bringing a heating pad to work, telling my boss I can’t take work trips, and more

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

1. Can I bring a heating pad to work for cramps?

I go into the office once a week. Today I’m on my period and having menstrual cramps — not debilitating by any means, but uncomfortable. On WFH days I heat up a microwaveable heating pad, which makes it much more pleasant. There is a microwave in the office kitchen — would it appropriate to bring in my heat pack and use it at my desk? Or would that be weird?

Nope, you’re fine. Do it. If anyone asks about it: “It’s helpful with a health condition” or “It’s helping with some pain.”

2. Job application wants my date of birth and Social Security number

I am a medical professional who is regularly sought after and I get a lot of messages from recruiters. I recently started looking for a second source of income and responded to one. The recruiter sent me an application (which made me fill out all the stuff that is already on my Indeed profile and CV, but okay, fine, I will do it). On the application form there were questions about my date of birth, Social Security number, marital status and place of birth. I have seen the date of birth and Social Security number questions many times and just put that I will supply them once we are moving forward with hiring. I also note I can legally work in the USA on the application. But I have never, ever, seen questions about marital status and place of birth. I think it is inappropriate and irrelevant and could set applicants up for discrimination. My gender, age, etc. does not matter in this role, either. Is this the new normal? I have not applied for any jobs in the past five years so am I out of the loop?

No, this isn’t normal and it’s hugely problematic for the reasons you say — plus giving out your Social Security number when you don’t actually need to puts you at risk of identity theft.

Are the fields required? If not, just skip them. But if they are, email the recruiter back and say, “Can you explain why you’re asking for info like my date of birth and Social Security number at this early stage? I’m happy to supply them if we reach the background check stage but supplying them now seems like a security risk to me and I wouldn’t typically do that.”

3. How to discuss my job at an abortion provider when interviewing

I am looking for a new job and I currently work for an abortion provider. The company I work for is not necessarily well known colloquially but it is the largest provider of abortions in my country (not the U.S.), and a simple search will tell people that.

I have encountered several awkward moments when interviewing for new jobs because of this. I will often be faced with “I don’t recognize the name of your employer, what do they do?” questions and I am stumped on the best way to answer them. Should I be up-front? I did that once and the tone in the room completely soured and the interview was quickly ended and. Is it better to talk about my company in general terms if someone asks?

I worry if I am not up-front and they google the company then they will know anyway (which has happened) and then I might look evasive. Once I said “we provide reproductive health services,” but when I was called back for a second interview, they told me that they looked up the company and I should have been more up-front, I should allow prospective employers to make a decision on what is acceptable or not, and my original answer came across like I was being deliberately deceptive. It felt like I was being lectured.

“We provide reproductive health services” or even just “we provide health care services” are both completely fine answers to this question. Accusing you of being deceptive was a ridiculous response from your interviewer and indicative of an issue on their end, not yours. Don’t let a weird interviewer throw you off and make you doubt the reasonableness of that answer in general.

You provide reproductive health services and it’s fine to say that.

4. How do I gracefully tell my manager I cannot take work trips?

I am a young professional in IT, who came into the profession in a way that’s a little unusual. I worked retail at my parents’ store for six years, then went to coding bootcamp and managed to land a job at a large corporation. I have fairly severe anxiety that is thankfully being managed at the moment, but large crowds and unfamiliar situations are a huge trigger for me. I mention this because I have very little experience with office etiquette and norms in a company of this size. Normally, I think people learn these social norms during college or internships, but I had to drop out of college multiple times due to mental health issues. I’m grateful for the job I have now, but there are some points at which I am very out of my depth.

My manager is asking if I’m interested in going to a professional conference out of town, with the implication that the only way to decline would be a scheduling conflict. I have never traveled without a family member before, and I’m worried that I will be trapped far from home with strangers. I’ve already had a bad experience when my department attended a large baseball game as a team-building activity — I managed to avoid having a panic attack, but it was slow torture for four hours and I felt extremely unsafe. Is there a way to decline the invitation without mentioning my anxiety?

Yes! If your sense is that you’re expected to go unless there’s a specific reason you can’t, you could say, “I’m dealing with a health issue that means I can’t travel right now — nothing to worry about, just something I need to take care of — but I appreciate you thinking of me for this!” This has the benefit of being true, and you don’t need to — and shouldn’t — elaborate beyond that.

{ 369 comments… read them below }

  1. there are chickens in the trees*

    OP#1, I used to fill my ice bag at work from the ice machine in the kitchen, and then use it at my desk. It was a great relief for the condition I was dealing with at the time! You should be fine with your heating pad.

    1. Excalibur*

      The only objection can think of is if the heating pad has herbs or essential oils that have a strong scent. I have one that smells strongly of lavender when it is heated, and while I like it for home, I would stick to unscented in the office.

      1. Lauren*

        Coming here to say this. The smell creates migraines for migration sufferers – and it travels – I cannot be near it at all. If they don’t need the smell, use a plugged in one.

        1. The Shenanigans*

          I’d think that if the OP knows there is someone with that condition near them, they’d be making those arrangements already. If they don’t know of anyone, I’d say just go ahead and use the oils they need. I’ve found lavender and tea tree make a huge difference in pain for me. It’s unfortunate if that triggers a migraine in someone else. If that’s the case, then they can plan together about how to both get their needs met. Maybe one can work from home or move desks to the opposite side of the room or work in a conference room for the day. If there’s an issue, I think we can trust the OP to work it out. There’s no reason to assume there is one, though, based on the letter.

          Also, microwaved bags are much easier to carry and easier to use in some offices than a heating pad that plugs in.

          1. a clockwork lemon*

            I’m not sure this is a safe assumption–my workplace hot desks, which means that even though we all sit in the same general area, we come in on different days and may or may not sit next to the same people each day.

            Additionally, I would not assume that people are having specific discussions about migraine triggers with their coworkers in the absence of something causing the discussion…such as a coworker bringing in a heavily-scented heating pad for the first time and triggering one.

          2. wordswords*

            I don’t think this is a safe assumption. Yes, if someone is so sensitive to fragrances that they absolutely need a fragrance-free office, they may well have already discussed that with HR and the accommodations may mean it’s on OP’s radar. But a lot of people have more limited fragrance sensitivity (only some scents, only if it’s very strong, only if it’s near them for a long period of time) and/or may encounter it rarely enough that they figure they’ll cross that bridge when they come to it in the office.

            I’m one of them; there are several scents that can give me a splitting headache (including both lavender and tea tree, actually), but it depends on how strong the smell is and how long I’m exposed to it. If somebody was using them in the office on a very occasional basis, I might not bother to get into it. If somebody was using them on the regular, then we’d have to talk and figure out something that worked for both of us.

            And I also think it’s worth mentioning because some people use scented ones just because they like the smell, and it might not occur to them that it could be a problem for someone else. It might not be on OP’s radar, and it’s worth pointing out that it’s a consideration.

            However, as you say, for some people the scents really do make a difference. In that case, it’s a matter of competing needs, and figuring out something (like the solutions you suggest!) that works for everybody. But I think it’s actually fairly rare that one would know ahead of time whether or not using a scented heating pad will be an issue, so it makes sense to err on the side of unscented if it’s all the same to OP (which it might or might not be).

          3. Rainy*

            No. Don’t use essential oils in the workplace without checking with everyone around you (and I mean, farther around you than you think is necessary). I had some coworkers a few years back who got really excited about essential oil diffusers and I started having an allergic reaction before I even smelled the oil. I and two other coworkers had to leave immediately, we were so sick.

      2. Chris*

        Was coming here to say something like this! Some of them have lavender or mint or something. And those could kick of fragrance that affect people sensitive to it! Or it could get in to people’s food and affect the taste. If the OP has such a heating pad/bag, it would be better to get a generic fragrance free one to keep at the office.

    2. Ama*

      I agree that OP1 is absolutely fine, but I wanted to mention my cheat for cramps at times when I didn’t think I could get away with a big heating pad. There are stick on disposable heating pads that on the box say they are for your upper back and shoulders –but they are really just kind of a nice, gently curved strip that can be put around your lower midsection (the adhesive is on the ends so it kind of attaches where the front of your hip bone is). Completely invisible under even the thinnest work pants or skirt and they last for 6-8 hours.

      When I could I’d use a resuable heating pad, but these were lifesavers when I had cramps on a day where I had a big meeting or was working an event and needed to move around a lot.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Yep, I used to keep some of those instant heating pads in my desk drawer along with the little belt (the cheaper ones didn’t stick on). As soon as you open the packet and the air hits them, they warm up — no microwave required. It worked for both cramps and when my lower back was acting up.

      2. The Shenanigans*

        Oooh, the Icy Hot ones are SO nice. I’ve used them after surgery before, and they are amazing.

      3. Observer*

        Ones I used to use actually had one specifically designed for abdomen / menstrual cramps.

        Google thermacare. They are all over the place, whether you prefer to shop at your local small pharmacy or a big chain / mail order.

        Very thin, and can be worn under your clothes, with none the wiser. Which is a real blessing in some circumstances. More importantly, because they are thin and light and come in individual pouches, you can carry one with you for emergency situations.

      4. Random Dice*

        I came to say that! The stick-on heating pads are so great for periods. You can also use Hot Hands for feet, too, in a pinch.

        Plus… unscented.

        (Even the rice and oatmeal microwave heating pads can trigger my nausea, because medically I’m a delicate little flower)

    3. Seal*

      Before I got my knee replaced, I kept a gel ice pack in the freezer at work and used it daily. Mine was not the only ice pack in the freezer; other colleagues kept heating pads in their offices as well. No one batted any eye over any of this, although we occasionally commiserated over our various aches and pains.

      1. Carol the happy elf*

        I had chemo, and was hot/cold all the time. One of my coworkers had made her mother and me front and back aprons with huge pockets to hold those clear liquid heating pads with a metal disk. I could walk around with heat all around me,and when I warmed up enough it came off easily.

        Mine was more like scrubs fabric, but her mother’s was just a bath towel like a poncho with pockets sewn on, a hole for her head, and ties at the waist. When the pad cooled off (after hours of comfort) I could just remove the pad and put another on the counter, snap the disk and when it stiffened up, just slide it in the pocket.
        My daughter wears a heating shawl tied at the waist, and my granddaughter slides those cheap little hand warmers (carefully) into her front pants pockets, or the pocket of her hoodie, so nobody knows it’s to manage cramps.

    4. hiding under the library steps with a cheese tray, giggling*

      I have a small, mouse-sized (and shaped, really) USB chargeable “hand warmer” that I keep at my desk. I used it for hand warming, then discovered my whole body felt warmer if I put it on my lap, and that led to the welcome discovery that it also helped a lot with cramps. Everyone knows we’re all freezing in here all the time, so no one seems to notice, much less comment on it.

    5. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      Heck, I used to bring in an electric heating pad for cramps occasionally. Nobody ever said anything.

      1. Ray B Purchase*

        I had an ear infection once and heat really helped the pain. After taking 2 sick days, I had a few in-person meetings so I couldn’t work from home, so I strapped a heating pad onto my head whenever I was at my desk. I looked WEIRD but it got me through the day and sometimes that’s the best you can do.

    6. El Muneco*

      A few years ago, my eye doctor prescribed a heat pack a few times a day followed up by gentle massage to break up buildup in my tear ducts.

      So not only did I have to lie down under my desk for 10 minutes with a microwaved hot pack on my face, I had to take out my contacts before and put them in afterward.

      OP#1 should be fine.

  2. RetailEscapee*

    I am constantly cold after losing a large amount of weight and used to bring a heating pad to work. It was more effective than bundling and no one cared.

    1. Chilipepper Attitude*

      I got a heating pad shawl and it was great! I was able to wrap up, sit on it, or place it across my legs.

      1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        today I learned heating pad shawls exist. My life has been changed. I am so getting one. Thank you.

        1. Paralegally Blonde*

          I, too, just learned of the existence of this wonder. Amazon is scheduled to deliver mine on Monday, yay.

    2. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      I thought the question was going to be about being cold at work. For a heating pad that is electric, of course, just with the facilities manager to make sure its okay. But for a microwave heating pad, only used sometimes, nah, you are so fine, no one will even notice. And if they do, probably not even care.

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

        For a heating pad I don’t think you would have to check with facilities. It’s not like a space heater that can cause fires. And most heating pads turn off automatically now. I wouldn’t see it any different than bringing in a fan or a phone charger.

        1. 123*

          They need to check their business’s policies. I’m absolutely astonished at some of the dumb things that wind up being prohibited or require approval. (eg. Coffee or stew pots, even without any exposed heating coils or open flames)

          1. TheOperaGhost*

            Anything other than a cell phone charger that is used for a cell phone I need to get approval on.

            I once bought a midi humidifier that only uses a usb cord figuring it would be fine. I could just use my phone’s usb cube. Nope. Had to unplug it and submit all forms for approval. It is ridiculous.

            1. Chaordic One*

              Aside from fire issues caused by something plugged into an electrical outlet (and we’re not allowed to plug anything into an electric outlet at my workplace), there are now security issues from seemingly innocuous USB cords plugged directly into a computer. Malware can be transferred from whatever is plugged into the computer and infect a whole network. (I don’t suppose it happens often, but it has happened.) We’re not allowed to plug anything into a work computer at my workplace.

              Yes, most Facilities Management departments are completely unreasonable and ridiculous. (And managers wonder why people don’t want to come back to the office!)

              1. 123*

                Yeah, security experts are now recommending that USB data be disabled by default. Letting employees use USB just introduces too many risks. Not worth it, especially now that everything is cloud-based.

                Also, NEVER plug a USB cord into a device you do not own. If you need to charge it at an airport or something, don’t use the public USB ports.

                1. Yikes Stripes*

                  I know it feels like overkill to a lot of people, but I’m fanatical about bringing my own chargers everywhere. I just cannot risk plugging my phone into a public port – there’s actual sensitive medical information on there, and even though the likelihood of anyone being interested in my clients is very low I’m not going to play stupid games of chance with HIPAA. (I don’t want stupid prizes, thanks!)

              2. Random Dice*

                It happens often.

                Don’t ever leave your laptop alone at Starbucks.

                Don’t ever pick up a USB stick and plug it into your computer so you can helpfully give it back to the owner.

                USB is a great way to introduce malware.

        2. Don't Forget to Mute The Zoom*

          (Facilities here) We don’t allow anything to be plugged into the outlets at the desk except for company issued equipment. While it might seem benign, it is easy to overload the electrical, especially if multiple people are plugging in stuff that pulls a lot of power. Make sure you always check with Facilities even if it seems minor and not likely to cause a problem :)

        3. Observer*

          For a heating pad I don’t think you would have to check with facilities. It’s not like a space heater that can cause fires.

          It depends on the heating pad. They aren’t space heaters, true, but they can draw a fair bit of current. So, depending on your office, you should probably check with facilities. Same, by the way, for a fan.

          1. Pescadero*

            I’ve never seen a heating pad that draws more than about ~250W, or approximately the same amount of power a normal desktop computer draws (without the monitor). Most are under 100W.

            1. Observer*

              And? If the space is not designed for that load, you have problems.

              And, yes, I’ve been in spaces where plugging in an additional computer blew the fuse.

    3. MissMeghan*

      I love my heating pad for being cold at work! It uses way less energy than a space heater, only heats me up, and turns itself off. I’ve only ever had one comment and just said I get chilly at work.

    4. Elizabeth West*

      I kept a small fleece blanket in a cubical footrest under my desk at Exjob. On cold days I’d whip it out and snuggle up. :)

    5. Random Dice*

      My husband has heated socks with batteries. He used Hot Hands for feet for about a year and I finally found the rechargeable socks. Warm feet warm the whole body!

  3. MassMatt*

    #2 I would not only refuse to give that info, I would thoroughly check out this recruiter to make sure they were legitimate before giving them ANY info. This REEKS of a phishing attempt.

    Your SSN and DOB are not needed until you are hired, but they sure are useful for opening credit cards in your name, or applying for your tax refund. And marital status—in the U.S. it’s legal to ask but it’s illegal to consider as a basis for hiring, so asking about it leads to potential liability.

