it’s your Friday good news

It’s your Friday good news!

1.  “I was working as a data analyst job for a few years before the pandemic hit. It was my first “real job” and I thought it was great at first, but I slowly realized that I was not in a good long-term place. It was (is) a small company. The two co-owners are both nearing retirement age and refused to learn about new technologies but still wanted to be able to ‘get their hands dirty with the data,’ meaning we were limited to using excel when we needed to be using SQL. There was no upward mobility possible: my boss intended to stay in his role until his own retirement and there were no plans to give anyone anywhere to grow into. To make matters worse, my grandboss constantly said things that approached sexual harassment and I had no way to make it stop.

During the pandemic, we were told to work from home without any resources allocated to making this work (I asked for headphones and was told no). And they gave us a pay cut. I went from making just below average for my role to making significantly less than my industry peers. As the pandemic started to ease up a bit, they gave out raises that didn’t even bring my salary back up to pre-pandemic rates. When that happened, I realized I needed to take ownership over my life. I started reading Ask a Manger daily and felt encouraged to look for new opportunities. While quietly job searching, I had multiple discussions with my boss and grandboss about my salary: I did my research and showed them how underpaid I was. I even had metrics for work done by everyone on my team: I was doing three times the work as my nearest peer, but because she had a family, they were paying her more. (That was the reason they gave!) After a few months, I lucked into an interview for a role I wasn’t sure I even wanted. It was a completely different industry, different job responsibilities, different everything.

I was incredibly apprehensive, but I used all of the resources I could find on Ask A Manager, especially the interviewing advice, and I landed the job! And I love it here. I’m making double what I was making at the old job with significantly better benefits. I have a supportive boss who is pushing me to take on new projects and expand my skillset. I’m being acknowledged for my work and given credit for helping others. None of this would have happened without taking that leap to start over and I certainly do not think I could have done it without your blog!”

2.  “I found myself recently in a position where, although I loved my job, and my team, I was scouted for a role that would have been a significant step up in pay, and a title boost, to boot. I went through the interview process to do my due diligence, and they wanted me – badly. In addition to the salary bump (though they didn’t know how much of a bump it was), they offered a sign-on bonus when they realized I’d be walking away from an annual bonus, additional PTO days, and even equity. Though this should have been an easy decision, I felt like I was already mourning the loss of a job and organization I truly loved. So I took a calculated risk and told my boss that I had been made an offer, but had not yet accepted, because I was struggling with the idea of leaving the organization. I knew they couldn’t match the title and comp, but I wanted to give them the opportunity to counter, to see if I felt like I was not making a horrible financial choice if I decided to stay. My boss went to bat for me fiercely and, within an hour and half, he had gotten approval to offer me a promotion! They were able to match the new job title and salary, and even offered a retention bonus, another direct report to help with my workload, additional equity, an annual bonus percentage increase, and an extra WFH day. I have never felt so truly valued. They went above and beyond to retain me and I happily accepted. I know your advice in general is not to accept counter-offers, but in this case, I weighed my feelings about the jobs, against my rapport and support with my managers, and came out feeling like I lost nothing and gained everything!”

3.  “I am happy to report I have managed to gain not only a new job but a complete career change.

Using all the tips I’ve learned from you and the commentariat, I applied for a very different job with my current employer, a medium size nonprofit.

I was extremely unhappy in a team recruiting, let’s say, llama herders, with a toxic boss. I felt stuck but recruitment and HR were the sum total of my experience. Hated the job and the boss but admired what the company does. Now I’ve moved to a creative role in the fundraising team. I write for the web, social media and print about the amazing benefits llama herders bring to society.

When applying for the job, I was able to show how my creative activities outside of work made me a strong candidate with great transferable skills and extensive knowledge of the company.The job was advertised at less than I was earning, but using your tips, I negotiated and have been able to secure parity with my old rate with a promised (substantial) increase after six months.

I’ve been doing the new job for three weeks now, and I’m learning loads. My new boss ‘Cedric’ is a dream. He combines patience and great teaching with clear guidelines and deadlines. Just yesterday we heard we have a large new donation coming in, thanks to something I wrote.

I am so happy!”

4.  “I’ve been reading your column for about ten years and wanted to share some good news from a public school teacher family.

My wife had taken 2 years off from teaching when our son was born 20 years ago. She resumed her job in the same school system but for years after had a nagging suspicion that her salary was lower than it should be. It was often the subject of humorous complaints with coworkers: ‘I’ve been teaching 27 years but only make X!’

Because of your column one day recently I encouraged her to write an email to HR with, ‘Hey, I know this is a bit unusual but could you take a look at my salary history?’ The next day she got an email back saying, ‘Call us immediately when you can.’

Turns out HR had made a mistake when they re-inboarded her back then and restarted her at about $2-3000 less a year than they should have. The bad news, due to the signing (and tacit agreement) of an annual teaching contract, they couldn’t back pay the $30,000 plus dollars lost over the previous 18 years. She tried to negotiate back pay and even spoke to a lawyer and it was a no go. The good news was they offered a $6,000 a year salary bump that will even add money to her pension and is over what she would’ve been paid had they not made the mistake.

So THANK YOU. Contacting HR would have never entered our minds without your column. And glass half full: HR admitted their mistake and mostly rectified it, and over time, we should get most of the ‘lost’ money back. Lastly, even if you are a teacher or other public employee, know that it pays to SPEAK UP.”

5.  “In 2019 I got what I thought was a dream job. More money than I’d ever earned, a big company with great perks, a career path. But working directly for a classic bully. Promoted beyond her abilities she micromanaged in the nastiest way, nothing was ever close to good enough as her demands were unrealistic, to say the least. Over lockdown I was isolated from more positive work relationships and I allowed her to drive me to anxiety, panic attacks and low level depression for the first time in my life.

