on attendance unless I’m having serious issues with it; the penalty normally comes when the attendance issue is also a lack of effort issue. I realize that individual courses and students are all different, though.

  54. Tech writer*

    OP 2: You said “so many jobs require degrees — many even expect graduate education.” I’ve never heard of a job that expects a graduate education generally. There are plenty of jobs that expect a specific graduate degree like medical school or law school or a masters degree in library sciences or in teaching. But I think that outside of those jobs, companies only care that you have bachelors and don’t care whether or not you got a graduate degree beyond that.

    1. OP2*

      So I see a lot that require a bachelor but “preferably a masters in things like X or Y” – which my degree is tangentially related to.

  55. Dawn*

    LW3: Are your directors and other upper managers – including the HR person you spoke to – being paid this same low rate?

    Somehow I doubt it.

    You should inform them that in the interests of “internal equity” you’d like to see everyone’s salaries and see how quickly they get nervous about it.

  56. Lizard*

    #4: You dodged a bullet! It’s completely reasonable to ask for another interview time due to schedule conflicts, and if they were so unwilling to even entertain that idea then imagine what working with them would actually be like. Yikes! You have nothing to regret here – they showed you very clearly how they operate. I hope you have better results with next one. Best of luck with your internship search!

  57. Better Pay For Some*

    This is probably going to get buried, but internal pay equity in which people in different fields or with different education are getting paid more equally than is normalized or “market rate” IS a thing and they are not misusing the term as far as I understand it.

    There are several nonprofits I’m aware of in my major West Coast city that operate in this way. They don’t believe that lawyers should be making 10x as much money as a janitor, or 5x as much as a social worker. They believe that is part of what contributes to societal inequity, and the “market” is not what they are basing their internal operations and values around. If they have trouble attracting quality attorneys, they may well adjust their policy, but if you don’t believe in their pay structure or their values and politics around this, you can also just quit.

    1. Dawn*

      I’m fully anti-capitalist myself, but so long as we are living under it, if one has accumulated $200,000 in student loans pre-interest and spent 4+ years of their life to attend law school, they’ve probably got pretty reasonable grounds to require that their compensation reflect that.

  58. Sara*

    #4 this interviewer sounds ridiculous and you probably dodged a bullet. That being said, I’m a professor and a job interview is a lot more important than one class session, assuming it’s not an exam, major presentation, or similar. Next time, I’d recommend checking with your professor as I think most would be more than willing to make a job interview an excused absence.

    1. Bill and Heather's Excellent Adventure*

      I agree, most teachers would be happy to excuse a student’s attendance if it was about an interview. The fact that these people immediately rejected LW4 for the internship instead of offering alternative dates or even saying “are you able to ask your teachers if you can take this time off?” is a red flag.

  59. Despachito*

    OP1 – you said you work with confidential data. Is there any chance the CEO may want you removed because you will have less control over something?

  60. RaginMiner*

    Coming from a current intern, your internships should want you to go to class- the whole point is that you’re a college student who is trying to get real world experience and apply your classes in “real life”!

  61. Bill and Heather's Excellent Adventure*

    LW4, you did nothing wrong. And I find it bizarre that someone scheduling interviews for a summer internship decided that you being in class was a valid reason for not proceeding further with your application. Is this internship not geared towards students?? Even if it’s not, I imagine the majority of their applicants are students, are these people seriously going to turn down every student who inevitably can’t meet their specific interview time because of a clash with their academic timetable? Weird!

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