CEO said she “can’t stand” me in a public Slack message, can smoking keep you from getting hired, and more

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

1. CEO said she “can’t stand” me in a public Slack message

Two years ago, I was recruited to a team I had long admired and knew well through a shared network. I was excited to join, and my initial six months were extremely positive and I was elevated to our leadership team.

During this time, I experienced some growing pains with my role and expressed my frustrations to a colleague. That colleague unfortunately betrayed my confidence, and word that I was unhappy got to our CEO. I found this out because my CEO accidentally put a message in a public Slack channel about how much she “can’t stand” me and that I was “an ungrateful brat.” A number of colleagues saw it, and it triggered a breakdown that has taken time to recover from.

My supervisor has been extremely supportive, but said there will probably never be a resolution to this. My CEO has never and likely will never apologize or bring it up. I do not work in an environment where I can be supported by HR in filing a complaint. Over a year later, it still weighs on me. My CEO and I don’t speak. I was dropped from our leadership team without explanation and have hit a ceiling in terms of my role here. To make matters worse, I work in a smaller office in another city from our main HQ. I feel increasingly isolated and it impacts my work. I’m a senior level person and in my 40s — the idea of finding another job is terrifying and unlikely. But I also feel trapped and retaliated against in my workplace. How can I resolve this? Do I need to simply find an exit plan?

First, your CEO sucks! People in a position of power have a responsibility to speak more judiciously, even if they think they’re speaking privately. And once the Slack incident happened, she had a responsibility to deal with it — to find a way to clear the air and to work through whatever issues led to her feeling that way, and to be straight with you if she didn’t think they were resolvable.

But yes, you need to get out of there. Fair or not, your CEO has publicly said she can’t stand you, and you’ve seen firsthand the impact on your career there: she won’t speak to you, you’ve been dropped from leadership, and you’ve been isolated. Your manager has told you nothing is going to change. It makes no sense to stay.

People find jobs in their 40s (and beyond) every day; it’s by no means “unlikely” that you will! That’s not to downplay age discrimination, which is a real thing, but it doesn’t mean you can’t get hired. (Consider all the forms of discrimination that are out there; discrimination is usually about having extra obstacles, not about never finding another job again.) You might have barriers you didn’t have when you were younger, but you’re still highly likely to find another job if you start looking.

2. We listed salary in the ad but still got people asking for much more

I was recently part of the hiring process to fill two positions within the team I’m on. The role is a project management job with some technical aspects for a specific tool under the umbrella of a larger nonprofit. The job being what it is, we get applicants with all sorts of backgrounds from pre-law/law, to social work, to education, to computer science, and some folks with more customer service or help desk backgrounds — all of which can be a reasonable fit in the right situation. Knowing how wide the applicant pool would be, in the ad we made sure to list the salary range explicitly and ask what pay folks are looking for in the application.

Despite that, maybe a fifth of the applicants listed a pay well above the advertised range. I’m talking like 1.4x or so higher on average. Some of these candidates seemed excellent, but in an effort to rein in our candidate pool (we ended up with upwards of 300 applicants), we ended up unilaterally cutting anyone who asked for more than about $10k over the high end of our range, knowing we had a little wiggle room to come up maybe $2-5k for a truly exceptional candidate and that our benefits are better than most comparable nonprofits. Was cutting the pool this way the right call?

On one hand, I know that I’d be frustrated if I asked for a specific amount, went through the interview process, and then at the end of the process was offered something around two-thirds of what I asked for. But on the other, the range was posted in the ad, so maybe they’re just hoping we have more wiggle room than we have or they’ve been given advice to ask high so that there’s room to come down and would have been fine with the high end of the advertised range. Is there something we could have or should have done to check?

It’s not unreasonable to cut your pool that way, but I don’t love it if it meant you were cutting people who looked really strong. With people who you otherwise would have been excited to talk to (meaning they were really strong relative to the rest of the pool, not just generally qualified), why not just ask about at your first stage of screening (which is hopefully something low-commitment like a short phone interview)? It’s perfectly reasonable to say in that first contact, “I’m not sure if you saw the range we listed was $X-Y and we don’t have wiggle room on that. You wrote that you’re seeking $Z, so I want to be up-front that we will not be able to go that high. Does it still make sense to proceed?”

But also, I’d strongly recommend that you stop asking people to list what pay they’re looking for on the application. It’s great that you’re listing your range — keep doing that! — but there’s no reason to ask candidates to give a number themselves. That just invites games around salary, where people will worry about undercutting themselves or overshooting … and it’s not necessary. You know what you’re willing to pay. You’ve told them what you’re willing to pay. If the concern is that they might be in a lower part of your range than they’re anticipating, you can clear that up in the first screen too — “for candidates with your level of experience in X, you’d be in the X-Y part of our salary range.” Then they know and can decide if they want to continue or not.