    1. Worldwalker*

      Yeah. Place of birth? That’s nothing a prospective employer would care about, but a common security question.

      (Which is why I answer those security questions with a made-up word: good luck figuring that one out, or how I pick the word)

      1. I had a bad gaslighty therapist*

        I let KeePass generate a random word, and then save said word in KeePass self. Which I never needed because I also save the generated password.

        Before I knew about KeePass, I used the info of someone else instead of mine.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I use both — KeePass for passwords and then made-up crap for the security questions because it’s fun. For example(this is not a real one I use): “What street did you grow up on?” “Last House on the Left Lane, Scary, NH.”

      2. *kalypso*

        It’s often a way to ask about visa status without asking about visa status or right to work.

        1. TootsNYC*

          But asking about your right to work in the US is perfectly legal, isn’t it?
          You can’t ask why you have the right (no asking about citizenship or immigration status), but you can have them check off yes/no for “Are you authorized to work in the United States?”

        2. The Shenanigans*

          Agreed, why not just ask outright? Most applications just have a checkbox. Also, it’s a silly way to determine if someone is a citizen. Anyone born to married American parents is automatically a citizen. They could be born in Rivendell, but they are still a citizen.

          I definitely think it sounds phishy to ask specifically about place of birth.

      3. Moodbling*

        It sounds like LW is in the medical field, and I do medical credentialing. If you work as a doctor or similar in the US, your employer DOES need your place of birth – otherwise they can’t process health insurance claims with you as the provider.

        But certainly they don’t need it before they’ve even made you an offer.

        1. Mycelia R Kool*

          Why would insurance care about where a medical provider is born?!? How on Earth is that relevant in any way?

          1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

            Yeah, that sounds really weird!

            When I read that post, I literally went, “WHAT!?” out loud in a completely empty room, fortunately). 8-D

      4. Nina*

        I’m finding this one interesting because I’m in a country where ‘where, specifically, were you born’ is pretty common get-to-know-you small talk. That said, it’s usually expressed in terms of nearest or most significant mountain and river in the vicinity rather than ‘I’m from X city’.

    2. Empress Ki*

      I wish it was illegal to ask, since it’s illegal to take into account in the hiring decision. It doesn’t make sense to allow employers to ask a question they can’t use.

      1. Peanut Hamper*

        This is where common sense hiring practices come into play, though. There are lots of things you can’t base a hiring decision on, so it makes sense to steer clear of them.

        On a contrasting note, I’m rather glad they’re not illegal. If I get asked potentially discriminatory questions during an interview, then I know this is a company that is probably going to have a lot of other red flags and boundary crossing issues.

        1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

          The fact that it’s illegal would only deter a handful of people though.

      2. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        Yeah I cannot imagine any decent company in the year 20 freaking 23 asking marital status. Yeah its not illegal to ask but its stupid to ask.

    3. Health*

      Lol, no. It’s not a scam, you guys just don’t work in health care. This is all extremely normal (coming from someone who’s applied to dozens of health care jobs in the past decade)

      They ask a LOT of questions on applications. You won’t get the job or even an interview if you don’t give them this info.

      1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        Considering the shortages they all complain about and the complaints about how hard it is to find good candidates who will stay put, maybe they should be a bit less intrusive about stuff that is irrelevant to the job. Marital status and place of birth do not matter.

      2. Coin Purse*

        Yes as a nurse I’ve been asked every single one of these questions for every job.

        1. MassMatt*

          You have been asked your marital status at every job? And your SSN and DOB at the point of applying, before an interview? Whoah.

        2. Willow Pillow*

          I’ve been asked those questions for finance… but it’s in a third-party background check system. The organization shouldn’t need to collect (or store) it.

        3. Lydia*

          I assume at the background check stage and not at the application stage, because if you were asked at the application stage, that’s still stupid and pointless.

          1. Moodbling*

            If you’re married, they will want to confirm that your spouse did not accept 10 billion dollars from a pharma company in exchange for you promising to inappropriately prescribe expensive drugs.

      3. 123*

        Just because it is not scam does not make it a good idea. Asking questions that have nothing to do with hiring is a security and liability risk. If the industry thinks it is normal, then the industry is wrong. (No big surprise that hospitals are *notorious* in security circles for their bad practices.)

        1. Mayor of Llamatown*

          I have gotten notices years after applying for jobs at very legit institutions of higher ed that they had a security breach and that SSNs and other personal information were compromised. Luckily I hadn’t given that information over (I had been in the beginning application stages) but if I had, that would have been a nightmare to solve, all for jobs I never even got an interview for.

          1. SnappinTerrapin*

            I was never notified that my CBI was exposed when China hacked the OPM server. I wouldn’t have known about it if OPM hadn’t sent a letter to my late wife. I found that ironic.

            I’m old enough to remember when the questions on this application were fairly standard for almost any job. They must have found a box of 50 year old forms in the warehouse and decided to use them instead of recycling them.

            No, I wouldn’t answer those questions nowadays before the job negotiation reached the point of asking for permission to check my background. If there is a legitimate need for the information, that is the proper time to request it.

      4. Irish Teacher*

        Yeah, I don’t work in healthcare, but at the start of covid, it made news here that doctors applying to administer the vaccines were being asked, among other things, for their Junior Cert. grades. This probably equates to…say asking for a doctor’s GPA in their freshman and sophomore year of high school in the US. (Can’t really come up with an equivalent for the UK; technically it would equate to asking for GCSE results, but it isn’t the same thing, not least because we do more subjects for the Leaving so it’s not like the Junior is the last time people were tested in English or Maths. Maybe like asking for their results from exams in Year 10?)

        I mean, I have no idea how normal it is, but that was definitely an official thing and not a scam.

        Not saying it’s a good idea or anything. The whole reason it made news was because of how ridiculous it was.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          That sounds ridiculous, but then again I worked at a company that required high school transcripts and that every applicant “pass” a personality test. (Apparently the personality test was the reason they could never hire enough painters and building maintenance personnel.)

          I also know of some older applicants who noped out when they were asked for a high school transcript, so it might have skewed the applicant pool younger. Still, HS transcript is much less of a security/discrimination risk than the questions OP is asking about.

          1. Clobberin' Time*

            Asking for college GPA (with getting it wrong in any way being a firing offense) was a well-known way that a certain big tech company weeded out the olds.

      5. ken*

        I worked in credentialing for a health care provider and we did need place of birth and social to complete our checks, but this information was asked for in a separate professional credentialing application, not the initial employment application. I don’t believe marital status was ever needed for any of our checks.

    4. infopubs*

      When I encounter these questions, I put in a temporary number/city. It holds the place in the form until they need the actual number/city. This works for any entity that doesn’t need this information but it is embedded in their forms.

      I think the mindset of using “temporary” information is important. I’m not lying, I’m merely protecting private information at this early stage and will gladly reveal later in the process anything that is truly required. I’m more than happy to explain this if asked. Any company that balks at a person being cautious with private info is sending up red flags.

      For SSN, the easiest thing to do is to switch two digits. So 123-45-6789 becomes 132-45-6789. I think SSNs have a check digit, so only certain combinations of numbers will work. Swapping 2 of your own guarantees you get a workable number if the form is sophisticated enough to do the digit checking. A simple temporary birthdate is 01/01/xxxx, where the year is your birth year.

      1. LTR FTW*

        Yup this is what I would do. I have no qualms whatsoever about putting bogus info into a form like that.

      2. Hannah Lee*

        Except it’s a (albeit unlikely) possibility that false # is linked to someone else.

        Or the company is like the companies that carve e-mail addresses in stone and refuse to change them ever, only with SS # and DOB

        Though obviously you’re just using the best of the imperfect available workarounds for a bad hiring process and system design.

    5. Sapientia*

      In Germany employers usually require Tax ID, SSN, and marital status for tax and social security reasons, but only when they actually hire you. I’d find it highly suspicious if they wanted that info in my application.

      Place of birth seemed to be a usual info on your resume, though I don’t know why. Now it’s common to only put your DOB. Often they ask if you are a (EU) citizen or have a permit for working in the country.

      1. Hannah Lee*

        On you last sentence that’s the way to approach things. Instead of asking a question so the recruiter can take a guess at whatever info they really need, ask for the actual information you need.

        Don’t try to use “place of birth” as a proxy for “are you approved to work in this country” Don’t ask “do you have a driver’s license” when what you really need to know is “are you willing and able to consistently commute to and from the workplace”.

        There’s also the process and form design guidelines of only asking for information once and at the correct step in the process and only sharing what’s needed. But even just only asking the right questions is a step in the right direction.

      2. Industry Behemoth*

        When I arrived for the interview, a potential employer had me fill out a bunch of forms for a background check required by some of their clients.

        I don’t think the recruiter knew about it, or they would’ve told me in advance. I’m sure the employer was just trying to save time, but they should’ve collected that info only from the person they actually wanted to hire.

    6. theletter*

      +1 does the job seem too good to be true? Because those application questions can’t be real.

    7. MissGirl*

      I just applied to a health system and they wanted this info to conduct a background check at the offer stage. Obviously, they don’t need it now so I filled in all ones. If that automatically rejects me, so be it.

    8. TootsNYC*

      I’m not sure why a recruiter would ever need you SSN and DOB; they are not your employer, they will never be filing income taxes on your behalf, etc.

    9. Anon Healthcare Credentialer*

      I work in healthcare and specifically for the type of recruiting agency that LW 2 is applying to. We have contracts in place with our hospital client that state we’ve done certain background checks before we “present” the doctor to the hospital to be accepted to apply. Then the hospital does another whole series of background checks. It’s cumbersome and redundant, but so is most of the healthcare credentialing process. SSN, DOB, POB are all on our app. Marital status isn’t, but I’ve seen it as a non-mandatory field on hundreds of hospital applications. I think it’s a fossil from 2 older requests: 1. an outdated way of asking for Emergency Contact info and 2. because invites to hospital events used to be addressed to Dr. & Mrs. Doctorname

    10. Jennifer S.*

      I am the letter writer for #2. I have also worked in health care for a long time and have never been asked for my place of birth and marital status. It’s bizarre to me. Right after I sent my letter to AMA, I sent an email to the recruiter. I included this statement, “There are some fields I am not going supply at this time due to security reasons- D.O.B. and SSN. Also, I don’t think asking about my marital status or place of birth is appropriate or relevant for an application for employment.”
      The recruiter wrote back, “The place of birth and marital status you can leave blank if you prefer. Those questions have been on credentialing forms for years, but is irreverent these days. I will eventually need your SSN or TIN number on the W9 for accounting.”
      As an FYI, anyone can google my name and get my NPI, DEA numbers and can also easily confirm that I am currently licensed with no restrictions in my state with just my full name. I have no problem with D.O.B. and SSN once I get an offer. But I agree with many who noted security concerns.
      The job does not otherwise seem “too good to be true” and I have vetted the company as much as I can.
      I will let you know if there are any other issues. But I feel good that I was able to state my concerns and the recruiter didn’t push back. If he had I wouldn’t have moved forward with applying.

  4. Hales*

    Yes to the heating pad! I have an electric one I keep at work both for cramps and cold days. When I previously worked in a larger office, it was nice to be able to lend it out to friends who would benefit as well, like being known as the person who could always help out with a tampon (or at least point them towards someone who could, if I couldn’t #cuplife)

    1. Random Academic Cog*

      I’ve always kept a bag of menstrual supplies and a heating pad readily accessible for anyone who needs them. I’m menopausal now, so I have to remember to check the cabinet once in a while, but I’ve also noticed others sometimes add to the stash.

      1. Jay (no, the other one)*

        When I opened my own medical practice years ago, all three docs and all the office staff were women. I added pads and tampons to the list of office supplies that we paid for.

  5. nodramalama*

    LW1 I can’t see anyone even noticing a heating bad tbh. The only time I’ve ever noticed one is when a girl i worked with wore it around her neck and I always thought it was a weird scarf. The only exception I can think of is that sometimes when heatpacks get older the rice or whatever is in it can smell quite strong when microwaving it.

    LW4 I think Alison’s response is good. I do wonder if its worth getting a steer of how likely it is that this might be a recurring issue though. I know in many organisations travelling for conferences, development opportunities, going to state offices etc are pretty common and expected and turning them down over a long period of time might have some professional consequences.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      Yeah, seconding #4: This might not be a one-off. The LW doesn’t mention being in therapy for this but if s/he’s not, s/he might want to look into it since it might end up being a real hindrance long-term.

      1. OP #4 - Traveling Anxious*

        This is an excellent point, and I appreciate you and nodramalama bringing it up. I am in therapy – and have been for 10 years (lol). I am working on becoming more comfortable with travel, and hope that I can reach a point where I am able to be more independent. I do *want* to go to conferences to develop my skills and network! Especially since I’m interested in cybersecurity, which generally involves a lot of travel. But at least right now, my anxiety prevents me from doing that, at least without a buddy. I appreciate Alison taking the time to answer my question and you reading it!

        1. Lydia*

          I think one of the things Alison’s suggested response does is leave the door open for the future when you are ready to take those challenges on. Right now? Not good, but let’s talk the next time an opportunity comes up.

        2. 2 Cents*

          OP #4, I, too, hate crowds and conferences and struggle with/am medicated for anxiety. I’ve found signing up for the virtual groups (like FB or LinkedIn) was better than doing the awkward in-person networking. Also, some of those conferences do have smaller breakaway groups, like “Women in Coding” or “Red-haired Dog Breeders who code” meetups before or after the official conference time. At least then you know you all have something in common.

        3. All Het Up About It*

          This makes sense. Something to think about is after you’ve been at the company you might be able to travel to conferences with co-workers who can fill that buddy role.

          Also, at many places it’s not uncommon for a spouse or partner to accompany someone on a work trip (on their own dime of course) if it’s to a cool place. Or even a less cool place sometimes. Not sure what family members you travel with, but saying yes to a conference and then saying “My sister loves Chicago, so she’s going to tag along and sight see during the day” isn’t out of the norm many places.

          Just things to keep in mind overtime, that you might find various ways to travel for work that aren’t just I have to go completely by myself.

          Congrats on this new gig for you. I hope it goes well and your anxiety work goes well too. It’s a struggle for real!

        4. georunner*

          I had never travelled without my spouse before and had to start going on work trips as part of a new job. The first couple were rough, I had awful travel anxiety. But getting out of it wasn’t an option and I knew about the travel going into the position. Turns out traveling solo was what I needed to cure my travel anxiety. Your results will obviously vary, but I wanted to offer my story and say I truly hope it gets better!

          1. Mademoiselle Sugar Lump*

            Same for me. I was lucky that my boss was happy to let me travel domestically only, and sent others on overseas trips. But the point is, it really did get better.

        5. Green rose*

          Don’t dismiss bringing a carer as an option. Since you work for a large company they may have financial support available for such requirements. Assuming you have someone who could travel with you (they would be unlikely to cover wages, but may cover flights)

          If you went via the company you would need to register for disability etc.

          There may also be options to do this privately. In my industry it is incredibly common for partners to travel to work events and play tourist – they don’t participate in the work part but may come to social dinners in the evening. This is easier to do with a partner, but a friend also works. A parents would look odd if you are young.

          But check the norms of your industry – it could come across poorly if that’s not your norm.

    2. MCMonkeyBean*

      The smell is what I was going to mention as well. I think using a microwavable heat pad is definitely fine but just be aware of if it has a strong smell. I think a lot of them are intentionally scented with lavender too.

      1. Fish Microwaver*

        At one of my previous workplaces, microwavable heating pads were banned, especially wheat bags. There were safety concerns regarding burns and fires from overheating.

    3. OP #4 - Traveling Anxious*

      Hi! I’m OP #4. I’m sure it *will* be a recurring issue, but I’m also hoping that I can get some more travel experience under my belt and become more comfortable with it. I do want to go to conferences to network and develop my skills! But I’ve only had this job for about a year, so I’m still feeling out how to manage my anxiety in the new office environment. I just need a way to kick the can down the road.

