it’s your Friday good news

It’s your Friday good news!

1.  “I’ve worked for a small company for the last 8 years. The work has grown and the company goals have changed, and after some upheaval and layoffs last summer I realized that I was actually no longer enjoying myself at a company I’d been so deeply committed to that it hadn’t occurred to me to stop and consider whether I liked it. Turned out, I didn’t. I was being taken for granted because of my institutional knowledge, but had been kept from having any company growth — instead, they’d hired people with fresh perspectives and given them clear titles and responsibilities, leaving me to fill gaps and plug leaks without a title or position to reflect the value I was giving them. This in turn meant I had no real standing to push for issues to be addressed.

I read and re-read your cover letter info and wrote one that I’m really, really proud of. I applied to a wide range of positions in my field, and interviewed with a focus on clear ownership and direction for the role, opportunity for mentorship and growth, and strong company leadership. Some places I applied to open roles, some opportunities came from cold outreach on my part where there weren’t openings listed, and some from quietly leveraging my network. I was offered three positions, and reached the final stage for 2 others. I signed an offer last night for more money and more opportunity. I am incredibly excited.

Ultimately, reading your blog daily helped me normalize that people do leave jobs, and that if I was seeing a pattern in how new hires were treated, it was a pattern I should apply to my own situation and ultimately, act accordingly, and also, that I should always, always negotiate (I asked for another $10K in salary, and got it!). Thank you for the work you do.”

2.  “Since the start of my career 20 years ago, I have always worked in research centers or small companies, where job security was spotty at best. Normally, I stayed between 2-3 years in one position before I had to switch jobs again (mostly because the money on the project run out or the small company was in serious trouble).  I also have kids and I am a woman in a field, where mainly technical aspects dominate. Every time and in every interview, I had to answer questions like, ‘Who will take care of the kids when they are sick?’ (my husband also exists, thank you very much!) or ‘Why did you switch jobs so often?’ (if there are positions for this kind of research
available which doesn’t necessary include selling your life and every spare time that there is, I would have taken it!). So, I was kind of disillusioned and decided last year to try something
completely new. A friend of mine told me that there was a position available in his team. He warned me that the boss was a real treat (the angry, yelling type),but since I was used to a lot of interesting characters as bosses, I thought: What could possibly go wrong?

Well, apparently wrong question. The boss was okish (he was a treat, but I have seen worse), but the work was somewhere between boring and nonexistent. The pay was very generous and if I hadn’t been an avid Ask a Manager reader, I would have stayed there and risked my mental health from boreout in the process. But I decided to look for greener pastures and found a job posting where they were looking for somebody to support researchers in starting their own business. I send my application, which was carefully crafted according to the Ask a Manager’s ste suggestions, and lo and behold, I got an interview! The interview itself was like a dream (the first one where my ‘job hopping’ was considered an asset) and the pay matched what I got before – in a job not industry related! It has its downside as well, but my direct managers are helpful and surprisingly sane. I am happier here than ever before and would have never thought that my spotty CV can actual be an asset!”

3.  “I discovered AAM in 2015 when I was completing a leadership qualification and was researching management techniques for an assignment. I’d been working in university administration for 15 years and wanted to move into a management role, and the qualification helped me to get there. I became a daily reader of the blog and it has helped me so much in dealing with the challenges of being a new manager, interview and application techniques, and shaping my own management style and philosophy.

By 2019, I’d ended up in a position that on paper was perfect for me, but in reality was stultifying, and I was miserable. During the pandemic I started to think about how to improve my situation. I’d always wanted to continue my education, and my institution had a generous career break policy, so in September 2021 I started a Master’s in Computer Science, with the intention of eventually moving into university IT project management. However, during the course I fell in love with coding, so I decided not to return to my previous role, and started applying for software development roles.

I was mainly applying for IT roles within higher education, but I came across a posting for a job in a governmental organisation that deals with data (my undergraduate degree was in maths and statistics), using my favourite programming language. I applied, using all the tips I’ve learnt over the years from reading your blog to play up my transferrable skills, and was shortlisted. The interview went really well (I asked the magic question!) and I was offered the position. It was my first ever software development interview, and I was so shocked when they sent through the offer that I couldn’t really speak for a couple of hours, and had to stop studying for the rest of the day because I couldn’t focus on anything.

I started in the role two days after submitting my final Master’s project, and have now been there for 4 and a half months. It’s been an absolute blast so far. I’ve learnt so much, the organisation and my manager are really supportive and inclusive, the team I work with are great, and it’s 100% remote. I’m earning £5k more as an individual contributor than when I was managing a team of 7 administrators. As much as I like managing, it can be super stressful, and at the moment I’m just enjoying being responsible for my own work. Maybe someday I’ll want to return to a management role, but I’m taking a couple of years to settle into this new career path and learn as much as I can about the technical side of software development.

Thank you so much for everything you do to encourage us to advocate for ourselves at work. AAM gave me the confidence to try something new, helped me to reflect on what I wanted to achieve at work, and the ability to present myself as a valuable addition to a team despite a “lack” of the technical skills expected. To anyone reading this who recognizes themselves, take heart, and know that you can change your life and it’s so worth the effort.”

4.  “After spending my mid 20s in Foreign Country, I returned to Home Country for grad school and then ended up with a job at Foreign Country’s consulate. It took me a long time to realize how much damage that job did with micromanaging and a toxic work environment, but at some point during my time there I discovered Ask a Manager. I sent out resumes and cover letters for a year and a half, and then finally got lucky by simply emailing my resume to an Indeed post that was looking for foreign language skills of Foreign Country.