3. Can smoking keep you from getting hired?

My niece is a smoker and has interviewed for several jobs but hasn’t received any offers. She has a great work history but moved to a different state and usually does a Zoom interview, then gets called back for an in-person interview and that’s it. Many places are “health” places (hospitals, doctor’s offices, etc.) and I wonder if the smell of smoke on her is a deterrent? She gets pretty defensive, so I hesitate to bring this up. But if I were a hiring person it would definitely have a negative impact on me because I hate smoking.

Yes, it’s definitely possible. If she smells like smoke, that will be a strike against her with a lot of places, medical offices in particular. (Although some states do have laws that prohibit employers from discriminating against smokers.) It doesn’t sound like you have the standing to raise it with your niece, though.

Alternately, it might not be that at all. If she’s only had a handful of interviews, it’s not necessarily meaningful that she hasn’t had an offer yet.

4. My boss undervalues me and barely pays minimum wage for skilled work

I’m a graphic designer in an extremely small office and have a BFA and 20 years experience. In September 2021, I quit, only to be begged to come back in January 2022. I came back with the caveat that it was remote only and I had to have a flexible work schedule due to my daughter’s medical needs (the reason I quit in the first place). I went back and received a $1/hour pay raise. I have been there 11 years total and started at $13/hour in 2012. Now I make $14/hour in 2023. Next year in my state, $15 will be minimum wage. The market rate for my education and experience in my field/area is $28-$50.

I explained to my boss that I don’t feel valued as she keeps giving online people (think Fiverr) my duties and gets upset when I voice my opinion. I told her that I was available 15-20 hours a week. She told me she doesn’t charge customers for artwork and doesn’t feel that paying me per project is fair because I can produce art quickly and that my pay is fair because I work from home. I told her that experience deserves compensation. I started “working my wage” (basic designs, clipart, etc. as opposed to detailed pieces the customers were used to) and not being as available, as clearly she doesn’t value me. How else can I explain that if she wants good art then she has to pay? Can I negotiate a raise? After 11 years and 20 years experience, I feel like I’m worth so much more than nearly minimum wage.

Why are you staying there? Even if you can somehow wrangle a raise out of her, it’s likely to be only a few dollars more an hour — when the market is paying people with your skills more than triple your current rate. It doesn’t make sense to stay somewhere that so wildly undervalues and underpays you and where you have to fight for every additional dollar (or where you feel compelled to resort to clipart to make your point — something that won’t help your portfolio).

Stop trying to persuade your boss to see reason, and use the market to walk. This small and stingy company isn’t the only employer out there. (I suspect you might be staying because your boss let you go remote and have flexible hours, but those things are increasingly available elsewhere too.)

5. Are informational interviews the real way to get jobs?

I am a job-searching recent college graduate. A bit ago, I stumbled upon a newsletter claiming that “normal” job applying, resume and cover letter writing, etc. are all pretty much irrelevant and the real way you get jobs is by reaching out to professionals in your field for “informational interviews” where you ask them about the field and how to grow in it. Then, because people who are already known to employers are the ones who get hired, you’ll get a job out of it all.

Am I wrong in taking it with several grains of salt and continuing in my job searching the old-fashioned way? Is this advice specific to certain career fields? For what it’s worth, the newsletter writer is in marketing and I’m in an extremely different field. I told a late-career professional in a very different field about this and they scoffed and said, “Yeah, not at my workplace!”

Anyone who’s claiming that informational interviews are the primary way to get a job is full of crap. Informational interviews can be one part of your overall strategy, but they absolutely should not be your main focus, and that’s a really weird and misleading thing for that person to claim. In fact, most people get jobs without ever doing a single informational interview — which doesn’t mean they don’t have value (they can and do) but they’re hardly the linchpin to a successful job search.

A lot of people who sell their job search advice start making odd claims like this, and I think it’s because they’re looking for some distinctive piece of advice to make their own — something that sets them apart from the standard “write a great resume and cover letter that show your track record of achievement.” That doesn’t mean it’s good advice though; much of the time it isn’t.

{ 465 comments… read them below }

    1. Cj*

      IMO, if it isn’t, it still doesn’t make sense for people to apply and say that their salary requirements are *so* far above the range stated in the job listing.

      the OP said about 20% of applicants did this. But they had over 300 applicants, so 240 or so were OK with the range, or didn’t say they were looking for such a large % above the range. to me this indicates the range is reasonable for the position.