Despite applying for lots of jobs and getting some interviews, I was not in a good place, low and demotivated I didn’t get any offers over 3-years. After a month’s sick leave in 2022 I came back a new person. I realised enough was enough. I updated my CV and cover letter, studied AAM interview techniques, and got an offer at smaller company. Slightly more money, different perks, its a similar role but I already feel like I belong there. The atmosphere is lovely, my new colleagues are friendly and generous with training and feedback. My boss appreciates my efforts as well as my results and all in all I am happier than I have been in years!

Two years ago I couldn’t read the Good News updates because it was too impossible to see myself feeling happy at work again. So, thank you to Alison and this community for everything you do!”

{ 20 comments… read them below }

  1. RJ*

    LW1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 – thank you sincerely for sharing your stories. I’m in a really bad place ATM when it comes to work and you have all given me hope on a down day. I wish you all the best of luck in work and in life!

        1. English Rose*

          @RJ, I am LW3 (thank you Alison for sharing my story) and I’ve also been in a really bad place. Things can change. Wishing you all the joy for a better future.

    1. English Rose*

      I am LW 3. Woohoo, thank you Alison for sharing my story.
      RJ: please know that I was also in a really bad place and it really can change for the better. Wishing you all the luck and joy in the world for a better future.

    2. RedinSC*

      Oh RJ, I was right there with you 3 months ago. LIke LW5 I couldn’t even read the good news. But also like LW 5, in the beginning of the new year I decided that I HAD to make that change, and it seemed to be the trick I needed. Updated CL and resume, applied for jobs not in my traditional area of expertise and I got one!

      You can do this! I spent 3 years applying and not even getting interviews. Something switched, and I do believe it was really focusing on what Allison is saying about resumes, coverletters and the like.

      You can do this, too!

  2. GRA*

    I know # 4 is supposed to be good news, but it makes me sad that a public school teacher was treated that way and lost out of $30,000+ over her teaching career. There’s no way to “make that up” THANK YOU to teachers who do so much for our children and rarely get the support they need.

    1. LJ*

      I’m just impressed HR was able to look back so far and actually validate the figures instead of blowing OP off

      1. Clisby*

        It’s good they didn’t blow OP off, but I’m still confused how this happened. I’m used to seeing public school salary schedules that are 100% cut and dried. You have X degree and Y years of experience, you make Z. Don’t waste your time trying to negotiate, that’s it – take it or leave it. I don’t understand how a mistake wouldn’t be immediately obvious – but maybe it works differently in other states.

        1. North American Couch Wizard Society*

          since she had taken time off to be a SAHM, my guess is that they onboarded her at the “new teacher” salary, or at least a couple of steps behind, instead of the salary she should have had with her experience. Kudos to HR for figuring it out so quickly though–I’m in the middle of a mess with one of the people I supervise who didn’t get their routine increase 4 years ago and it has taken a year to get it all straightened out (they will get back pay though).

          1. Clisby*

            I figured it could be something like that – but how did she not realize it? At least where I’ve lived, it’s dead easy to get the salary schedule online – it’s not some kind of state secret. I’d have thought she’d know exactly what to expect from the beginning.

            1. Teaching teacher*

              I can understand how she might not have known. She was working for the first time, had just dropped her toddler off at their first day of daycare, was trying to learn new curriculum, had to get her room all set up, and they handed her a stack of papers to sign and she did. And maybe she added a child to her insurance, and maybe everyone was talking about how insurance costs have gone up in the district, so a smaller paycheck seemed right. And… I guess I don’t know how schools work everywhere, but at my school the salary scale is only accurate for your first year. It’s just the hiring salaries, and does not reflect the raises of previous years if you worked there before. No one can check the salary scale to know how much I make years after I was hired… lol, that’s three clicks away on the website to find everyone’s salaries available to the public…. that’s fun the day that the kids find that page on the school website.

              I’m surprised the district did anything about it. I posted this elsewhere but my friend discovered in her second year that they didn’t give her any credit for her prior experience but because she signed the agreement, it was stuck and every year she’d get paid less than she should have until retirement.

        2. Sally O’Malley*

          I wondered the same. I’m a public school teacher and our salary schedules are exactly as you describe, and they’re made public.

          But, however it happened, I’m glad her system tried to make it as right as they could.

    2. Coverage Associate*

      Check out the stories about payroll problems for public school teachers in San Francisco. It’s been over a year of persistent problems. Underpayments, overpayments and health insurance canceled without warning. So I can believe a mistake like that described.

  3. Temperance*

    I read these every week and I hope sometime in the near future to be able to share my own good news here! These posts are the only thing that’s keeping my spirits up during a pretty bleak job search in a really specific niche.

  4. Name*

    #4 – I work HR for school districts. You *must* speak up before the end of the fiscal year if you feel your pay is incorrect. Once the fiscal year closes, there is no way to pay you back pay due to how their budgets are done. Fiscal year runs July to June.
    I always recommend that teachers new to the district check what they’re paid against the teacher pay schedule before November. Other positions don’t always have a pay schedule but it doesn’t hurt to ask. A reputable HR will explain why w paid what you are or take steps to get you to the appropriate level ASAP.

    1. Teaching teacher*

      Every year in my district we are supposed sign a paper with our pay and benefits. A coworker of mine realized in her second year in our district that she had been incorrectly placed as a new teacher the year before. Because she signed the paper, it was stuck, unchangeable, she’s always going to be a year behind on the salary scale.

      I just found out that many people high up in the union *never* sign those papers. I didn’t know that was an option!

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