      1. babaloo*

        Hi there OP, the majority of conferences for our field have provided a virtual component since the pandemic began. You should counter your “can’t travel medical issue” with a “I would be happy to participate remotely if conference X has a virtual component”. For paid conferences, the virtual ticket is either free or discounted which saves money in the team budget for other conferences. I’ve attended four virtual conferences already this year. It’s very much a thing and doesn’t look to be going away for tech. If the paid conference doesn’t have a virtual component do a small amount of casual googling to find a conference with a virtual component that’s related to the one you’re currently being offered and propose that one. The bigger, multi-subject conferences like LWT have networking events for virtual attendees so it’s not a matter of losing all non-technical professional development by attending virtual conferences. The other thing to keep an eye on is local tech conferences. Every city of moderate size has conferences put on by the local tech networking groups so there’s likely one close to home you can use to start getting comfortable.

      2. coffee*

        Hey OP #4, the chances are very good that you will become more comfortable over time, especially since you’re in therapy. Good luck! You’ve already come a long way!

  6. Detached Elemental*

    Op #1 I often use a wheat bag for menstrual cramps when I’m at work. If anyone asks, I usually tell them a white lie and say it’s for lower back pain.

    1. Worldwalker*

      Tell them muscle pain. The uterus is a muscular organ, after all, and cramps are caused by its muscular actions.

    2. Elsewise*

      I feel like I see heating pads in the office fairly regularly. Not every day, but they’re common enough that they don’t raise an eyebrow. I’ve worked in a lot of female-dominated offices, and the unspoken consensus has generally been that if Jane comes in looking a little pale once a month and holds a heating pad to her abdomen, well, most of us have been there, and it doesn’t need to be a conversation. (In my experience the cis men don’t remark on it either.) Obviously this won’t be the case in every workplace, but I say normalize heating pads in the office!

      1. Sandals and sneakers*

        If people ask I say ugh cramps like I would if I have a headache (because that’s what mine are usually on par with – not everyone is so lucky). I work in a male dominated field and it shuts down any further conversation :)

      2. Chaordic One*

        I’ve seen a fair number of men working in offices using heating pads, too. (Usually and supposedly for “sports injuries”?)

    3. Endo*

      I usually tell them a white lie and say it’s for lower back pain.

      I mean, my menstrual cramps always include lower back pain anyway (followed by cramps all through my abdomen, groin and thighs – endometriosis is so fun /s) so it wouldn’t even be a white lie for me.

      1. Waiting on the bus*

        That did make me chuckle. Lower back pain is my #1 association with menstruation, so that white lie is a waving red flag to me (pun intended).

    4. WhyAreThereSoManyBadManagers*

      Why do we feel the need to lie about menstrual pain?? It’s been proven that for many women the pain is worse than that of heart attack pain. Half the world’s population goes through this and has periods. I’m so tired of period pain, menstrual pain, cramps, endometriosis pain, perimenopausal/menopausal issues being dirty secret words and topics, it’s far past time we should be able to discuss them openly if necessary. Stop being embarrassed and instead be empowered.

      1. Courageous cat*

        Why do we need to shame people for feeling uncomfortable, in the same token, though? Not everyone likes to talk about their intestinal distress either but all of us have experienced it. I wish people would just let others be on this.

  7. Dina*

    Adding my voice to the chorus of yes for heating pads! I’ve had one at my desk in all the offices I’ve worked at (except the current one, but I work from home most of the time anyway).

    Another thing I’ll do is use those peel and stick body warmers that you can stick to your clothes (for period pain you can put them on your underwear). I like them for days when I’m out of the house because they stay put when you stand up and are unobtrusive for commuting. They’d also be easy to hide on the offchance someone does get weird about it.

    #5 – my only concern with Alison’s answer is that it seems like it’s potentially temporary, which might not be the case. I do think it would be appropriate to say something like “I can’t travel due to health issues” and leave it at that.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      This phrase creates its own issue down the road when OP wants to travels “with family” for some reason.

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

        but traveling with family is different than by yourself for work. For example, lets say you have seizers. Traveling with family means that you know someone will be there to help you if you have a seizer in the airport or something. Where as if you travel by yourself for work then you cannot rely on anyone else, even if you travel with a coworker you don’t/can’t rely on them helping you or even knowing what to do.

      2. Dahlia*

        Add “currently” to it. “I can’t currently travel due to health issues.”

        When they resolve, it’s no longer true.

    2. Joielle*

      Yes, I was going to mention the peel and stick heating pads too. I’ve used them for back pain at work many times. You can’t see them at all under your clothes and they get plenty warm!

    3. Annony*

      I have an electric heating pad with a belt. I like it much better than the peel and stick ones because I find it gets warmer but it is still not noticeable to others and I can walk around while wearing it. I highly recommend it.

  8. Lady Gray Jane*

    I’m a woman who can’t be on hormonal birth control so I deal with my period monthly. I say this because I don’t want the OP for #1 to think I’m shaming her for having a normal biological function. That’s not my intention.

    There are definitely some offices and roles where it would not be fine and would lead to trouble. I’m not saying I agree because I don’t. But for example I work in a political office for an elected official. Our dress code is extremely formal and we are visible and public facing. It would not be acceptable at my job. Again I’m not saying I agree, but OP #1 should be cautious and know her office.

    1. Sprigatito*

      LW1 – I used to work in a male-dominated office (as in, I was literally the only woman in the entire building) and felt awkward having a heating pad, so I used those Thermacare stick-on heat pads. They sit inside your clothing so nobody sees, but they provide a nice even heat that’s amazing for cramps.

      1. Ana Gram*

        I used the sticky heat pads when I worked outside and they’re amazing! So soothing and convenient.

      2. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

        I also use these – the thing I like most is that I can continue to have the heat where I need it without needing to be close to someplace to plug in an electric heating pad, or worrying about losing a microwaveable one.

        1. Annony*

          I have an electric heating pad that is rechargable, so no cords to worry about. I charge it at night and it lasts for most of the work day with a belt so that I can wear it discretely under my clothes. It auto turns off after an hour so I just go to the bathroom to turn it back on as needed.

      3. NotAnotherManager!*

        I love these things. I have chronic lower back pain, and the best thing about the stick-ons is that they stay exactly where you need them to – no shifting or weird body contortions to get the heat in the right spot.

    2. Chrisssss*

      This. I once worked in an office where it was a problem to show any sign that you had your period, but it was also the most sexistic workplace I have ever been.

      For the other places it has never been a problem.

    3. *kalypso*

      I work in one of those.

      It’s fine.

      Medical accommodations do not become unacceptable because you have a formal dress code or people might see. This is a medical accommodation, and one that requires no actual accommodating from anyone else. It doesn’t even require a powerpoint and tagging like an electric heat mat would.

      And before you go ‘but wheat packs can trigger gluten intolerance’ – there are rice packs, hot water bottles, microwaveable gel pads and various non-wheat forms of temporary heat packs. Some of them do not stay as hot and some stay warmer for longer so preferences are valid, but they are all 100% reasonable accommodations and given that it’s medical and supplying one’s own is preferable for everyone (shape, heat, etc.) and the workplace is at most allowing you to use less electricity than it takes to heat up your lunch to warm it up… there’s zero business reason they can deny it.

      Even in an at-will dystopia.

    4. I should really pick a name*

      Would they know it’s for menstrual cramps?

      That’s not where my mind would go if I saw a heating pad.

    5. Also-ADHD*

      Would they allow heating or ice pads or other visible treatment for injury etc? A heating pad could be used for back or other muscle pain frankly.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        When I worked in a formal office (not legislative, but similar level of formality), no, they would not allow any sort of visible medical treatment in a public-facing area. One of my colleagues whacked her head on an open cabinet door once, and she had to take her ice pack back to one of the few offices that wasn’t visible/accessible to the public. They were strict about what was out/visible to the public in the office on all fronts. I think these sorts of places are the minority nowadays, but LGJ is right that it’s a know-your-workplace sort of thing.

        1. Salsa Your Face*

          So if someone broke their arm and needed a cast, would they not be allowed in a public facing area for 6-8 weeks?

          1. lilsheba*

            That’s what I was thinking. OR god forbid a mobility aid like a walker or wheelchair! Or a cane!

          2. NotAnotherManager!*

            No, the line of distinction is more public application of first aid. Of course someone who had to be in a cast or boot or required some sort of mobility support device would be fine.

        2. Dahlia*

          If they were that strict, they should have sent her home with pay. That’s ridiculous, frankly.

    6. The Shenanigans*

      That sounds pretty out of the norm, tbh, and I’d wonder if that campaign had unusually bad gender discrimination/harassment issues. But in that case, I’d say the OP could just use an Icy Hot stick on heating pad under their clothes or something.

    7. Observer*

      But for example I work in a political office for an elected official. Our dress code is extremely formal and we are visible and public facing. It would not be acceptable at my job.

      You can be formal and public facing and still use a heating pad. I *certainly* believe you that it would not be acceptable in your office, but it has more to do with your management than the actual needs of the office, especially since more often than not, even with people coming into the office, the pad would be behind a desk.

      But, regardless of why your office doesn’t allow it, the disposable ones work just fine, and can’t even be seen most of the time.

  9. Julian*

    I would say “we provide reproductive healthcare.” Trans men and enbies get abortions, too.

  10. Cohort 1*

    The heating pad: just be sure that your microwavable heating pad isn’t scented with something aromatic that could set off others’ allergies. I bought one with lavender in it, which was lovely, but it gave me an asthma attack on the spot. I’ve never reacted to lavender soap or other lavender products, but the heating process was a different story. Surprise!

    1. Lizzo*

      ^^This. Even if they’re not “scented”, the microwaveable heating pads sometimes have an odor. Make sure yours is not one of those, LW1!

      1. Jackalope*

        I had to stop using one of the lavender-scented ones because I was starting to have a nausea reaction to everything that smelled like lavender. Not worth it!

      2. Galadriel's Garden*

        I have a gel one that is marvelous for just such an application. I actually got a pack with two, so one stays in the freezer and the other stays out for heating, and it even came with a little sling situation. I bought it after dislocating my shoulder last year and spent exactly one day trying to balance a bag of peas on my shoulder at my desk before frantically searching for “ice pack with harness,” lol.

  11. Stevesie*

    I know not everyone is in a position to tell it like it is at their workplace, but luckily at my job we’re fairly open about saying “I have cramps” the same way someone would say “I have a headache”. We’re pretty evenly split gender wise, and for the most part men have not squirmed too much! Granted my workplace is fairly relaxed and leans toward over sharing in general, but I do think it’s important to remember that menstruation is a normal biological function that is not gross or inappropriate.

    1. Thegreatprevaricator*

      Yeah this was my thought too. Nice to have the wording where it’s not the norm but 50% of the population is going to menstruate at some point in their lives. I don’t think it should be a taboo thing to acknowledge. (Incidentally I note that I see self censoring more online and when chatting with people in the USA- I’m in the UK. Culture differences or just my personal experience?)

      1. Antilles*

        You’re correct that it shouldn’t be a taboo thing to acknowledge. Period cramps should be viewed as just a common part of human health and generate no more comment or interest than using a heating pad due to a back sprain/strain.
        But at least in the US, there’s a decent percentage of people who do still act like it’s a taboo thing and would react negatively of “too much info!” or “ew gross” in a way they wouldn’t for a sore back. And if you’re in a junior position and worried your boss or co-workers might be among that ‘decent percentage’? It’s reasonable to just self-censor with a vague wording to avoid the whole issue.

      2. alienor*

        Not sure about US vs UK, but I’ve noticed a lot of self-censoring online among people under 30 that I think is almost entirely due to TikTok – they’ve been trained to censor words or use euphemisms so the algorithm won’t delete their video or comment. At this point it’s spread so you see people using words like “unalive” and “d3ad” and “seggs” on platforms that have nothing to do with TikTok, maybe without even realizing that’s where it came from.

        1. lilsheba*

          Personally I would censor anything due to periods because that is private and no one else needs to know. But I would bring a heating pad if it helped and not worry about what they think. I’m after relief and comfort.

    2. Pdweasel*

      At my shop we’ll go full force: “Ugh I think my uterus is trying to gnaw through my abdominal wall…”

      But then again, I’m Medical(TM) and work in a morgue, so workplace norms are…different here.

      1. Caramel & Cheddar*

        I’m in an office and wouldn’t hesitate to say this! I actually do tend to use a euphemism, but I use it primarily because I think the euphemism is funny (think “riding the crimson tide”, but not that one specifically), not because I’m trying to hide my monthly reality if I’m asked about it.

    3. The Shenanigans*

      I agree! The world doesn’t end when people say words like cramps and uterus and period. I can’t with the offices that hide or don’t even provide tampons or pads. Wasn’t there a question some time ago about someone who got called out for having a box of pads in their desk at work? It’s so silly. It’s no more inappropriate than having a box of bandaids in your desk.

      Unfortunately, there are still plenty of people who have very Victorian ideas about bodies and women. I can understand if the OP is in such an office and doesn’t want to pay the cost of bucking that nonsense. Also, people have various comfort levels in how much they want to share about their bodies, which is fair enough (as long as they don’t try to impose their standards on others). So I can see why OP might be more comfortable saying “a medical issue” or “abdominal pain” vs. “period cramps.”

  12. Rich*

    LW4, Alison’s answer is good, but you might want to have a larger conversation with your boss about it. It sounds like your reasons to avoid travel are likely to be more long term.

    Travel in IT is fairly common — not always mandatory, but common. Companies have remote locations that need support, projects can occur in multiple places and there may be an expectation of in-person collaboration, services providers and vendors have headquarter locations where key meetings are held, and training and professional development is often done at conferences. You absolutely can have a successful IT career without travel, but it may limit your ability to advance, it may limit the sort of work you’re given, and it will affect the companies you can work for over a career.

    That’s OK if you’re comfortable with those boundaries. Your health needs are real and you need to manage them in a way that works for you. But it creates a situation where you’ll be at odds with some common professional situations.

    If you can find a way to work with your boss (and/or HR) to help them understand those boundaries, it may make things easier. Being proactive about things like identifying virtual conference activities, remote training, etc. can also help alleviate concerns your boss might otherwise form about your ongoing growth and development. It doesn’t have to be on you to own understanding and promoting those alternatives. But your success at making them work will depend on wherever the balance falls between how clearly your company understands your travel restrictions and how much you help them work with alternative approaches that work for you.

    1. amoeba*

      I’d also (slowly, at your own speed, only if you’d be generally interested!) look into what might work for you after all! It’s not all our nothing, I’m sure it’s possible to avoid stressful/long/whatever trips and still go to some cool conferences or visit other offices during your career. Not because you have to but because it might turn out to be fun!

      But maybe start really slow if you’d like to go that route – a half day conference in your own city, one day within an hour’s drive…

      Also, going with a trusted colleague or work friend might help? I’m sure one you’re there longer, you’ll have people you trust and feel comfortable with.

      Or why not ask a family member to combine a conference in a cool place for you with a holiday for them, you can attend the event and stay with them?

      Again, not saying this is a must! Just that if it’s something you might actually like on the future (maybe I’m biased, because in my science field, conferences are really fun!), there are probably “soft” approaches to doing as much of it as you’re comfortable with.

      1. Fury Road*

        “Why not ask a family member to join”? <—
        Because it’s imposing on the family member, who has to take time off, pay to travel, sacrifice a vacation to a place the family member would have preferred to go, and so on. This is mooching off people’s goodwill, just like that person a few days ago who bummed rides off her co-workers.

        OP needs to get counseling if going to a basketball
        game is inducing severe trauma. These other suggestions are slapping a band-aid on the problem.

        1. Jackalope*

          That’s a bit harsh. As long as the OP is willing to accept a no, then there’s no reason not to ask a family member or close friend to go on a vacation and meet up with them. A lot of conferences are set in interesting towns specifically so you can enjoy some time there in addition to the conference. And there’s a huge difference between asking a family member or friend to go on a vacation with you (something that many people without anxiety issues do because they want to spend time with their family and friends, and which is often welcomed by the other party), vs. someone refusing to buy a car or get a license for 10 years and having coworkers drive them around that entire time. Huge. Difference.