      1. Decidedly Me*

        I was thinking this, too. Even if it wasn’t at market rate, it’s odd for people to apply asking for so much more. The company has stated how much they are willing to pay and if you don’t like it, you should move on.

        1. Cj*

          yes. if they weren’t getting many applicants, they may have to consider if their range is in line with market rates, but that’s not the case.

        2. BubbleTea*

          I think it’s odd to ask what salary people want when you have a range in mind. I’ve never seen that (I’m in the UK public and third sector, where specific standard ranges are listed in job adverts) and would probably see it as an invitation to ask for more – why else ask? Leave off the asking, and assume that the application is them saying “yes, I’d be happy to accept an offer within the stated range”.

          1. BubbleTea*

            I’ve thought of an analogy. If you have a guest and you put out bowls of salted nuts, apples, bottles of water, cups of tea and coffee, and a box of tissues, it would be odd to ask “can I get you anything?” and have them answer “a bottle of water please”, since they can just take one. I’d assume that you’re asking “do you want anything I’ve not already offered?” Being annoyed at a guest who asks “do you have any apple juice please?” because it’s not what you offered would be bizarre. You asked them!

            1. ecnaseener*

              I think a better analogy would be informing your guest that you have a range of options in the kitchen – water, tea, apples, nuts – and asking what they would like. Acceptable answers range from “Just water” to “All of the above,” and potentially “Actually, is there any chance you have apple juice?” (a small increase over the posted maximum) but not really “Actually, can I have a full meal?” (a large increase)

              1. Smithy*

                I think that this analogy makes a lot of sense, and likely is why the questions to ask for desired salary ends up feeling like a game to some people. If the range is $80k-$100k, it’s understandable from the HR manager’s perspective to want to know if someone they’d consider to be in the $85k range asks for $100k. While still in range, you might be more open having the conversation about how you save that upper range for people with 10+ years experience plus X, and would they be comfortable moving forward if the range for their CV was closer to $85-$90k?

                But from the outside, for the applicants – it can end up feeling like what is the “little” amount I can push upwards. Would it be $105k? $110k? So I get why the HR manager would ask the question and feels it reasonable from their viewpoint, but they’re really missing the way so many other employers behave and as a result how so many job seekers alter their behavior as a result.

          2. bamcheeks*

            Seconded. I have seen jobs that ask for current salary, which is also annoying but more logical as a way of gauging what kind of level you’re currently working at. I’ve never seen somewhere with a stated range ask what your expectations are.

            All this said, I think salary expectations and expectation of ability to negotiate vary *so* much from sector to sector that it’s really impossible to generalise across the labour market.

            1. Seeking Second Childhood*

              I disagree about current salary logically indicating your level. A “low” salary might just indicate someone who graduated into a recession, was laid off in another, and then was anxious about risking more change so stayed for a company that gives lousy raises.

              (Ahem. Someone.)

              1. Ace in the Hole*

                It can also mean that you accepted a lower salary because of non-monetary benefits, some of which may be very hard to quantify. For example people might be okay with lower pay because the place is close to home, or has a schedule they like, or is more flexible than usual about taking time off, or even just because they have really nice coworkers/boss.

                Or, worse, someone can have a low salary because of unfair discrimination. Basing their salary on that information perpetuates and exacerbates the problem.

        3. I should really pick a name*

          I think it’s fair that people don’t trust that the posted range is the real range.

            1. Pink Candyfloss*

              “We have a small amount of wiggle room for the right candidate” yet they do not see the dichotomy in their perception vs a candidate’s perception of how “fixed” a salary range really is.

              1. Happy meal with extra happy*

                Because there’s a real life difference when you’re talking a percentage point or two for a unicorn perfect applicant versus asking for 40% more. And, if OP hadn’t had said that, you know the comments would be filled with “well, would you offer more, what if blah blah blah”.

                1. Quill*

                  It really depends on the actual numbers when you are looking at the 40%. For example, I keep seeing jobs posted at $18 an hour (less than 40k a year) … and exactly the same job description posted elsewhere for $25 an hour.

                  One of those will allow you to rent a one bedroom apartment where I live and still pay your student loans, and one will not.

                  Obviously the higher you go the less those numbers make sense, but if the job listed is making closer to that range, it’s pretty understandable that people listing their salary ranges optimistically. Add in the fact that the candidate is likely picking a round number and thinking of things in terms of a hundred dollars more a month, and the company is looking at an exact number and calculating over a thousand more a year, and the expectation discrepancy makes perfect psychological sense.