That was my first step toward becoming a happier worker. I was able to confidently state my salary range which earned me a 30% raise, and I did a reasonably good job of fitting into a non-profit work environment. I got another 13% raise the next year, and our members in Foreign Country appreciated the ability to communicate more easily with the head office. They were a great place to work during the pandemic – we were fully remote, and there was a lot of support with work hour flexibility.

I started to realize it wasn’t what I wanted to do long term, so I applied to a language program in Foreign Country, got my study there funded, moved back about a year ago, and then found a permanent job here toward the end of my program. All of my application materials to the language program, resume refinement, and interview prep benefited from years of reading Ask a Manager. My new job isn’t perfect (the salaries in Foreign Country are much lower than Home Country, and I’m still learning the ropes), but I’m much happier, and I also am confident enough in myself to know that if things don’t work out, it’s not the end of the world.”

5.  “I taught in high schools for 25 years. I was eligible for an unreduced pension (not the max but no penalty for retiring early) this past January. I live in Canada so earned a decent wage, but the other factors that plague education were in full force. I didn’t want to become that teacher who hates their job, so I decided to retire without having any idea how I would pay my mortgage, which would be beyond my pension’s earning.

Shortly after I retired, a vice principal asked me to come in for an interview because she knew I was interested in supply teaching. The next day, she and the other vice principal from my former school interviewed me and I was placed on my district’s supply list the following day.
Now I am doing a different job, in different schools, with different responsibilities every day. And I can work everyday and am compensated well or choose to take a day off at any time. The things I hated about my job are no longer my responsibility, and I believe that I am doing a good job in helping students succeed (the need for supply teacher is so dire that I can choose jobs that I am qualified to teach). There are restrictions on how many days I can work and still collect my pension, but they have been relaxed because of need. In short (ha ha), I made a decision that was objectively a poor one, and I am really happy that I made it.”

{ 14 comments… read them below }

  1. the cat ears*

    #2 makes me curious how job hopping was considered an asset. I also have a career history with a lot of short stints and would love to find somewhere that won’t consider that a mark against me. I work in software so stays at companies are often shorter here than in other fields, but it’s like 1-2 years is typical and I have a few with less than 1 year.

    1. 15 Pieces of Flair*

      Also in tech and found a role where my diverse experience is a pro. Current employer is a large legacy tech company where many employees stick around for 10+ years. They were looking for a fresh (read: external) perspective, a broad background in technical professional services, and experience integrating operations after mergers. I only have all this experience because I’ve never spent more than 3 years at a single employer.

      When I left my last job after only six months, I thought the short stay would be a major black mark, but all I needed was a short explanation of why that role wasn’t a good fit. My previous role was sold as strategic account management but quickly turned into quota carrying sales, which was the explanation I gave in interviews. High turnover, boring repetitive work, being overqualified, and having an impending transfer blocked due to a hiring freeze ultimately drove me to leave, but I stuck to a the short dispassionate story in interviews.

    2. OP2*

      They were searching for someone who has seen a lot of different companies from the inside, with a broad technical background and who is able to jump from topic to topic on a daily base (sometimes even out of my technical area into other ones). I am more or less a consultant for new entrepeneurs and help them starting their business (not exactly, but you get the idea). There, experience is really the key – the more versatile, the better.

    3. Tex*

      This is me. I can tell my boss (who has been with the company 30 years) how 4 other competitors would approach the problem we are facing now, what the circumstances of each of those cases were, where the failure points were. All without giving out proprietary information. It’s incredibly useful to him because our projects tend to be years long. So quick failure to figure out what works is not an option.

      It’s a valuable asset in mid career. In my early career, hiring managers looked down on it as a marker of unreliability.

  2. Peanut Hamper*

    #5 — I enjoyed being a substitute teacher as I also found that it was everything I enjoyed (actually teaching!) and none of the stuff I didn’t like (endless staff meetings that accomplish nothing, politics at every level, so much paperwork). If it paid well (I’m in the US, so the pay is a pittance) I’d still be doing it, and look forward to when I can actually do it again.

    I’m so happy this worked out for you!

  3. English Rose*

    Such a delight to read all these good news stories as ever. I was really struck by how many of today’s LWs quoted AAM as being instrumental in the scales falling from their eyes about toxic environments and the possibility of something better.

  4. wanda*

    Would it be possible to clarify for OP5’s that “supply teacher” == “substitute teacher”? I was really confused and had to Google it. I thought they were managing inventories or something.

    1. KateM*

      Maybe it is a supporting teacher? Like an extra teacher in class to help with those kids who benefit from personal attention?

      1. BubbleTea*

        No, it means the same as substitute teacher. It’s the term used in the UK too.

    2. Jane*

      Sorry, yes. The terms ‘supply’ and ‘substitute’ (and also ‘occasional teacher’) are interchangeable where I am.

  5. Autumnheart*

    “Boreout” (from LW #2) A term I didn’t know I needed before now. I’ve had a couple jobs that had loads of boreout. I finally had to leave each of those jobs, because it was either that or watch my skills atrophy beyond repair.

    1. OP2*

      Yeah, there wasn’t much to do. IF there would have been home office, it would have been bearable, but the comapny was strictly against it. Hence, I had to sit in the office for 8 hours a day pretending to work (and reading lots and lots of books on my mobile phone). The most action I got was when I had to anser ONE email/day. The transition from this “low impact” job to my current “high impact” job (triaging every day because there is too much on my todo list) was difficult and took some time to readjust.

      1. Varthema*

        I’ve always wondered what it’d be like to work in a consulate, having had to deal with many of them over the years, rarely a pleasant experience.

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