        2. Myrin*

          This seems like a strong overreaction to me. Asking a family member to join can be all of the things you mention but it can also be a complete non-issue or even a positive – say OP is close to her wealthy retired aunt who likes to get to know new places; barring specific circumstances, such a question would likely be very welcome!

          I agree with you re: counselling and this being but a bandaid but I really don’t think “imposition” and “mooching off” are the right characterisations for such a question.

        3. Thank God (or something) I no longer work there*

          I occasionally had a family member go to a conference with me. Vegas was particularly popular. Only went there once but had a waiting list if I ever went back. Even Duluth MN “I’ve always wanted to do the North Shore Drive”. Some counseling would help but it’s hardly mooching off others and not the same as expecting rides from coworkers.

          1. PhyllisB*

            Absolutely!! I’ve taken family members with me for conferences before. At one my mother and kids came along and after I was through for the day, we played. Twice my husband came and did his thing during the day while I “conferenced.” Twice I went alone because we were having activities at night.
            Here’s the the thing to remember: first get permission from your boss. Second thing, make clear that you will cover all expenses for said family member. The ones my husband came to the only exexpense was the hotel room which the company covered anyway. When my mother and kids came I just got separate receipts for meals and such and ot turned out fine.
            The main thing is to make sure company is OK with this and that family member doesn’t mind being on their own during the day.

        4. ursula*

          They’re already clearly working on managing and addressing their anxiety issues. Counselling isn’t a magic wand that fixes everything – many, many people need to figure out how to navigate life with their symptoms (either while they are finding more long-term solutions, or sometimes permanently). Let’s be kind and realistic about that.

        5. Yorick*

          I agree with the need for counseling, but some family members may be able to go without an imposition. I work remotely and would be able to travel with a family member and work from the hotel room, and might even enjoy it. Just because some might not be able to doesn’t mean we shouldn’t make the suggestion. This is even a commenting rule!

        6. Happy meal with extra happy*

          This makes me feel so fortunate that I would never consider, nor would my family, asking for this type of favor as mooching. If they can’t go that’s fine, but it sounds so awful that even asking would be seen as mooching.

        7. Queer Earthling*

          I wonder your friends and family know that they cannot ask you for favors or support if they should need it.

          Anyone reading this who is in therapy or otherwise dealing with issues: it is actually okay to rely on the people who care about you, and while you absolutely need to also take their needs into account, it is not an imposition to ask someone for a favor. If they don’t want to do it, they can say no, and if they love you, they will do so kindly. We are social creatures. It is good and normal to ask for help, just as it’s good and normal to offer and give help to people you care about.

        8. Snarky McSnarkerson*

          Also disagreeing with you Fury Road. My daughter was given an opportunity to attend a conference in Reno. She has never taken a plane ride (that she remembers) and was a little anxious about going by herself. I have lots of vacation time and never been to Reno, so I offered to go with. No imposition AT ALL.

        9. UKDancer*

          Or the family member might be quite happy to go, have the time and be interested in the city. I regularly go to a conference in a pretty town that my mother likes and she has joined me on more than one occasion, paying for her own travel and food. I have a hotel room to share with her. She goes off and does her own thing during the day (mainly antique shops) and meets up with her cousin who lives nearby.

          Obviously it needs to be an invitation not a summons, but I don’t think there’d be a major problem in asking a family member.

        10. SofiaDeo*

          *Asking* a family member is not the same as *demanding* someone go. It’s not mooching to ask a question! As someone who has overcome my own triggers, it’s not necessarily “slapping a band aid on.” And dictating that someone “must” go to counseling is just as bad as having stigmas around people who do choose to go IMO.

      2. Ssssssssssssssssssssss*

        If I understand OP correct, the anxiety is severe and it’s one thing to not have to travel alone, bringing along a family member to support you as you travel. I could see that working; but note that not everyone can afford to do this: the company is only paying your expenses and not those of your support person.

        But it’s another to have severe anxiety that could be triggered by attending the conference itself, which is can in a very large place, very noisy, filled with a lot of eager people and could easily be very disorienting. You can’t easily bring your family support person to the conference too.

        1. amoeba*

          Yeah, that’s true – that’s why I’d try to ease into it slowly by choosing a small, familiar event within driving distance so it’s possible to leave in case you become overwhelmed. Definitely don’t go for the giant one on the other side of the world first, with or without somebody travelling with you! (And going together with trusted coworkers definitely helps as well…)

      3. OP #4 - Traveling Anxious*

        These are all really great ideas! I am in therapy (I have been for 10 years, which I think means I get a badge or something?) and I am working on being able to travel independently. I agree that it would really help to have a work buddy who can travel with me, but unfortunately I’ve been having a lot of trouble making friends at work (for a few reasons). Again, this is a *very* new environment for me, and trying to feel out office etiquette and what the appropriate way to express platonic interest is has been complex. I’m a pretty weird person, and most of the other IT people have been frustratingly normal. (Why do so many people like golf?!)

        1. Willow Pillow*

          You might find travel tips for/by autistic people to be helpful! This doesn’t mean you’re autistic (i.e. this is not an armchair diagnosis), but there might be aspects of those tips that will work for you if you want to get to the point of being able to travel.

          1. Dahlia*

            Yeah, things like tips for overstimulating environments (like Loop earplugs) and how to pretend to know how to do social things are things we tend to have a lot of ideas about XD

        2. Le Sigh*

          I believe for Year 10 you get a badge, Year 15 is a sash and tiara, and Year 20 is an engraved watch. :)

      1. Jackalope*

        Or the OP could go for a career that doesn’t involve travel. I’ve had at least one job path that involved no travel at all, and my current position involves next to none and it could be none if I wanted it to be. I have multiple friends and family members who either don’t travel for their jobs, or they do day trips only. Refusing all travel will leave some career paths that aren’t an option, but it’s totally possible to pick one or two things that you decide to have as your dealbreakers and avoid them at all costs. If travel is the OP’s dealbreaker then she can make that choice.

        1. GythaOgden*

          As someone who was basically agoraphobic in my 20s, I disagree. It’s easier to alter anxious behaviours before they get too entrenched, and while OP may get by for a while with no travel, it’s going to severely limit their options later on.

        2. Lynn*

          I do not have a car nor do I have access to a car

          So, any job that I take has to have no travel

          1. amoeba*

            Huh? I mean, maybe it’s a regional thing, but there’s trains, flights, carpooling… Sure, it’s probably different in the US than Europe, but even if there’s zero public transport available, you’d still be able to travel together with coworkers who drive?

            1. UKDancer*

              Yes I mean I don’t have a car and it’s not stopped me taking jobs involving travel. I’ve flown, caught trains, trams and buses and taken taxis. Unless you live somewhere with no other forms of transportation, then it shouldn’t be something that prevents travel.

              I wouldn’t take a job that involves driving a long way because I don’t enjoy it, but I’ve never had a problem taking jobs involving travel.

              1. GythaOgden*

                Same. I love travelling anyway (although flying is a necessary evil and I have recurring nightmares about the plane I’m on struggling to take flight at all) but I’m a non driver. My adventures have taken me across Eastern Europe and I am planning a solo trip to the Caucasus for next spring (probably Yerevan because Mount Ararat is an awesome sight in photographs and must be even more amazing in reality). I made my first solo trip abroad at 17 and lived in Poland at 23. You don’t need to drive to travel.

                I mean, it has to be gradual. I wouldn’t have gone trekking in the Andes or to the heart of Africa as a teenager on my own (although I did get taken to Russia and that changed my life). I only took my first solo trip outside Europe last winter when I went to Disneyworld, hence I feel like going further afield next year as well. I am lucky to live in a country with a good train network, and if I could drive it would open up a lot more of Europe because some places just are a bit further off the beaten track — taking a road trip one summer with my mum was very different to city-hopping like I normally do. I felt a keen lack of a car last year because if I had one, I’d have been driving to Ukraine to help out on the front line of the humanitarian efforts. Buuuuut…there are ways to gradually push your boundaries and explore and convince your brain that your anxiety is lying to you.

                And I think a lot of us want the OP to succeed in their new career rather than have to make a change again in a few years’ time simply because they can’t get anywhere without periodic travel. We’re trying to help them get out from the cage severe anxiety forms around someone’s mind.

          2. metadata minion*

            I don’t drive and have been able to use taxis or public transportation for conferences and other professional-development type things. That’s pretty much the assumption unless it’s something very local.

          3. Eric*

            So you’ve never left your house? There are plenty of ways to get around that don’t involve a car.

      2. eisa*

        Where do you get “she” from ? There is nothing in the letter that indicates the gender of the writer.

        1. Madame Arcati*

          It is Alison’’s. established practice to use “she” etc as the default when there is no other data about gender, to redress the balance of all the times in society when “he” is the default assumption.
          So an AAM convention, basically.

        2. Harper the Other One*

          Alison’s convention is to use “she” when gender isn’t specified; a lot of commenters follow suit :)

        3. The Rafters*

          AAM defaults to “she,” unless LW identifies otherwise, so many commenters here do the same.

      3. Melody Powers*

        Not everyone cares about being promoted. This is something for the LW to consider if their career plans are the same as what you’re imagining, but they may be fine staying where they are.

        I don’t like the assumption that because the anxiety is still affecting them then they’re not getting treatment (you propose it as something they’ll have to do eventually). A lot of anxiety is severe enough that no treatment will make it go away, just mitigate its effects.

      4. K*

        Who says they’re not getting treatment? It’s so frustrating to hear people talk about mental health treatment and therapy as a one time thing – oh just go to therapy, as if a couple of appointments will automatically resolve anxiety this severe. I’ve been in treatment for anxiety since I was 16 and I’m 32 now. Unfortunately I’m also not independently wealthy so I’ve had to work during this time and sometimes that has included asking for accommodations to help mitigate situations that exacerbated my anxiety or during general periods of high stress in my life. There were times in my life where I had a panic attack going to work every single day, for months on end. As OP stated, it can be torture so please have some empathy.

        1. sam_i_am*

          And the implication that treatment will “fix it” to the extent that the person with a mental health issue will no longer need accommodations. Not everyone can get up to “normal,” for some of us “less impaired” is the best we’ll ever get. I’ve done hard work in therapy and I’m on meds that help, but I still have pretty bad anxiety! It’s not just going to go away.

          1. The Camel Route to Iraq*

            Removed because of sock puppetry (you can’t use multiple user names on one post to make it look like your position has additional support!). – Alison

        2. Queer Earthling*

          Yeah the ableism is strong in the comments today. Getting formal treatment isn’t an option for many people (healthcare! it’s expensive!) and even for those for whom it is, it doesn’t always work, or not to the extent you want it to. Some people are never going to match your definition of “normal.”

          Yes, it is up to OP to manage their anxiety, but sometimes managing anxiety–especially when you’re first working on it–means assessing a situation and determining whether it’s something you can realistically handle.

        3. amoeba*

          “I have fairly severe anxiety that is thankfully being managed at the moment”

          So yes, indeed, to me this makes clear that they are, indeed, taking care of it. Whether that’s by therapy or anything else is beyond the scope of the letter and, frankly, irrelevant – they know they have a problem and they’re doing something about it.

        4. metadata minion*

          Exactly! And one way to cope with having this sort of anxiety is to find a career path that doesn’t involve a lot of travel or conferences. Therapy and medication can do a lot, but sometimes the best you can hope for is to be manageably anxious and stressed through a conference, and it’s a perfectly valid career choice to decide that higher pay is not worth having to do massively stressful things all the time.

          I don’t know what this is like in other fields, but a lot of smaller library conferences have moved online after COVID, since it’s so much cheaper. There may be professional development opportunities that the LW can take advantage of that don’t involve travel or being stuck in a giant conference center with too many people.

        5. Elsewise*

          I absolutely agree. LW added in a few points in the thread that they’ve been in consistent therapy and are on medication, and even in the letter they described their anxiety as managed.

          I think there’s this tendency that we have as a culture to see someone mentioning a thing that they can’t do for medical reasons (including and especially mental health) and to assume that they’re clearly not doing everything they can to treat it. It seems like a part of the Just World Fallacy. The world is fair, so if there’s something you can’t do, there must be SOMETHING you can do to fix it, so clearly you’re not trying hard enough or you haven’t found the right treatment.

          But sometimes there are things that certain people just can’t do. Maybe LW will one day, in the course of their treatment, be able to travel. Maybe they won’t. I have friends who will never be able to walk, or live alone, or work full time. It’s not because they aren’t getting treatment, or because they aren’t trying. It’s because they have disabilities, and not everyone can get better, even if they’re doing everything right. We should start from the assumption that everyone knows their own situation and is doing their best.

      5. NotAnotherManager!*

        My spouse has a successful 20+ year career in IT that has not required travel past the early technician days. Especially as IT has become more cloud-based, travel is really only for multi-office organizations (and not all of them) or professional conferences.

        He has worked for private organizations, a non-profit, and now works for the federal government. He’s been offered the opportunity to go to conferences or to visit other offices, but none of it’s been required to keep his job or to be promoted. He’s topped out on the GS scale unless he want to get into management, but that’s not travel-related.

      6. Ask a Manager* Post author

        The LW wrote that it’s being managed, which I read as being in treatment already, although I realize now that’s not necessarily what it means. Regardless, yes, the LW should seek treatment. What they’re asking for here is advice on a specific professional question, and that’s the part the advice needs to focus on, not medical advice.

      7. DataSci*

        Maybe they value their mental health above promotions. Not everyone views “climb the ladder as far as possible, as fast as possible” as their main career goal.

      8. OP #4 - Traveling Anxious*

        Hi! I’m LW4. I am being treated for my anxiety – I’m fully medicated, have weekly therapy sessions, and am trying to brainstorm ideas for how to be more comfortable traveling independently. I haven’t had a panic attack in three years. I actually function pretty well in my day-to-day life – there’s only a few sticking points that remain to work through, including large crowds and traveling. I understand that professional development events are a core part of working in IT – I essentially just needed a way to kick the can down the road, because it’s not something I feel safe doing now. I’ve only been in this profession for about a year.

        Thank you for your input!

        1. Spearmint*

          Hi OP, I’m glad to hear you’re in treatment. I used to have very severe anxiety that interfered with my academic and professional life, so I completely sympathize with not being able to travel right now.

          Something that really worked for me was exposure therapy. That is, being exposed to minor triggers of the anxiety that would make me uncomfortable but not panicked, realizing that even though I felt anxious I was ok, and then repeating the process with gradually more intense versions of the stimulus until I could face the things I was actually afraid of.

          You and your therapist know your situation better than some internet stranger, I just bring this up as food for thought.

  13. Rich*

    LW4, travel in IT isn’t uncommon. It’s not always mandatory, but it’s not unusual, either. Supporting remote locations, project collaboration, key meetings with vendors and service providers, training and development are all situations which almost every IT pro experiences and which often involve travel. You can have an IT career without travel, but it’s something you’d have to manage yourself toward.

    It sounds like your travel restrictions are likely to be long term.

    It may be worth clarifying your boundaries around travel with your boss and/or HR. If they understand your needs, you’re much less likely to continually find yourself having to bow out of travel expectations, and you’re definitely less likely to create an appearance of someone unwilling to do the unpleasant parts of the job. I’m not suggesting you deserve any blame, but if your boss’s expectations don’t match your needs, and you don’t work to reset those expectations, it’ll come to a head at some point.

    In addition to establishing those boundaries, it can be helpful to be proactive in understanding non-travel alternatives — virtual conference programs or remote training, for example. Since so many of those things have traditionally happened in person, helping your boss understand the options, and more importantly the viability of non-travel approaches can help. You want to be able to participate meaningfully and develop your skills. Helping your boss see that a non-travel approach will allow those things to happen will be good.

    I’m not suggesting it’s your responsibility to do all of that for your boss — particularly once boundaries and expectations are clear, it’s definitely on them. But making it easier to resolve their need of ensuring your professional development when it has a restriction they didn’t anticipate will make it easier for them to go along, and easier for you to be successful.

    1. Fluffy Fish*

      Just adding on for OPs sake that not traveling could very well be an ADA accommodation.