        4. Itsa Me, Mario*

          I’m wondering if it has something to do with the wide range of previous careers or skillsets that they’re getting in applicants. Someone coming to this role from a customer service help desk is going to expect a different rate than someone who is an attorney coming from a law firm.

          I think it would be a better idea to reframe who they’re looking for in this role and rewrite the job listing so that it attracts the people you want.

      2. fhqwhgads*

        I’ve also seen people who get asked for a number and are offended by it put in intentionally hug numbers to move past the process. These numbers don’t sound quite inflated enough to be that, but still boils down to Alison’s point not to ask people to name a number, especially when you did the right thing and put the range in the ad so they already have the info they need to self-select out.

      3. I Have RBF*


        If a company gives a range in the job ad I don’t expect them to be willing or able to pay nearly half again the top of that range.

        In fact, my usual experience is that they will only actually offer slightly the middle of that range, and are using the high end as a trick to get higher qualified people to apply then take the lower wage because of sunk cost fallacies or desperation.

        So yes, if candidates are asking for well over the stated range, (and your range is in line with the current market rate,) cut them. They are being unrealistic and their judgement is suspect. It’s not “gumption”, it’s cluelessness or arrogance.

        If your range is significantly less than the market rate for the position, though, you will see a lot of people asking for higher. You may need to re-evaluate your ranges as market conditions change.

    2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      Project manager is one of those roles that can cover a broad range of responsibilities and experience, from something more like “project coordinator” doing more routine tasks, through to heavy hitting technical project manager with deep experience in the technical side as well as the project management itself. A project manager may or may not be accountable for a budget, etc.

      Maybe what’s happening here (assuming the salary is fair) is there’s a mismatch between some of the applicants and the “level” of project manager sought by OP.

      Is there any possibility (answer may be no) that the job ad could be improved to make clear what level of technical is actually needed? Because it seems strange to me that it is “technical” but also can be done by people with a range of backgrounds like law, social worker etc (which are technical in their own way but not with OPs specific tech presumably).

      I feel you, I had an applicant get to the final stages and said she was OK with the salary (which already had a range of x to 1.5x) to then state that she would be looking for another 50% on top of that plus executive type perks like a company car!

      1. Myrin*

        Oh god, I’m getting flashbacks to that one letter where the OP clearly laid out what a project manager is in her company and yet the comments were full of people explaining to her why she is Wrong.

        1. Engineer*

          Im defense of the comments on that one, that company was defining “project manager” as the most junior role, which is out of step with most industry practices. The employee they wrote in about was a mismatch for sure, but a lot of people were pointing out that a project manager is typically an experienced role, not a junior one.

          1. Myrin*

            That’s exactly what people said in the comments there, too, again and again, ad nauseam.
            And it still stands that OP’s company gets to use titles that are used differently elsewhere as long as they explain that/clearly define the role, which they did. It’s just that that guy basically wanted to force the other definition onto a role which clearly wasn’t that.

          2. Analytical Tree Hugger*

            Noooo, not again…

            I agree with Myrin, it doesn’t matter how other companies use the title, what matters is how each specific company uses it.

            And the fact is that titles have a huge range, as you stated and as was illustrated in the comments of that previous letter saying “a project manager at my comoany does XYZ.”

            To the point about the letter: They are being upfront about the salary range. The fact that some people are expecting a different salary range is on the *applicants* and, as stated by an earlier commenter, the pool is large enough that the salary range is fine and the ad is clear.

            1. Smithy*

              Absolutely this – and while “industry standard” in engineering might mean one thing for a Project Manager (let alone the type of engineering, whether it’s for a corporate or public employer, etc etc) – there has simply got to be an increased understand among job seekers that many sectors use titles like “Project Manager”, “Coordinator”, “Director” and from sector to sector and employer to employer, not always the same. Directors can manage enormous teams across wide geographic spreads. Or be a team of one with no direct reports.

              It may very well be that across corporate companies that have a significant engineering focus – a title like Project Manager is going to be more standard. I work for a nonprofit that also hires some engineers. Our use of Project Manager within our organization has multiple meanings. But job descriptions are usually really clear about points on seniority, reporting structure, salary, etc.

              I think if the OP got 300 applications for a job and their review system is one not typically built to handle receiving that many – being overwhelmed by such a detail makes a lot of sense. Their system was overwhelmed and they were looking for a way to quickly drop the total numbers. But if the number of applications received was 20 – a fifth asking for far too much would have been 4. It would have been possible to still read every application and determine if among the 4, that super high ask was just one issue of an overall great candidate – or just one feature of many with an unsuitable candidate. So I also think the desire to shrink the volume quick, made this feel like an easy point of focus where if the numbers hadn’t been so high – it would have been part of a more holistic review.

          3. Irish Teacher.*

            I could understand the comments that were like, “are you sure the person’s role has been clearly communicated to them? Project manager is typically a more senior role so maybe they didn’t realise your company uses the term differently,” but a lot of the comments seemed to be more, “but that is a project manager’s role and you are the one who has misunderstood their role.”

            1. AngryOctopus*

              The second kind of comment is likely from people who would be very upset that they applied for a project manager role and were being interviewed for something more junior. It’s a totally unfortunate reality that 1-titles often mean nothing between companies and 2-this can lead to a huge disconnect where a company defines ‘project manager’ as a very junior role and then either people who want a senior role are like “wtf” when they interview, or the person in the company tries to apply to other PM roles and is like “WTF why am I not qualified for any of these?”.

              In this case, the salary seems pretty aligned with the role, and anyone asking 1.4x the salary is either banking on their experience getting them more (although they may not be hiring someone that senior) or is just overly optimistic about skills/negotiating tactics. But the majority of your applicants being OK with the salary outlined indicates that it’s appropriate for the job.

      2. Cj*

        it doesn’t really matter. if the range (or very close to it) isn’t acceptable to the applicant, why are they applying, no matter what the job description is?

        1. Antilles*

          Because many companies have a bit more flexibility than the stated range.
          Because we’ve all heard stories of companies playing games with listed salary ranges even if they’re willing to pay much more.
          Because by asking the candidate’s salary, the company is implying there IS flexibility and they’re willing to negotiate. So the applicant asks for a bigger number, figuring that the actual result would end up somewhere in the middle.

          1. It Might Be Me*

            That flexibility isn’t so flexible for most non-profits. There are things that can impact that. I don’t take company health insurance because of my spouse’s coverage. So, I was able to negotiate for a small increase. That increase though came from money already budgeted for the position. Not from funds they didn’t have in that line item.

          2. Itsa Me, Mario*

            It’s also worth noting that nobody knows that question is a “weed out” question when they answer. So you might also have a lot of people just being upfront, or asking for a lot more hoping to negotiate, or any number of other things.

            Some specifics of my job (being intentionally vague here) mean that recruiters often ask me salary questions in the initial phone screen, and I have even had some conversations about it where it was clear I wouldn’t be moving on because the rate was too much of a mismatch. But I have also been in situations where I lowered my ask significantly for various reasons, and then still wondered after going through an entire hiring process whether the compensation piece of things was preventing me from getting hired. When, in reality, the compensation didn’t matter as much to me as the hiring team may have assumed, and I wish they had either taken me at my word or had a more extended conversation about it than just assuming X fact about my resume means they can’t afford me or I’d be bitter about taking a pay cut or whatever.

        2. Hush42*

          A couple of years ago we were operating without a recruiter in our medium sized business so I was doing phone screens for the applicants for a position that I had open on my team. It was a very eye opening experience for me to talk to all the candidates who normally wouldn’t even make it to me. It became abundantly clear that people often apply without ever reading the actual job description. I have one position on my team that had the word Contracts in the title (because they handle the set up and billing of contracts on the product that we sell in our system) it is not a legal position in any way and does not involve reviewing or negotiating contract terms. The number of lawyers who apply to the position without reading the description at all is astonishing to me.
          Also I have a position on my team with the word Sales in the title (something like Llama Sales Support). Their role is to support the sales team with certain administrative functions. I had one candidate who not only didn’t read the job description he didn’t listen when I explained the job to him during the phone screen. I explained the job duties to him and actually said this is a support position and does not involve any actual selling. Then I asked “does that sound like something you’re interested in?” and he goes “Yes, I am very interested in getting into Outside Sales.”

    3. Also-ADHD*

      I wonder that too, though nonprofits often don’t/can’t meet competitive salary rates for some fields like PM “with technical aspects” (that sounds like a higher paying individual contributor role frankly in general).

      1. It Might Be Me*

        I’ve seen a lot of graduates or people returning to the workplace working for non-profits. Unless they are passionate about the “cause” it may be the first step, getting experience.

        Alternatively, I’ve known some very qualified people retire from their megawatt jobs and take a non-profit position. One project manager went to a non-profit and brought a huge influx of new contributors just from his connections. He didn’t lean on them. They trusted that if he was there they should take a look.

    4. t-vex*

      Also, how wide is the “range”? If it’s pretty big you’re basically implying that there’s a lot of room to negotiate.