      1. Gyne*

        Accidentally posted my comment elsewhere – I’d tread lightly with going the ADA route. If travel is an essential function of the role, it might get LW out of the job entirely.

  14. Boolie*

    #4 when you say “with the implication that the only way to decline is…” is that your anxiety talking too? I wish we knew exactly what they said because it’s not productive to just worry on a mere assumption of what someone says; it’s possible you can decline without there being consequences if the manager is simply asking about your interest in attending.

    1. Humdrum Helium*

      Fair point…what most people would perceive as gauging interest Can come across as “you’d better, or else” to someone with severe anxiety. I agree more information is needed here as to what manager really said

    2. rebelwithmouseyhair*

      Yeah, the manager probably knows there will be huge benefits for anyone attending the conference and can’t imagine anyone not wanting to go, so they probably said something like “if you can make it, you have to come!” meaning that unless you already have something organised for that date it would be downright stupid to refuse this amazing opportunity I’m giving you.

      1. Boolie*

        Yup I was imagining something like that too. Poor OP. I hope they get the help they need.

        1. OP #4 - Traveling Anxious*

          Hi! I’m OP. I’m getting the help I need – I’m fully medicated and working with a therapist. I actually function pretty well in my day-to-day – I can mask well enough at this point that most people can’t tell I have social anxiety. (One of my coworkers at the baseball game told me “you’re pretty good with people, right?” as I was actively staving off a panic attack and I think the look I gave him nearly reduced him to ashes, lol.) There’s just a few big triggers that I’m still working on, so Alison’s response is perfect for a way to temporarily halt travel without ruling it out in the future.

        2. Dahlia*

          I know you don’t mean it that way, but “poor OP I hope they get the help they need” comes off as INCREDIBLY condescending.

    3. OP #4 - Traveling Anxious*

      It absolutely could be my anxiety talking! I’m not ruling that out. I do have trouble reading social cues, and it might not be as big a deal as I think it is. I will also say that the baseball game I mentioned in the letter took me by surprise – up until that point, I thought my anxiety was really well managed! Only to discover that large crowds are still a very strong trigger for me, especially without a “buddy” or safe person that I can stick to. So I think that experience has made me pretty gunshy.

      1. BubbleTea*

        I completely relate to the final point here. Thanks to the pandemic, plus a number of life changes in the last three years, I hadn’t really been out of my comfort zone in terms of crowds and overwhelming input since the Before Times, until I went to a big conference a few weeks ago. Holy meltdown, Batman! I was crying by lunchtime. I’d almost completely forgotten that I needed to make adjustments for myself (thankfully, I did remember to take ear defenders and Flare Calm ear plugs, which helped me get through the day).

      2. Lucien Nova*

        As a fellow person with anxiety: crowds are awful. I’m severely claustrophobic as a result of the anxiety (though weighted blankets and very tight clothing are fine, go figure) and being in a crowd sets that off majorly. I can definitely understand the urge to stick very close to a safe person!

        Gentle Jedi hugs, and I hope you can beat back the brainweasels soon. :)

  15. M. from P.*

    “Women’s healthcare” implies providing healthcare selectively to women and, as a commenter pointed out, it excludes nonbinary people and trans men, who might also need the same type of medical care.
    It’s a traditional term and many places still use it but yeah, it excludes people and it’s not accurate and so we should move on to use the inclusive term.

  16. Jackalope*

    LW3: This might not feel any better right now, especially if you are getting to a point of dire need in your job hunting stage. But remember that anyone who responds that negatively to your current job is showing you something of who they are and how they might treat women and people they consider to be women (since most such people are also transphobic and… whatever the word for NB-phobic is?). I’m assuming that since you work at an abortion provider you are at least okay with the idea that abortions happen, and that’s a useful thing to screen people for.

    And honestly, not that this helps you right now, but their logic is bad. If they think that abortions are so awful, then shouldn’t they be falling all over themselves trying to help you change careers? Instead of making it hard for you to leave? Just saying.

    1. Lady_Lessa*

      Over in the US, there is at least 1 organization that helps workers find new, appropriate jobs so that they can leave working for an abortion provider.

      1. My cat is weird*

        Just flagging here that there is absolutely nothing wrong or inappropriate about working for an abortion provider! saying “more appropriate jobs” implies that there is something wrong/problematic about working for an abortion provider. OP has done nothing wrong.

        1. MissElizaTudor*

          I agree that there’s nothing wrong with working for an abortion provider, but I want to note that Lady_Lessa didn’t say “more appropriate.” They said “new, appropriate.” That’s a meaningful distinction, since what they actually said doesn’t really imply that working at an abortion provider is inappropriate.

          I assume the org helps people find jobs that are at similar levels and use similar skills to their jobs at the abortion providers, or something along those lines. So, the job is appropriate for them, as opposed to just finding any new job, no matter how good a match it is.

          1. Magpie*

            Out of curiosity, I looked for organizations like this online. The only one I could find sounds very agenda driven. The website uses language designed to make people working at these clinics feel like they’re doing something wrong by working there and that their lives will be infinitely better and more peaceful once they quit. It seems like the founder’s mission is to entice workers away from these clinics so they no longer have enough staff to function.

            1. Kaikeyi*

              Figured this would be the case. The description of the organization sounds adjacent to “pregnancy crisis centers” which are famously anti-abortion. People can debate the “appropriate” vs “more appropriate” all they want but the fact remains that an organization like this is very unlikely to not have an anti-abortion agenda.

            2. The Shenanigans*

              Yeah, there’s just no way such an organization isn’t anti-choice and, therefore, anti-bodily-autonomy.

        2. Ellie*

          Everyone has a different opinion on what’s appropriate though, don’t they? There was a letter from someone who worked in the oil and gas industry just last week, who got lots of criticism. I work in the Defence industry myself, and I get it all the time as well.

          OP – you need to be at peace with what you do, and not let these kind of comments cause you to question yourself. You must have known when you started working there, that some people were going to view it controversially. Those other companies likely aren’t a good fit for you anyway, you need to be at a place that sees reproductive services as a positive service, an essential service, and your wording perfectly captures that.

      2. Magpie*

        What a strange thing to say. Abortion is a necessary medical procedure and there’s nothing inappropriate about working someplace that provides that service. I also don’t imagine there’s actually any need for a service to help people get away from their jobs at abortion providers. Medical facilities across the country have been short staffed for years so, depending on their specialty, medical professionals often have no problem finding new positions.

        1. ScruffyInternHerder*

          I suspect its there to fill an imaginary need (on the part of the people who would create such a thing) and that their choice of “a more appropriate job” would be, um, interesting.

          Yes, I read “a more appropriate job” with sarcasm tags in there if I’m saying it, because abortion is healthcare. If a provider doesn’t like that fact, they’re welcome to find themselves a more appropriate job – outside of healthcare.

          1. JB (not in Houston)*

            Lady_Lessa didn’t say “more appropriate,” she just said “appropriate.”

            1. Eliot Waugh*

              The implication remains that there’s some need for people to exit a job in reproductive care, and that they’d somehow need assistance to do so.

      3. Eliot Waugh*

        Sounds like a scam organization.

        Adding to the chorus that there’s nothing wrong with working for reproductive care providers. In fact, it’s admirable.

        1. Night Owl*

          It is. If it’s the one I’m thinking of (And Then There Were None), it’s just a bunch of anti-abortion zealots trying to mess with clinics in any way they can.

      4. NotAnotherManager!*

        You mean And Then There Were None, Abby Johnson’s anti-abortion nonprofit whose stated goal is to “rescue” people from working in the abortion industry? That’s not a group into whose hands that someone who is pro-choice is going to want to put their career.

        1. ThatGirl*

          the whole idea of an “abortion industry” is so enraging too – it’s just HEALTHCARE. Sigh.

        2. Night Owl*

          This is what immediately came to mind for me too – when I worked at a repro clinic they used to put creepy handwritten postcards in our mailbox saying they could help us find new jobs outside of the “abortion industry”. Which was ridiculous because 1) our clinic didn’t even provide abortion care specifically and 2) everyone who worked there wanted to be there, it’s not like we were full of anti-choicers who were only there because couldn’t find a job anywhere else.

        3. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

          I have to wonder who even uses these services. I mean, if you are not pro choice, you probably would not have started working there in the first place. And if you are pro choice, you would not go to an organization of that kind for help. It sounds like they have no one who would want their particular help. I think it would be interesting to check the finances of this “non-profit” organization.

      5. JSPA*

        I’m hoping that your point is that, if one is adamantly opposed to abortion, it makes sense to hire people away from clinics?

        (Rather than to editorialize on abortion clinic work being “inappropriate” in the abstract.)

        We just had a long thread about political stances and work being quite separable from the direct rudeness of calling out someone for what one sees as the moral failings in their (legal) job–especially one that provides highly-sought-after products or services.

        I can passionately want there to be less use of plastics where other products will do, without castigating someone for being in the plastics industry, per se, or implying that we could directly transition to a post-plastic world in short order. I’d hope the same awareness and courtesy would hold true, here, if a poster happens to be opposed to abortion!

        (Interesting to note, RE your user name, that I have some very early editions of Dragonflight and Dragonquest, in which going Between is presented as a wise and normal option, if one has conceived at a problematic time… Similarly, Afra used to smoke, in the early editions 0f the Tower series. Both of those things were edited out and treated very differently, in later versions of the books, and in later books of the series.)

    2. *kalypso*

      Non-binary people are trans. We are a gender we were not assigned at birth. Not every person who is non-binary uses trans for themselves, trans people can be non-binary, non-binary is still an umbrella label as well as one people use as is.

      Transphobic is fine without having to carve us out of being trans.

      And while I do (hope I) understand what you meant because of the context, there are people who use NB to refer to racial/ethnic identifiers so for clarity some people spell out the words or use ‘enby’ for non-binary to avoid confusion, especially in situations where people might be disadvantaged on both axes as with reproductive care.

      1. JSPA*

        While largely true, there’s been a small movement for some years to raise intersex babies as NB or “X” / undeclared from birth, so as to allow them to manifest their gender(s) as they grow. And there’s now also a small number of people intending to do this with their kids, more generally. So it’s more a circumstance, that for now, the vast majority of NB (and two spirit and bi-gender and pan-gender) people have to transition from a “check one: Boy or Girl” status.

    3. Enai*

      The word for NB-phobic is also transphobic. Non-binary people fall under the trans* umbrella.

      And I agree: any employer that treats an applicant badly for working for a family planning clinic is not reasonable. There’s lots and lots of people who died for want of an abortion, and many more who live better and healthier lives for having had one. Still, depending on where LW lives, that attitude may be disturbingly common and how to deal with it is a good question.

      1. Student*

        Enby folks do not universally identify as transgender. I am non-binary (NB, enby), and I do not consider myself transgender for a variety of reasons. Several of my fellow non-binaries do identify as transgender. Non-binary is itself an umbrella term for several different but closely-related identities.

        My wife is a transgender woman. I have a front-row seat to the differences and similarities we experience. I’m not going to go into a diatribe or a long anecdote here, but I assure you that the people who fear me do so for reasons that are entirely different from people who irrationally fear my wife, are often different people entirely, and express it differently. “Transphobic” would simply not be accurate to describe the response I occasionally get. Expanding the term to cover reactions to me would be only a disservice to both my transgender wife and to my enby self. My wife faces specific and different threats that need to be addressed for what they are.

        1. Queer Earthling*

          You absolutely don’t have to identify as transgender, but to act as though nonbinary people don’t experience transphobia based on your own experiences is disingenuous. Yes, nonbinary people often face different responses and threats compared to binary trans people. Trans men also experience transphobia differently from trans women. Black trans women also have different experiences compared to white trans women. This does not make any of them less or more trans. (Also, do you think that trans feminine nonbinary pepole are treated any differently from trans women by bigots? It’s not like they’re gonna sit down and say, ‘Okay, so before I call you slurs or cause you physical harm, what’s your exact identity? I really want to get this right. Take your time.’)

          Again: I am not telling you to change how you relate to gender and these labels; it’s more that this also doesn’t apply to everyone and with good reason. Saying transphobia in relation to nonbinary people can apply, at least until we have a better term for “bigotry against people who are gender diverse.”

          1. JSPA*

            There’s additional and very specific backlash when people challenge the gender binary by not fitting either box, that’s not necessarily directed at trans people.

            I’d rather not supply examples, but do feel the need to echo Student’s experience. (I first typed “validate,” but of course, there’s no need for a third party on the internet to validate one’s experiences!)

            1. Queer Earthling*

              Just to clarify: I’m also nonbinary, as is my spouse. We do experience some different challenges from binary trans people, but binary trans people do not all experience the same challenges, either, being my point. You do not have to identify as trans if you are nonbinary, but nonbinary people can identify as trans, being my other point.

    4. rebelwithmouseyhair*

      They’d probably see OP as “contaminated” or “beyond help” or something like that.

      It’s actually a pretty good way of screening for jerks. I’d probably want to even put it on my CV : “Llama Garden Clinic (provider of abortions and other reproductive health services)”

    5. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      Remember OP, interviewing is a two way street. If an employer does not accept your perfectly professional answer of we provide reproductive services and gets all bent out of shape over you working for an abortion provider, then that is somewhere you don’t want to work.

    6. Smithy*

      I used to work for a nonprofit in another country that address an issue that in the US and other parts of the world can be considered very political or controversial. Like all nonprofits, it had a mission statement – so it had taken “the side” of its mission – but certainly whether or not that position was viewed as controversial was political.

      So when I left that country and return to the US to job hunt, I did have a lot of anxiety in my job hunt in how to talk about it. Where I worked had no name recognition in the US, which made having to explain who the organization was even more important. In interview practice, I got used to just saying “XYZ is a local human rights organization in Foreign City”. Depending on if I got any follow-up questions (which happened about 25% of the time), it was largely about how the organization provided individual legal services.

      The more I did this, the more it sounded like I worked at a place that helped with pro-bono tax prep. It was a neutral script that sounded natural, that more often had the interview indicate they supported what I did.

  17. Keymaster of Gozer*

    OP4: I think it’s fine to decline travel for now, this is early in the career and you’ve got time to seek out ways that you can get more comfortable with it.

    But you are going to have to seek it out. I’ve spent over 20 years in IT and if I’d refused to ever travel I’d never have made it past the first two. Going to customer sites, the office relocation, getting promoted to London (turns out I can’t handle cities at all), finding a very good job that I loved doing that meant a 50 mile commute – it all starts to add up.

    I do still get out of conferences for the most part though, because I’m disabled and simply do not have the mental or physical resources for that many people for that many days. Same as why I’ve never gone to a theme park. It’s okay to find out your limits!

    1. JSPA*

      I’m not sure that physical travel still has (or will still have) the same absolute aspect that it did a) before the panini and b) before the sort of IT people who’re always so dang hot on “in person” meetings at least partially bought into Metaverse thinking.

      I think there’s a path where someone can raise an (avatar) eyebrow, and say, “Oh, we’re planning on meeting in meat-space? How very retro. I’ll need to pass on that.” No, we’re not there yet. But I suspect we will be.

  18. Ellis Bell*

    I’m a little torn with OP3. On the one hand I’d be tempted to reply to the question with “reproductive healthcare” or even just “healthcare” because of how often they are being put in ridiculous and unfair situations were the mood is tanked simply by being more specific. On the other, I’d probably want to know if my prospective employer has a problem with the word abortion; it’s very useful information because there be dragons in taking a job with someone like that. I think if OP just wants to proceed with the less specific answer I might tie it to something specific about my role there or the role being applied for. Something like, “It’s a medical facility, so privacy and discretion were really important to my role there, which is why I feel so strongly about improving data protection (or whatever is relevant).” Being specific about oneself might just be enough to cover the impression that something is not being said; it might also put off lectures about not being forthright if OP underlines the importance of their role over the business of the company. However if OP can survive tension and afford some rejection I might consider leaning into the awkward and letting people show their colours.

    1. Keymaster of Gozer*

      Agreed. It’s really down to how much the person is comfortable with. ‘Reproductive healthcare’ is broad enough and yet implies enough that most people should get it – and you can probably tell from facial reactions what their feelings are – but going straight up with the actual term may provoke a more outright and honest reaction that you can judge the firm on.