    5. higheredadmin*

      I feel OP’s struggle. I’m in higher ed, and we get an approved salary maximum from the top. If we want to go over it it is a whole drama, and the amount we can go up is very minimal. When someone asks for even $10k above the approved maximum, it is a no because our hands are tied. It is very trying.

    6. Just Thinkin' Here*

      I highly suspect the underlying issue here is due to the job description, the requirements, and the salary range are mismatched. I’m struggling to come up with a job where you could take anybody with a law degree (JD?), social work (MSW), a computer science (BS.CS), or someone with no degree but customer service experience and they would all fit. A “project management job with some technical aspects”. What you really need is to narrow your scope and figure out what individual skills you need. A project manager experience is going to have a PMP or related cert. You want them to have a projects managing a certain budget under their belt. Etc. Or maybe you want someone with healthcare field experience interested in working on non-patient facing projects (so not really the lawyer or CS).

      Yes, a lawyer and CS are going to demand the high end of the scale if not more because those jobs pay much better than most customer service jobs. If you are asking for project management experience but not pricing that into the range, that might also be an issue.

    7. Nico M*

      I dont understand why the LW is bothered.
      So a candidate chances their arm and asks for 40% more than the add. So what? If their application was not outstanding , bin it. If theres a trend that mist of the best candidates are asking for a lot more, you are underpaying or overspecifying.

      If i saw a job offering 10% under market, id think “cheapskates” and pass. 40% under and im morbidly curious – since their offer is nonsense why not ignore it?

  1. Eliot Waugh*

    There’s definitely not enough info in #3 to know for sure, but it definitely is more likely for smoking to be a hiring deterrent in health related roles. I know I definitely wouldn’t be delighted to get healthcare from anyone who smelled of any kind of smoke.

    1. MK*

      Also, even we take the negative perception of smokers, especially in healthcare, out of account, she is still a candidate…who smells. I would think any noticeable smell, even if not particularly unpleasant, would work against the candidate, perhaps unconsciously. I find myself backing away from people who put on too much perfume.

      1. Mangled Metaphor*

        Also a potential double whammy.
        my sister-in-law’s step sister smokes. She knows this makes her hair and clothes smell, so she liberally douses herself with perfume/body spray!
        Now she smells like overpowering flowery cigarettes.

        Only marginally better is the young man I work with who vapes instead. He thought he was being subtle, but no-one can go through that much strawberry bubble gum in a day (and require going outside to do it) to have the residual scent linger.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

          That’s a common error that I was definitely guilty of. I apologise to all the people I made gag with Lush perfume plus cig stink in 2001.

          Also, all the febreze stink.

          I’m curious though, I thought vaping didn’t leave you with the stinky breath afterwards? I know some of my staff vape on their breaks but never noticed a smell.

          1. Charlotte Lucas*

            It gets in clothes, etc. I can smell the fake flowery/fruity smell and don’t find it any less offensive than tobacco smoke. (Ftr, I dislike both.)

            1. Mangled Metaphor*

              I’m also not sure the young man I work with takes wind direction into consideration, blowing the water vapour into his hair and onto his clothes.

              Or I could be doing him a disservice, he really *is* using multiple packets of strawberry bubble gum a day and decides to store the partially used gum unwrapped in his pockets…

          2. amoeba*

            Febreze, unlike perfume, actually works to neutralise smells though! (It would work without any smell at all – which was how it was originally marketed and nobody would buy it. Fascinating story, actually! And I wonder whether nowadays there wouldn’t be a market for a scent-free febreze…)

            1. Pet Jack*

              Probably! I HATE the smell of fabreeze. One time our cleaners sprayed it all over my pillows and couch and I was choking. If you could eliminate odors without the side of full on chemical smell, that may be ok.

            2. Ama*

              Back in the day before my city banned smoking in bars, I used to use Febreeze as soon as I walked back in the house from a night out — if I was too tired to take a shower right away I’d even spray some on my hair so I wouldn’t wake up to a pillow smelling of smoke.

              I seem to be developing my mom’s allergy to cigarette smoke and strong perfume the older I get, though, so I wouldn’t even go in a bar if smoking was allowed now.

            3. Charming Charlie*

              I will say it doesn’t work on cat pee, even after washing – just ask my poor backpack – the only thing that absolutely worked once and for all was 1:1 water to white vinegar solution. Just in case anyone was wondering :’)

              1. Broadway Duchess*

                This and a pretreatment concoction of baking soda paste is the only way I rescued my beloved Cubs world series tote from an angry cat once I picked her up from the kitty hotel. I have had moderate success with coffee grounds for less offensive but still strong odors (father-in-law smokes like a chimney!).

                1. Butterfly Counter*

                  I used a baking soda paste with hydrogen peroxide and dish soap when my dog got sprayed by a skunk. It worked! And skunk spray is pretty oily and can be hard to wash off. (That was a fun 5am…)

              2. t-vex*

                Weirdly my brain can’t really tell the difference anymore between cat pee and bleach. It’s a little concerning

              3. I Have RBF*

                We use liberal amounts of Nature’s Miracle, and enzyme cleaner, with our cat laundry (pee and barf stains.) We buy the stuff by the gallon.

            1. Broadway Duchess*

              Maybe it’s brand dependent but I have two cousins who vape and I can definitely smell the cotton candy and strawberry scents (flavors?) long after they’ve left.

          3. Quill*

            I have to apologize to literally everyone who worked with me when I got my first car.

            It took only a few weeks for the upholstry to reveal that the previous owner was a copious smoker, and then it got hot out, and I definitely had colleagues coming to me in concern about the smell. Thank you for your concern, little old ladies of the local outlet mall, but that’s just the reek of my car! I scrubbed it with instant coffee pads! It didn’t help!

        2. The Prettiest Curse*

          Wow, the flowery smoking lady must be extra-determined to take out anyone in her vicinity with asthma or allergies. Smokers, we can still smell smoke (and in my case, react to it) regardless of whether or not you try to cover it up with scent.

          1. DJ Abbott*

            Also, I’m extremely allergic to tobacco smoke. If someone exuding tobacco fumes was coming to care for me, I would have to ask them to leave. I’m sure any health care practice would get lots of complaints about this.
            I’m not allergic to weed, but wow, what a stink!! And it burns the inside of my nose. And many are allergic to it too.

            1. lilsheba*

              Actually you can’t be truly allergic to cigarette smoke, this is from a google search: “While it is possible, and quite common actually to display signs of allergic rhinitis/asthma. While they are airborne villains to avoid, they are not classified as allergens. They are technically called irritants, due to the chemicals they contain.”

              1. Properlike*

                @lilsheba – why are you policing other people’s experiences with google searches?

                There is a phenomenon of second-hand smoke where the chemical and particulate byproducts of cigarette – and vaping, FYI – are transmitted via a smoker’s clothes and skin.

                To say vaping exhalation is “just water” is to call acid rain “a light shower.”

              2. Ms.Vader*

                It doesn’t matter if it’s an allergen or not – it matters that it’s triggering a reaction which isn’t the fault of the person who doesn’t smoke! I’ve got asthma – my attacks are very real and I really don’t care if it’s from allergies or an irritant! You’re not smarter than others because you can google. This is a ridiculous response.

              3. DJ Abbott*

                Yes it is a full-blown, debilitating, non-IGE allergy. I know this because the symptoms are delayed. At the time of the smoke, I just get a little inflammation. The next day, and for the following 2-3 days, I have a pounding headache, stomach on fire, body aches, congestion and irritability.
                The medical establishment only just got around to studying non-IGE allergies in the mid-2010s. As far as I know, they have never studied tobacco allergy. Please keep in mind they don’t know everything and don’t know as much as they think. Tobacco allergy is very real and millions of people experience it. Tobacco is a plant. It is common to be allergic to plants.

              4. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

                There is little or nothing that you can’t be allergic to. And a google search is not remotely alternative, especially now that they throw ChatGPT output into the search results.

                If enough people post online (including on comment sections like this one) that you can’t be allergic to moonbeams, google will repeat that. If a lot of other people post that all redheads are allergic to moonbeams, google will tell you that. Google, not being a human authority, is entirely capable of telling you both that nobody can be allergic to moonbeams, and that all redheads are allergic to moonbeams, and that moonbeams don’t exist.

            2. I Have RBF*

              I’m allergic to artificial scents. As in coughing and unable to breathe allergic. My wife is allergic to weed smoke. She gets physically ill just smelling it on heavy users.

              I used to smoke, and I can handle cigarette smoke. But if someone tries to “cover it up” with perfume? Get them the F away from me, I like breathing.

        3. Eldritch Office Worker*

          People who say vaping doesn’t bother other people/isn’t noticeable definitely aren’t working with this guy. I have also worked with this guy.

          1. doreen*

            I think a lot of people who say vaping isn’t noticeable or doesn’t bother people are only thinking of the smell etc. of regular cigarette smoke. Because the vaping might have a different smell or affect people differently ( since it isn’t actually smoke) but that’s not the same as no smell/effect at all.