      Definitely wouldn’t want to work in a place where they had a problem with people providing an essential medical service but as we learnt in yesterday’s post there’s people who are vocally opposed to most industries anyway. At least they show you they’re not worth your time I guess.

    2. rebelwithmouseyhair*

      ah yes leaning into the awkward, that’d come naturally to me so if it’s even a recommended course of action, that’s just fine!

    3. Smithy*

      While I get the desire to know more about your employer that way, I find that similar to that one employer that researched it later – if you’re a finalist candidate and it really matters to them – they’ll do the research on their own.

      My career has been in nonprofits and depending on the political climate – different nonprofits where I’ve worked have been considered more or less politically controversial. And while the reactions of others may be negative (or unhinged) regarding where I’ve worked, it was always important for me that as an employee of those places, how I viewed myself as a professional and not having a role as a provocateur. I’m aware the issue/mission did bring out deeply unprofessional and unkind behavior in others that certainly made me angry and upset a lot of the time, but for the work I did and wanted to do in the future at other places – I was never looking to provoke a rise from others.

      People who have strong feelings about abortion, are unlikely to let phrases like “women’s healthcare” or “reproductive health” go without doing their own research or asking a follow-up questions. So in many ways the OP has already done the work of weeding out employers strongly opposed to abortion by having that job to begin with. Leaning into being provocative or snappy in the interview highlights that as an overall professional approach you have. And if that’s not what you want to highlight, I’m not sure I see the value.

  19. Keymaster of Gozer*

    OP1: I’m sitting here right now with two of those things so I’d say just go for it! Even after having the offending organ yanked I still get pain (thank you endometriosis you unbelievable sod).

    There is one exception where I won’t use it: an occasional visitor to our office finds the smell of the wheat bags makes her feel sick so I’ve got a stock of those stick-on 12 hour heat patches for when I know she’s coming in. However she’s the only person I’ve encountered with a problem.

    (Will say from experience don’t leave the bags in the microwave too long: turns out burnt wheat absolutely stinks!)

    1. Queer Earthling*

      We make homemade ones using rice, and if they’re cooked right they smell very nice, soothing, a little popcorn-y. If they’re overcooked they’re so gross. (And useless because you can’t touch them without melting your flesh off your bones for like half an hour.)

      1. Emmy Noether*

        Cherry pits are the traditional filling here. They’re a bit bigger, so a bit less comfortable, but they don’t smell.

  20. Em*

    OP4: I got hit by a car and almost killed. I live in a city, so in order to go to and from all my medical checkups once I was discharged, I had to face my biggest fear of being among cars, which was made worse because I was incapacitated. I would feel like vomiting, jump at every sound, shake uncontrollably, get weird noise in my head, my vision would fade, I would sometimes pass out. The panic was incredibly challenging to handle, but it’s impossible to avoid cars. I had no choice but to confront it and “defang” it right away. Conferences and team buildings might be easier to avoid, but having your decisions dictated by your anxiety is not an empowering experience and it’s not setting you up for success. If you’re not already, I would strongly recommend working with a therapist to expose yourself in a controlled way to your triggers so you can take them out at the knees. I wish you all the best!!

  21. Trillian*

    Anxiety aside, would you actually *like* to go to the conference? Does it interest you? If so, could you take a dry run trip with a family member or friend to where the conference is being held and where you’d be staying? That would let you work out the travel, the getting around, and become familiar with the settings (bathrooms, the first aid office, exits, and quiet spaces, what the conference rooms feel like.) If you can’t do that, research the heck out of it online, including asking specific questions on subreddits, and make plans (and plan Bs). Use the resources the conference offers, e.g., orientation sessions for new attendees. As to the large crowds, if you’re on your own at a conference it’s easy to sit on the periphery of the room and slide out a few minutes before the session ends to make your way to the next session before the halls fill. If you’re with people, you don’t have to let them dictate where you sit—you are allowed to have preferences, and you can use a reason other than anxiety to move to the side. Wanting to get to the next session early is one. And at a conference, there will not be the sheer sensory overload that you get at a sports game. Holding yourself together for hours at one is an achievement.

  22. Bookworm*

    #1: Also upping the “it’s a little chilly for me” excuse. Unless the heating pad gives off a scent (I know there are some that lavender scented or similar) it really shouldn’t be an issue at all.

    #4: No advice, just wishing you the best of luck. I don’t like traveling much and while I don’t share your experiences, I can relate. Good luck!

  23. But Not the Hippopotamus*


    A small thing, but maybe consider switching from “we” language to “they” language. It will put some distance between you and the abortions. Not that you should need to, but it also has the benefit of helping them see you as independent of your current position and company. Sort of the verbal equivalent of putting mirrors up when showing a house for sale to help people see themselves living there.

    Of course, if you are leaving because you are personally not wanting to work in that area for any reason at all, you could also say, “they provide reproductive care, including abortions, and I am looking move away from that.”. It doesn’t pass judgement on the services provided, but it could help with the awkward. They may read into it, but it’s something people say about all sorts of jobs or industries for a wide variety of reasons (industry norms, politics, the rate of pay, etc.), so it’s on them if they look further into it.

    1. Ally*

      Yeah true, I think this is important any time you move jobs, whatever the area. Much better for dynamics.

    2. High Score!*

      Using they instead of we is good, but I would drop the incl abortion and looking to move away from that phrasing.

    3. NeedRain47*

      I mean, this is what you say if you want to work for someone who is anti-abortion. They might hire you, but then there’s a risk that they will eventually discover this and will hold it against you forever, so I personally would not do this unless OP’s had a drastic change in moral stance.

    4. Lyudie*

      OP does not say that they are trying to move away from abortion services, and that wording definitely passes judgement.

  24. Computer Nerd*

    OP#4 As someone who suffers from severe anxiety when it comes to travel and large groups (groups like filled stadiums, convention centers, etc), please let me assure you it is possible to have a successful career in IT without traveling. Partly you need to define what what your idea of a successful career is. If it’s working your way up the ladder and being the boss (which didn’t work with my anxiety), travel would be necessary. If it’s having a fulfilling career that pays well, you can often avoid the travel. Traveling with a relative as was suggested above, was really helpful for me at first. (Who wouldn’t want to go to Vegas and walk around CES? It’s interesting even to the non techy people.) Also, I eventually made a really good friend at work who understood about the travel issues and was willing to be my travel buddy. It sounds like you are early in your career, and I understand not wanting to talk to your boss, but you’d be surprised how understanding most bosses are. It helps if you are working with a therapist, and if necessary, can offer to provide documentation. In reality you might be surprised at how many people in your office have anxieties. I’ve had co-workers who refuse to fly, and one who refused to sleep in hotel rooms at all. Tech is often a very forgiving field to people who are a little quirky. At least that has been my experience, and I hope it’s yours too.

  25. I should really pick a name*

    #3 Do you live in a country where there’s a strong anti abortion stance? I’m asking because only people who are against abortion would react the way you’ve described.

    Do you know any coworkers who’ve left the company? Would they be able to provide some advice? Either in how to frame it, or how to find companies that wouldn’t see it as a problem?

    1. TriviaJunkie*

      I was kind of thinking this too. I have relatives who are vehemently “pro-life”, and I can see them thinking like this or trying to subtly end the candidacy of someone who worked at, say, Planned Parenthood. Fortunately I don’t think any of them are in a hiring position.

      (Of course they all were supportive when I finally said that my early stillbirth had actually been a late termination (baby had condition with no survival rate). Just goes to show it’s about judgement not babies, I put it out there because I knew I’d be judged to be in the right).

      But… yeah. People like to judge, and hiring is definitely an area where the personally-judgy can wield it to their hearts content.

      1. negligent apparitions*

        I worked for PP in my first job out of college. I was instructed to leave it off my resume/LinkedIn when I got my next job by our board.

        I’m sorry for your loss.

  26. Michelle Smith*

    LW1: I have back pain and used an electric heating pad at the office for many, many years and not once did anyone say anything, make any weird looks, or ask me about it. Granted, not all offices will allow something like that because it’s a potential fire hazard, but having a microwavable one like you describe eliminates even that concern. Bring the heating pad. You have zero reason to suffer silently. I promise.

    1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      I agree. If LW1 is a matter-of-fact grey rock about the heat pad, 99% of her peers will barely notice it at all.

    2. JustaTech*

      I had a coworker who regularly used both a hot pack and an ice pack, and the only reason anyone knew was because she used them on her eyes.
      It was slightly weird to be having a work conversation with someone who had their head tilted back to balance the hot pack, but it let her keep working without pain, and she didn’t need to be reading anything to have a conversation, so it all worked out fine.

  27. Michelle Smith*

    LW4: I’d also look into the conference on your own and see if there is a virtual option. While most conferences are back in person now, some are still offering virtual options at lower ticket prices where attendees can view plenary sessions, and sometimes even other sessions. You won’t be able to take advantage of the kind of networking opportunities that might benefit your company, but you’d still get some knowledge and professional development out of it. It might be a reasonable compromise if this is something that particular conference offers, because you could attend from your computer at the office or your home.

    1. Peachy keen*

      Seconding virtual options! I’m disabled in a way that makes travel challenging at best, so I’ve had to stop going to conferences (a real problem, since my field runs on them). But I make the most of virtual opportunities, and other types of professional development that don’t involve travel. The one caveat is that I became disabled after I’d started building a reputation in my field/subspecialty, so I already had a professional network to keep me in the loop for opportunities. I’d have a much harder time if I was early-career (and even now I’ll likely have a harder time advancing).

      My field’s largely switched back to in-person only, but a lot of smaller/niche conferences still do virtual or hybrid. Bonus for that is those conferences tend to be a lot more relevant to my work than larger, more general conferences.

  28. Whyamihere*

    For op3. Use this in your search. Would you want to work for a company that acts like that? No. So remember you are interviewing them too.

  29. NeedRain47*

    I’m afraid that the answer to #5 is just going to make their boss think they’d be open to travel at other times, which it doesn’t sound like is the case. This might be a time when it’d genuinely be good idea to ask for accomodations. IDK about their field but there are loads of online training opportunities/conferences in my field so that might be a reasonable thing to look for instead.

  30. A Simple Narwhal*

    #1 I keep a heating pad at the office! I mainly used it for warmth (attaching it to your chair back so you’re leaning against it is shockingly effective) but it doubled as useful for cramps too.

    I don’t think anyone would notice or care, and even if they did notice, holding a heating pad/beanbag in your lap is fairly innocuous.

  31. Melody Powers*

    LW#4, I may be off-base, but I’m relating a lot to your letter and I get the sense that you feel like the vast majority of the people around you followed the standard path that you weren’t able to yourself. I was in your place, having dropped out of school multiple times, and I felt separated from all the normal people who had done things the way I felt like I was supposed to do it. I just wanted to offer some sympathy and say that there are more of us than you may think right now. Learning to fight that sense of shame and recognize that there are a lot of valid paths to a career have helped a lot.

    1. Risha*

      I want to add to this. I don’t have any advice but want to say you are definitely not alone, LW4. I too have dropped out of college several times due to severe anxiety and crippling depression. I finally did finish, and I’m an RN now, but it was a long and difficult road (it still is). And people really don’t understand how limiting mental illness can be. People judge or say ridiculous things such as “why don’t you just force yourself to get up and go to work/school/whatever”. Or people will tell you to go to therapy like it’s a magic thing that will cure you overnight. Therapy doesn’t work for everyone, and not everyone wants to talk about/relive their problems or traumas. Sometimes you have to find a way to manage on your own, without any therapy or professional help (that’s what I did). You have to find a way to manage that works for you, not what others tell you would work.

      In the past, my mental illness has also negatively affected several of my jobs, back before I knew how to advocate for myself (and before I was able to manage it). You’re still young OP, and it’s going to be some trial and error on how to advocate for you and how to manage your conditions at work (and outside of work). I do want to caution you on telling your manager about the anxiety. Many people do not understand the struggles. I’ve been discriminated against by managers at past jobs, so I’m very reluctant to open up at work, unless I’m asking for an accommodation.

      One more thing, if you do want to give the conference a try, ask if a family member can go with you, if you think that would help. Another option is to speak to the event coordinator ahead of time and let them know you have a medical condition and need to be near the door/in the back of the room/whatever you think would help you. Don’t ever let anyone shame you. Be proud that despite your anxiety, you’re a professional. Good luck OP and remember you’re not alone.

      But if you think your manager is going to keep asking/expecting you to travel, it may be necessary to get an official HR accommodation for the anxiety so you’re not asked to do that anymore. Or at some point, later on, maybe look for a job that doesn’t require travel.

    2. Paralegally Blonde*

      Adding my sympathy and encouragement. Covid did a number on my 3 young adult/teenage children’s anxiety, and they ended up missing a semester or more each of high school/college. All of them had been and continue to be in treatment for their mental health issues. It helped us a lot to just recalibrate expectations and redefine success for the future and to focus on one moment at a time. Now, like you, two are post-college and in careers and one is about to start college. And we still take it one day at a time. You are doing great, and I really respect that you can recognize your own triggers/limits and not put yourself in a situation where you know you are likely to become overwhelmed. I agree with Melody Powers that there are likely others feeling similarly, and you are not alone in your anxiety.

    3. OP #4 - Traveling Anxious*

      Thank you so much, that means a lot. Honestly the hardest part hasn’t been the work – I know that I’m intelligent and flexible, and especially in IT hands-on experience is far more valuable than any schooling. It’s the social aspect that has caused me the most difficulty. I have trouble reading social cues and figuring out the unspoken rules that come with different workplaces. I spent ten years in the food service/retail space, six of which were for a small, family-owned store, and had mostly figured out the parameters that come with interacting with coworkers. Then I completely switched careers and started working for a national corporation with a completely different command structure and totally different etiquette. So far I haven’t made any large faux-pas, and I try to keep in mind that most people are also figuring it out and will be understanding. I’m working with my therapist to manage my anxiety and the new environment, but it is hard. This blog has been a huge help, and I’m glad to know I’m not alone. <3

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        IT veteran here to reassure you! I to this day have a very strong dislike of crowds of people and I do occassionally get emotions completely wrong and am seen in the office as somewhat of a weirdo. And if I can get to IT management while being the one who rocks up in gothic clothing and doesn’t care what people think? You’ll be fine.

        With you on the therapy thing. I’ve got some serious mental issues that have made a career difficult and part of keeping it successful has been a lot of professional help in the brain area. Have found that as time goes on you find the stuff you were so worried about just isn’t as bad as you thought.

        I mean, I once knocked out 30,000 desktop computers with a bad patch and I’m still here :)

  32. Boof*

    Lw4 – You know you know you best, but consider trying out the conference. They are much more low-key than a baseball game and often have plenty of spaces you could withdraw two if needed. Maybe even a support person could come out for the first time just to make sure. I say this because conferences can be a huge part of professional development, not that you absolutely have to attend them, but it might be worth trying.

    1. Metadata Janktress*

      I also want to echo that conferences have places to withdraw to and it’s common for people to not attend every single session. When I do conferences for work, I tend to skip a session block each day and just catch my breath in my hotel room. It’s also not beyond the pale to bow out of socializing–I’ve flat out said to colleagues “going out for [thing] sounds fun, but I need an off night.” As Boof says, you know you best, but if/when you feel ready to give one a try, it’s not as intense as a sports event and an anxiety mitigation plan can be made relatively easy since there are escape routes, so to speak.

    2. Jennifer Strange*

      Yeah, I’m going to a conference for an organization I’m heavily involved with even outside of my job and they always make sure to have quiet areas during network pieces so that people can participate to the level that they want to.

    3. NeedRain47*

      There are quiet areas at conferences I go to, but they are in no way low key. They are also extremely large; so it might depend if LW’s conference is large or small. I don’t have travel anxiety, but I do have social anxiety, and they are overwhelming for that reason.

      1. metadata minion*

        Agree. There’s a *huge* difference in feel for me between a large conference and a small one. A small one is about the same amount of dealing-with-people that I have at work, just with the additional stress that they’re mostly strangers and I’m in an unfamiliar space. Our national conference is basically a small city made of librarians and involves trying to navigate multiple hotels and conference spaces while surrounded by Way Too Many People.

      2. BubbleTea*

        My most recent conference claimed to have a quiet space but it was not even slightly quiet. If you wanted to do a bit of work or check your emails without people coming to chat, maybe it would do, but when I was looking for somewhere to recover from sensory overload and discovered that the “quiet space” was just some beanbags on a balcony over the main atrium, directly under a speaker playing piped music, I almost cried. (I did cry shortly after when something minor was the final straw for my capacity to cope.)

        1. Boof*

          Dang! The huge conference i go to has lot of different areas and accommodations; the hugeness may actually be an advantage there though.

      3. Boof*

        I think it depends a lot on the conference. My main frame of reference is a huge 50,000+ people medical conference. Participation can range from just reviewing conference materials from afar (virtual conference!), to attending sessions that are sort of like a movie theater in a dark room with with a lot of many empty seats at the edges and speakers and projections of speakers in front, to hard-core running around networking poster sessions and rep booths in crowded areas and social events at night, to submitting and presenting to large groups. Personally I am mostly there in person in order to talk to people and so do the hard-core socialization, but when I had a six week old (with me!) I did it much more low key and i still felt it was beneficial. I think the main trick is to adjust expectations (don’t try to do it all! Just try to see if it’s interesting) and give it a try, although again I am really not familiar with what kind of conference the OP would attend. And it’s ok to opt out, or to just say “maybe next year”. But i think they’re potentially valuable enough to reconsider over time.

  33. OrigCassandra*

    Hi, LW4. One likely reason your boss brought up this conference with you is “professional development,” or making sure you’re still learning and growing your skills. Conferences are a pretty common way people demonstrate that they’re doing that.

    They’re not the only way, though! You have other options that you may find more congenial! Are there any meetups relevant to your work in your area? Any relevant local conferences, maybe smaller ones? (There’s a really good, kind, inclusive DevFest in my town.) Any certifications you could pursue? Can you build a habit of reading professional blogs and other websites via newsreader (no lie, this is like 75% of my professional development and it works)? Work on an open-source project?

    Best of luck to you, and congratulations for making it to where you have!

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

      Good point. Perhaps OP could look up virtual conferences or other types of professional development they could do instead. They could say “thanks for the opportunity but some personal issues make traveling hard. But there is X conference virtually in a few months and I found Y online development course. Could I do those instead?

    2. JustaTech*

      Seconding looking for a local conference when LW4 is ready to try one, to separate the travel issues from the conference issues.

      I had a coworker who had a *lot* of concerns about traveling solo after a life-changing accident, and also had a hard time with crowds. So she picked a very small class and we talked through a lot of the travel stuff in advance.
      “I can’t life my bag, how will I get it in the overhead bin?” “Tell the gate agent you’ll need some help before you get on the plane, or ask a flight attendant, it’s they’re job, or heck, ask the person next to you, chances are really good they’ll help.”
      Then we looked at the airport maps so she would know where to go to get a cab or a Lyft or the light rail, and we used the Google Maps street view to look at the area around the hotel and the conference space, just so it wouldn’t be totally unfamiliar.
      She had a pretty good time (she said it was stressful but didn’t loose it) and felt a lot more confident after.

  34. NewJobNewGal*

    #4 Could you say that since you are so new to the position that you’d rather wait until you are more comfortable with your role because then you would get more out of the conference. It would be reasonable to say that you’d prefer to focus on learning the ropes and focusing on in-house learning opportunities before spending so much on travel.
    FYI- Companies often think of out-of town conferences as a kind of benefit and something that you would enjoy, like a bonus. Your boss is likely thinking that they are doing you a favor. I had a job where my boss was pressuring me to go to a conference in my first month because it was at a beach hotel.
    It’s okay to have a frank discussion on why they would like you to go and if those benefits are right for you at this moment.

  35. JSPA*


    If they’re institutionally anti-abortion, you’re better off steering clear… but that’s only one of two scenarios that strike me as likely.

    I can see someone looking up your “reproductive services” company because they’re having trouble procreating, then having a strong personal reaction–strong enough that it then colors their professional reaction.

    Of course, in a perfect world, the two streams wouldn’t cross…but we’ve had enough letters here about sensitivity over infertility that I don’t want to presume that a strong, personal reaction signals an intransigent political stance, nor that it’s a simple thing to keep one’s personal reactions from coloring one’s assumptions about intangibles like the “honesty” of your terminology. In that case, you can think of the response as, “I just encountered something that caused me pain, and it happened because your description led me to believe I’d find help and solace there.” (I’m comparing it to my own reaction on encountering a “crisis pregnancy center,” listed by google as “abortion services.”)

    Is this shock “reasonable”? Depends on how deep in the field you are, and what the words mean therefore would normally mean to you. For a doctor, I’d say they should be more than prepared, as “aiding with reproduction gone terribly wrong” and “prevention of reproduction” and “termination of the reproductive process” are indeed part of “reproductive services” in a medical sense. But at the same time, abortion is not what most people are looking for, when they search for “reproductive services.”

    You would avoid that specific issue by saying, “a niche medical service” or “a subspecialty in the women’s health field.”

    I’m hoping this does not devolve into a dogpile of, how we should feel and speak (and believe).

    I see it as a question of how we can be clear and honest, yet not cause unnecessary distress (for others and for ourselves). And I do think there’s room to be just as clear; to avoid jargon; and to concurrently reduce the chance that a perfectly nice interviewer will have a nasty personal shock, and be something other than their best self towards your candidacy, in reaction.

    1. JSPA*

      Hm, “women’s” is a bit trans-erasing. Might have to rethink that.
      “Gynecological subspecialty”?

      I’m looking for something that names the organ or the organ system, without involving “reproduction,” and most of what I come up with instead suggests (say) an STD clinic, which may or may not be an improvement.

    2. AnonyNurse*

      Abortion is the most common surgical procedure in the US, and probably globally. Between one in 3 and one in 4 people capable of becoming pregnant have one over their reproductive years. It is not “niche.”

      Abortion care is absolutely reproductive health care. At least in the US, “fertility clinic,” “ART’ [assistive reproductive tech].” etc. are more commonly used for people seeking to become pregnant.

    3. FundAbortion*

      This is very strange. At least in the US, “Reproductive health” is commonly understood as a reference to abortion. no reason not to use it (or just abortion, for that matter).

      1. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

        Is it? I always thought it was to emphasize that say, Planned Parenthood, isn’t an “abortion clinic”, it’s a place to get birth control, HIV tests, ultrasounds, etc., and yes, abortions. I went to PP and did not get an abortion. I had a problem with my uterus and they did an ultrasound and told me what it was. (They saved my life, it was urgent and I didn’t know.)

        1. Observer*

          Both, in my experience. The most common usages I’ve seen are one or the other (either abortion or more general reproductive care). I don’t think I’ve ever seen a mainstream usage of the term for fertility services, though.

          Planned Parenthood does both (abortions and more general care), but they don’t do fertility, to the best of my knowledge.

          In the US, I would have said that the OP’s interviewer was making so sense, because this usage is just so common. OP, what do providers like this call themselves in your country?

    4. Observer*

      But at the same time, abortion is not what most people are looking for, when they search for “reproductive services.”

      They are also not looking for fertility services either.

      Someone mentioned Planned Parenthood – they are probably one of the first specific names that people think of when the term is used in the US. And they *totally* lean into that term. But also, no one thinks that Planned Parenthood does no abortions. That may not be “all” they do, but no one who has not been living under a rock thinks that *all* they do is mamograms and birth control.

      But even beyond that, in the general sense “reproductive health” is generally not used for fertility treatment. It is most commonly used for things like obstetrics and family planning, with a side of gynecology and testing like PAP smears and mamograms.

      Certainly anyone in the US who thinks “Oh, help with fertility issues!” when hearing “reproductive health” is going to come off as incredibly naive.

  36. AnonyNurse*

    For #3: I’ve been there. Even though I could leave my work at an abortion clinic off of my resume because it has been about a decade and less relevant what I do now — I keep it. Because if you’re going to screen me out for having provided those services, I don’t want to work for you. Was once told by a nursing recruiter from a Catholic hospital chain (at a job fair, I didn’t apply) “You’d be better with no experience than ‘that’ experience.”

    If the word abortion is not often used where you are, but you want to be more explicit in your resume, you can say something like “provided surgical and medical reproductive health services” or something else that makes clear you aren’t strictly doing PAPs and contraception.

  37. TotesMaGoats*

    #1-I’ve been in office and on zoom meetings with heating and ice on my neck, shoulders, and even my head. A heating pad on your lap likely won’t even be noticed.

    #4-I think you’ve gotten a lot of good advice and (full disclosure) I haven’t read every response in detail but I hope you will put work travel on the docket with your mental health provider. Even if it’s just processing how you feel about this request.

  38. Alex*

    #4 – you can probably decline just fine, I did! I’m also in a tech industry where occasional travel to conferences, team building, etc is expected. I have health issues that make travel incredibly difficult without specific accommodations I’m not comfortable asking my employer for, so I’ve successfully declined all travel with no serious consequences.

    I found what worked for me was to make a position out of staying behind. Not sure how applicable it would be for you, but my team has a sort of “on call” or reachability expectation. My angle was to point out that if all of us were travelling, there’d be pockets of downtime where no one was available. Any time I was asked about staying I’d say I was of course quite happy to stay behind and hold down the fort, bummer to miss all the fun stuff but I know this is important, etc etc. It only took one (minor) work emergency that I was able to intercept and defuse for the tone from my manager to shift from “oh but you’re missing out” to “oh so glad you’re okay staying behind, thank you!”.

    Now (6+ years in) it’s just assumed that I’m not traveling, which suits me just fine!

    1. Gyne*

      I’d tread lightly with this, if travel is an essential function of the job (which it may be, I don’t know – seems like some travel is common in that field from the comments here) then opting out of all travel forever may accommodate LW into another job entirely.

    2. Gyne*

      My first comment meant to reply above to someone suggesting LW4 look into ADA accomodations.

      Alex – great points. I think especially when someone is in a position of needing to opt out of something that many people find to be some level of a burden (even for a fun conference, travel can be a hassle), taking on something else in exchange that you *can* do changes the perception a lot.

  39. Also Anxious*

    LW #4 – I too have travel anxieties.

    For short term, for team building activities, group lunches, etc. I always drive so if I feel I “need” to leave I can. I virtually never do, but it’s nice to have the option. One thing that I lean on (and is true) is I get motion sickness.

    For out of town travel – I don’t fly, but will drive up to x hours which was a reasonable accommodation at one job. Although conferences can be very helpful, they are very rarely essential. If you are unsure of what to do and aren’t comfortable going to your boss, you can approach someone in HR.

    P.S. The accommodation has to be reasonable. Our regional sales person couldn’t get an accommodation for no overnight travel because he job literally required it.

  40. One HR Opinion*

    #2 – The red flag to me is where you were born. Some of the other questions are on more antiquated applications where they tried to get all the information needed to put someone in their HR/payroll system on the application for convenience sake. We’ve moved those questions to post-offer paperwork because they are need for background checks, etc. I’m with Alison on this one, ask the recruiter for clarification and or put “will provide upon offer” in the offending questions you can’t skip.

  41. Good Luck*

    I have used an electric heating many times at work. Many times it was for back and neck injuries but also for menstrual cramps. I also had terrible sciatica pain when I was pregnant. With approval from a doctor, I used one intermittently on low throughout the day. No one said a word.

  42. JustMe*

    LW 1 – I have definitely seen people do this. I’d follow Alison’s script if anyone asks about it, but anyone who has ever been or lived with a woman will know what’s up and not think anything of it.

  43. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    OP3 (works for an abortion provider) – this question is similar in spirit to the oil and gas industry one from a couple of days ago. The industry / company provokes divided reactions from some people, so the two OPs (OP3 and oil and gas OP) have a similar dilemma in how much detail they should give out.

    I think the “reproductive health” generic answer is fine – I do wonder what that interviewer meant by “the company should be able to determine what they find acceptable”. Is it that they feel they have been ‘duped’ in some way? Is it a general comment about OP’s presumed assumption that companies will likely find it “unacceptable”? Regardless of their personal opinion about abortion – it seems a strange thing for the interviewer to say as it’s unclear what they are actually trying to get to (or what sort of response they are expecting – an apology? A pledge to answer any and all questions completely and to the full extent of their knowledge in future?)

    I do think that when considering taking a job in a controversial field, it is worth a bit of thought at that early stage of how you will handle it if/when the time comes to move on later from that job, or when people ask about it. I’ve seen job ads for companies that I personally would be fine working for, but haven’t applied because it potentially closes off avenues later.

  44. HonorBox*

    OP1 – I’ve used a heating pad and ice packs for my back at times. I’ve seen others using both for various reasons and have never thought twice about it.

  45. not a hippo*

    I inherited a hot water bottle cover from my grandmother in the shape of a sheep. I’ve definitely brought it in on bad cramp days but also in the winter because it gets bloody cold in this office.

    It’s strangely comforting when your hormones are going insane and you feel like runover shit to have a warm little sheep.

  46. Rebecca*

    For LW#1, these won’t work for everyone for various reasons, but I like those adhesive pain relief heat patches, which last about 8 hours and are undetectable under your clothes. I have back issues and have used them for relief many times when I needed to be at work but ibuprofen alone wasn’t cutting it.

  47. mulan*

    OP #2 – I have been thinking about this very same thing on job applications as well. I don’t even really like giving out my full address on job applications, though most applications require that. I recently applied to a government agency job and wow, was that thorough! It had all the things OP2 described – place of birth, SSN, DOB, etc. They all were required. I did fill them all out but it made me wonder if they were going to covertly run a background check without my consent before an interview stage (it didn’t request my consent for a background check at that time but said I would need to provide consent later in the process, makes sense). I couldn’t think of another reason why they would need all that info up front. At least that was a government job, which kind of makes sense… but even that still seemed excessive to me.

  48. Jackie*

    Not sure if i would be OK with seeing a co-worker heat up something that’s pressed against their body parts in the communal microwave where I’ll be warming my lunch – the visual doesn’t agree with me.

    1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      Would placing the device on a plate so it’s not touching any part of the microwave directly help?

    2. Peanut Hamper*

      With most of these, there is an insert that you take out and heat up. The part that holds it against your body doesn’t actually go in the microwave.

      FWIW though, people put coffee cups they’ve drunk out of in the microwave and those get pushed up against their lips, which is much closer to a mucous membrane than your lower back is.

    3. Kaikeyi*

      ….It’s being placed on their abdomen. If you’re that skeeved out, I wouldn’t recommend using a communal microwave at all.

      1. BellyButton*

        Seriously!! it is placed over the clothing. I am more grossed out by all the crusted on food in a communal microwave.

        1. Dahlia*

          The crusted on food is literally why I put my heating pad on a plate. I don’t want that on me.

      2. alienor*

        And also presumably over their clothes, so I don’t see how any germs are going to be involved.

        If anything, I’d be more grossed out by putting my personal heating pad in a microwave where people had been warming up their Broccoli-Fish Surprise for lunch.

    4. Keymaster of Gozer*

      This is odd – you do know those wheat bags go *over* clothing and aren’t shoved up between our legs?

    5. Leia Oregano*

      I’m more grossed out by my coworker who once left her chicken and rice in the microwave for THREE days without coming back for it. We finally threw it away, container and all, because she’s never in the office and obviously wasn’t coming back for Monday’s lunch on Thursday. LW, you’re fine. I wouldn’t blink twice about something like heating up a heating pad insert, or really the whole thing. I sit across from my dept’s kitchen and I see how gross people are pretty much every day, including the vile-smelling things they heat up for lunch (the same coworker from above routinely brings in leftover fish *gags in severe smell sensitivity*). Heating pads would not phase me whatsoever.

      If you’re grossed out about something totally normal being in the microwave, wipe it down before you use it or don’t use it at all? Like Peanut Hamper said, people’s used cups and so many gross things go in and out of communal microwaves everyday, and heating pads do not top that list.

    6. Dahlia*

      Are you microwaving your food by throwing it directly onto the microwave turntable? That might be your problem. You’re supposed to use a dish.

    7. Seacalliope*

      Maybe you should use plates, then, instead of lobbing your food directly onto whatever surface you think LW would be contaminating.

  49. Two Pop Tarts*

    #2 you are dealing with an scammer.

    Identity thieves have been using posting fake jobs to get people’s personal information.

    If a job application is asking for your date of birth, SSN, marital status, place of birth or other inappropriate personal info then you are being scammed.

    These are all things someone needs to get a credit card in your name.

    1. metadata minion*

      I agree that it’s sketchy, but there are plenty of employers who just ask for unnecessary information because they’re bad at hiring.

      1. Anne Wentworth*

        If an employer decides to project the appearance of a scammer because they’re too lazy to do their job well, then you should still treat them like a scammer because that’s just the safest path.

      2. Boof*

        Honestly it’s the place of birth that really tips it over; there’s no reason to ask that except basically identity theft? The closest legit thing i can think of is citizenship (supporting visa status is a thing for many doctors/employers) so it’s normal to ask about that, but not place of birth! (Esp if they are asking anything beyond nationality !!)

  50. A person*

    #1 I don’t think there’s any issue with a heating pad at work, but if you try it and people are weird about it…. They also make these ones you can get by pain killers in the pharmacy that stick in your underwear and are self heating. I’ve used them before and like them. They’re very discreet if you are in an environment where that matters.

  51. BellyButton*

    I have been working in offices for over 20 years- I always had a heating pad or my beloved rice bag to heat in the microwave. When sitting at your desk most people won’t even notice. I am also not shy to say “I have horrible cramps today” Men usually do not ask, and women will sympathize.

  52. CatLady*

    As a cybersecurity professional, I would recommend that the advice be changed to:

    “Can you explain why you’re asking for info like my date of birth and Social Security number at this early stage? I’m happy to supply them if we reach the background check stage but supplying them now IS a security risk and I WILL NOT do that at this time.” (caps to emphasize changes to Alison’s text.

    If they can’t handle that response they are either trying to scam you or a company that doesn’t take your personal/private information seriously and one you should strongly consider not working with/for.

    1. Random Dice*

      Also have been in cyber, and I don’t give this info to orgs that I know aren’t 1) protecting PII data appropriately, 2) training employees on PII data handling, or 3) using appropriate record retention and disposition methodologies.

  53. Just me*

    One caution about the microwave heating pad is to be sure it isn’t scented. I had gotten one filled with dried lavender that was supposed to help you relax and go sleep. Put it in my microwave at home and for the next couple of days anything else I put in there smelled like lavender as well. Made some things taste totally weird!

  54. J!*

    LW #3, my career has taken me to plenty of organizations that I’m fine-to-proud to have worked for but that sometimes get the stinkeye when I’m in the interview process. Like you, if they can’t figure it out in the moment from the name (or frankly why didn’t they do their work before calling me into an interview??? I sent you a resume!) I’m straightforward about it and think of it as a natural screening process on my side. If they’re not going to hire me because they’re horrified of the work I’m proud of, then I definitely don’t want to waste my skills and work ethic and time on them.

    1. GreenDoor*

      LW #3, It might help to answer where you work – with an immediate pivot to your specific role. “Company is a reproductive healthcare provider. My role was to analyze x-rays….process insurance claims….schedule appointments” It might help to get an immediate reminder out there that healthcare facilities require a whole variety of job skills and shift their focus back to that and away from where where they personally stand on the issue. And if you were someone directly involved in medical procedures, you can make a pivot, too. “Company is a reproductive healthcare provider. As a Whatever Provider, I learned a great deal about X or I enjoyed Y and now I’m looking for a new position where I can Z”.

  55. theletter*

    OP #4 => most tech conference organizers go out of their way to make sure everyone feels welcome and engaged. Nice spaces, warm meals, plenty of snacks, engaging talks, after hours activities, and lots of quiet spaces for people to sneak away and *~*work*~*.

    Coworkers who go together usually end up forming natural mealtime tables to report on the different talks.

    Maybe this isn’t the year to do a conference, but if you become closer with your coworkers by next year, a tech conference might not sound so scary. Everyone will be interested in the same thing, have similar life experiences, and the conference organizers really do want everyone to have a good time.

  56. ResuMAYDAY*

    For OP 2:
    This wasn’t the main part of your question, but I wanted to address this:
    “The recruiter sent me an application (which made me fill out all the stuff that is already on my Indeed profile and CV, but okay, fine, I will do it).”
    You seem to think this is nothing more than busy-work, but that isn’t the case. Your Indeed profile and resume are nothing more than professional peacock feathers, but your application is a legal document. When you complete an application, you are physically or digitally signing your name that the information you have provided is accurate to you. When a company checks references, they do so off your application, not your resume. If it turns out that you lie about a degree you don’t have, or some other professional experience, you have lied on a legal document, giving them the ability to carry about disciplinary action.
    Additionally, companies are required to keep records of their applicants for EEOC purposes, and of course, they are required to keep records of their employees. They don’t keep screenshots of your Indeed profile; they keep your application.

  57. Observer*

    #2 – Doctor looking for a 2nd job.

    If the job you are looking for is healthcare adjacent, I would take this as a yellow flag, and if the recruiter doesn’t give you a good answer, that’s a red flag unless the company uses outside recruiters that otherwise have no connection to the company. Because healthcare providers and the companies that work with them should have a high level of sensitivity to handling personal information. This is cavalier enough that I’m really wondering what’s up here.

  58. Lyngend Canada*

    I’m looking to rent a place. And one of the companies is like you must fill out this detailed application before we even consider showing you a place. And I’m also turned off of it.
    Like do a basic intake if you must weed people out before showings. But like, there’s no need for my dob and sin before you even know if we both have something to offer each other.

    1. Renting Sucks*

      This is the norm here now. Not one single agency will allow you to attend an inspection without completing a full application (name, current address, DOB, current & past employer, at least one previous address, three references & all their contact details as well as a bunch of intrusive questions about my smoking & drinking habits, all of which are non skippable fields). If you want the property, you will jump through their hoops & there is not a damn thing anyone can do about it in this landlord’s market.

  59. Observer*

    #3 – worked at an abortion provider

    Once I said “we provide reproductive health services,” but when I was called back for a second interview, they told me that they looked up the company and I should have been more up-front, I should allow prospective employers to make a decision on what is acceptable or not, and my original answer came across like I was being deliberately deceptive

    These people are very strange. You didn’t hide anything. You gave them a truthful answer (assuming that *you* believe that abortion is simply healthcare – in this context what they believe doesn’t matter.) And you gave them all the information they needed to get more detail and make their own decision as to what is “acceptable” to them or not.

    You felt like you were being lectured because you WERE being lectured, I think. And it’s really not ok that they did this to you. It’s not ok that they lectured you for pretty much *anything*, but especially for this, since you didn’t do anything wrong.

  60. Abogado Avocado*

    OP’s #1 and #3, women’s health IS health. Women hold up half the sky. Therefore, I don’t think you even need to reference the female aspect of the healthcare or treatment. It’s all health.

    1. low priced speech*

      Respectfully, not all women get periods and not just women get periods or can get/need an abortion.

      1. Abogado Avocado*

        Exactly. And that’s why it’s health and healthcare, without regard to gender or gender-identity. When a label like “women’s health” or “women’s healthcare” is affixed, we signal that the accepted norm is different.

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

      That’s not OP’s problem though. They KNOW its healthcare. The problem is that unfortunately the OP has run into some interviewers who have problems with abortion and feel certain ways about them. I don’t know if they think that the OP is misleading them or what but its extremely rude.

  61. learninglibrarian11*

    OP 5: I would follow Alison’s advice to leave it alone. Unfortunately I have been the subject of that type of gossip and there was definitely not an affair happening. Someone brought it up to “warn” me and it made me so self conscious and nervous around the other person that my behavior fueled rumors even more. Sometimes ignorance on that sort of thing is bliss. Additionally, as Alison said it sounds like they’re already aware that their behavior is at the least causing discomfort for others, and I would assume they know its causing suspicion. They’re adults, let it be.

  62. NobodyHasTimeForThis*

    #3 Agree with the answer that “health care services” is adequate, and frankly it is a telling red flag on a company that thought you needed to disclose abortion services directly. They got angry with you for not disclosing something that is legal but may reflect your political or religious affiliations?

  63. SaffyTaffy*

    LW1, bringing a heating pad to work is a great way to make friends. “Ohhh, a heating pad! Oh I wish I’d thought of that!” “Hey OP1, do you still have that heating pad? I’m crampy and don’t want to take the rest of the day off.”

    Or, “Manager, did you just say your shoulder is killing you? I’ve got my heating pad- want to use it?” There’s nothing like your own boss calling you her hero.

  64. Anne Wentworth*

    LW#3 absolutely was being lectured and it sounds like that’s the only reason the interviewer called her back. She probably could have just gotten up and walked out at that point, because that interviewer doesn’t care about her skills, only their own political agenda.

  65. Woah*

    “muscle strain”

    you’re actually nicer than I am, I bring in my electric one and plug it in!

  66. WhyAreThereSoManyBadManagers*

    Re: the heating pad and some people feeling they have to hide it or lie about it: Why do we feel the need to lie about menstrual pain?? It’s been proven that for many women the pain is worse than that of heart attack pain. Half the world’s population goes through this and has periods. I’m so tired of period pain, menstrual pain, cramps, endometriosis pain, perimenopausal/menopausal issues being dirty secret words and topics, it’s far past time we should be able to discuss them openly if necessary. Stop being embarrassed and instead be empowered.

  67. negligent apparitions*

    I worked for Planned Parenthood and described it as a non-profit healthcare center. I wasn’t lying.

  68. Mrs. Hawiggins*

    I used to bring a heating pad myself, before I really doubled down on getting way more medical help for cramps – turns out I needed it and thankfully it worked. I didn’t care who saw what, by Gawd I was at work sitting there answering your damn phone trying not to lose my mind, or my breakfast, while doing so.. Fast forward to today with my most recent sports injury and I counted 5 ice packs in the executive office freezer. Everyone knows they’re mine.

    Point being, take care of yourself in whatever way works for you. You do NOT stop being a human being when you walk in that office door. Preferably though, go home if pain is in control. It’s not fair to you. Rest and rejuvenate and come back when it’s better. If not, fire up that heating pad, and I’ve decided I’m going to start renting out my ice packs. Damn rotator cuff. Plus in this stupid hot heat pain or not, they’re just nice to have.

    Be well, all of us.

  69. CantTravel*

    LW4 I can’t travel because of physical disability. That likely will never change (oh how I miss it!). Ironically, I had few opportunities to travel for work when I could but many opportunities/expectations to do so since I’ve been unable. I have had dozens of these conversations. It is my fervent hope that hybrid events remain a thing forever.

    Some tips that might be helpful:

    1) Be matter of fact. Don’t equivocate or try to appease. Just politely say you can’t travel for medical reasons and repeat it as necessary. The one caveat is if you need to turn this into a formal ADA accommodation (which is unlikely but possible) you will probably need to supply actual medical information as will your medical provider.

    2) Offer some alternative that meets the same objective if possible. This is where virtual and hybrid events are your friend. Check if the event has a virtual option (bonus: it will be cheaper for your employer). If not, look for similar events that do and pitch one as an alternative. This may require a willingness to be on Zoom for 7-9 hours those days with limited breaks, but in my experience it’s generally worked well.

    3) If part of the reason you’re being asked to attend is networking, ask to join associations or industry groups instead and participate/interact via Zoom, email, newsletters, etc

    In the future I also recommend assessing travel requirements during interviews. Many jobs have an infrequent requirement and I’d not address them during interviews, but some jobs expect more and discussing it openly can help both sides determine if the job is viable. Obviously, don’t reveal medical issues but assess whether you can live with the job expectations and if the travel requirements noted are travel requirements because the company didn’t look for alternatives or because they legitimately require travel for core job responsibilities.

    Good luck!

    1. Green rose*

      I really agree with finding out early, and being matter of fact about your requirements.

      I’d be seriously annoyed if i hired someone and found out after that they couldn’t do the infrequent travel expected in the industry (not one specific event, but in general) after the fact. If they were on a project where someone else wanted to*, and could, pick up the slack, then it is manageable. But otherwise this does risk not achieving what we otherwise could with a project. If it is only your own career at risk, I’m not as worried.

      .* travel is a perk to many in my industry as it really boosts careers, and is usually infrequent (1-3 times every year or two)

  70. Shmealthcare*

    LW 3- I have also worked in abortion care (in Canada) and definitely understand trying to figure out how much to disclose about my work history. When looking for employment after leaving the clinic, in retrospect, a lot of my hesitation in being upfront about the nature of the work was informed by the very real threats directed at myself and my coworkers for providing abortion care (there are violent wingnuts in this country, too). So while it’s all well and good for people to suggest here that you be fully upfront- because why would you want to work for an anti-choice employer?- sometimes you don’t need to fully find out what kind of clowns you’re dealing with in an interview scenario.
    In the 5 years since leaving my job at the clinic, I have worked my way up to a leadership role in the healthcare organization I work for now and explicitly use the word “abortion” whenever speaking about my clinical experience- I have the political capital that people generally aren’t going to try to start an argument with me about reproductive choice and I have the opportunity to normalize discussing it as a routine health service. However, it definitely took a few years to feel safe doing this.
    When my job experience came up in interviews or in discussion at my new job, I found using the term “sexual health” more successful than “reproductive health”- people were generally satisfied with that as an answer as it seemed more specific and they could imagine who the patients were and what they were accessing the clinic for… even if it wasn’t a totally accurate representation. The same goes for “women’s health”, while when delivering health care it is best to use gender neutral language for services, it’s also a term that gets the other person to have an imagined patient in mind.

    In my experience, if you are clinical staff applying for clinical roles (nurse, ultrasound tech, etc.), you probably have more leeway to be upfront about the work- just talk about it as if it were as controversial as foot care or colonoscopies.
    If you’re not in a clinical role and/or you’re applying to jobs outside of healthcare, I would continue to be vague, because beyond not knowing which side of the issue your interviewers stand on, people have preconceived ideas about the work and it’s perceived salaciousness may overshadow other parts of your interview… because it’s not always the best and brightest on that interview panel. Focus on highlighting the specific responsibilities of your role in the clinic (billing, appointment booking, referral coordinating, etc).
    Good luck in your job hunt! And remember, someday in your future you will be able to use this job experience to scandalize an ignorant coworker out of ever speaking to you again- it’s truly a superpower.

  71. Mmm.*

    Is there a plug near your desk for a heating pad to plug into? When my back goes out, that’s a LIFESAVER, and it would get rid of the trips to the microwave.

    If people get weird about it for some reason (I don’t think they will, but…), remember there are ones you can stick onto the front of your underwear. No one will notice and they last hours. Another lifesaver, especially when I was in high school and they didn’t allow bathroom breaks. Ugh.

  72. DJ*

    Unfortunately in Australia it’s not illegal to ask for DOB info. And you can’t claim it sets you up for discrimination as it’s about what they do with the information.
    Personally I believe it is something that shouldn’t be collected until after job offer ie tax and super forms at which it should be collected by HR and only HR has that info. If it’s required for a police check then again collected by HR.

    1. That is not correct.*

      That is not accurate. Unless age is an inherent part of the role, employers are not allowed to ask for age or date of birth. This is according to Australian Human Rights Commission, Law Path, Seek, the ABC in numerous articles, & many, many more online sources.

      The exceptions are when a candidate must be over 18 for the job, like bar or club work, sex work, door to door sales, etc.

  73. SB*

    LW1…I encourage heating pads here but I do have a rule – no scented ones because we had one woman with a lavender one that stank out the microwave for ages (until someone made microwave popcorn which overpowered the lavender with a no less pungent aroma but one that is at least more closely associated with food).

    Otherwise, have at it. I use one for my back pain from a car accident 20 years ago & my assistant has one for her cramps & the accounts woman has one because she is constantly cold even when it is like hellfire outside.

Comments are closed.