            1. Eldritch Office Worker*

              “It’s water vapor it’s not making you cough you’re being dramatic” I AM NOT SUPPOSED TO BE BREATHING WATER VAPOR EITHER, KEVIN.

              Okay that was pent up sorry ;_;

              1. I'm just here for the cats!!*

                Also, water vapor doesn’t smell fruity Kevin!

                * I have no idea who Kevin is but I think we all know someone like Kevin

              2. Ace in the Hole*

                You are, in fact, supposed to be breathing water vapor. Breathing when there is no water vapor (zero percent humidity) causes rapid dehydration and irritation to the lungs, nose, sinuses, throat, and mouth.

                But… vapes aren’t just water vapor. It’s water vapor plus other chemical additives. Flavorings, nicotine, etc. Otherwise no one would bother vaping. We’re supposed to be breathing water vapor. We’re not supposed to be breathing grape bubblegum juice.

            1. Pet Jack*

              Vapes are very toxic and even if it’s not the burning smell, the chemicals, flavoring, etc are still being heated and released.

        4. WhyAreThereSoManyBadManagers*

          OMG that would kill me, I’m very allergic to both cigarette smoke and perfume. Gross. Why do people do that to themselves and others. OP, I also would never hire someone who reeks of cigarette smoke, it’s too disruptive and off putting to other employees and customers.

          1. Cyborg Llama Horde*

            I might feel bad about excluding a good candidate from the pool because they smelled like smoke, but working in close proximity to someone who smelled strongly of cigarette smoke would significantly decrease my happiness in my job, and I would not want to put myself (or my asthmatic coworkers) in a situation where I had to deal with that every day.

            1. Ess Ess*

              In an old job when I worked as a receptionist, we had an employee that would smoke in their car and their winter coat absolutely reeked of smoke because it was so permeated from smoking in an enclosed small space. For some reason, she refused to hang her coat in her own cube and always hung it on the guest coat rack 4 feet from my chair. I had immediate severe headaches within minutes of her arriving and constant wheezing all day from my asthma because of her.

          2. MusicWithRocksIn*

            Plus any time you hire a smoker you know they are going to be running off every hour or so for a smoke break. In a lot of doctor’s offices that means leaving a large building and going to the other end of the parking lot (can’t smoke by doors in doctors offices or hospitals) so they will be taking much more frequent and longer breaks then the other employees. Yes – I’m sure there are people out there that stay inside designated breaks, but most of my experiences working with smokers is they are gone a lot (and get extra cranky if they can’t go to smoke when you get busy).

        5. lyonite*

          I used to work with a guy like that–you could tell any part of the building he had been in because the smoke/perfume smell would linger for a good twenty minutes after he was gone.

        6. Skytext*

          There is an odor-eliminating product called “Poof” (aimed at pet accident odors) that has a commercial going right now that cracks me up every time. At one point the voiceover says “eliminates odors doesn’t cover them up” and shows a cartoon of a poop emoji dancing and saying in a sing-song way “I smell like poop and flowers now!” I’m chuckling just writing this lol.

          1. Mangled Metaphor*

            “I smell like poop and flowers now!”
            OMG! That is hilarious – I’ve got to send this to my SIL!

      2. Observer*

        even we take the negative perception of smokers, especially in healthcare, out of account, she is still a candidate…who smells.

        Yes. It really seems possible to me that what’s putting off prospective employers is not that she smokes per se, but that she *smells* of smoke. Which would mean that if she smoked but took care not to get the smell on her clothes, many employers might not mind.

        1. I Have RBF*

          Even people who live with heavy smokers can end up smelling of smoke if the person smokes indoors.

          I had a roomie that was a chain smoker, and her room reeked. I used to smoke myself. Most of the time I smoked outside because stale smoke stinks, and I didn’t want it in my room, and after that one roomie, I didn’t want it in my house.

          Some of my current roomies still smoke, but our rule is “no smoking in the house”. We have a covered smoking area in the back yard that still allows good air flow. It works out much better, and reduces the fire hazard immensely.

          1. Mx*

            I have a non-smoking friend who lives with smokers. Whenever I visit, I always leave with my clothes and hair reeking of stale smoke after only a few hours. I’ve gotten into the habit of changing immediately after I get home and spraying my hair with dry shampoo.

    2. duinath*

      fr. in the hospital in my town, there’s signs everywhere saying do not smoke for health reasons, and i’m not talking inside, here. last time i had a procedure done at a hospital i had to walk like 200meters to get to a place i was permitted to smoke.

      some people do it anyway, of course, but it’s unkind to the patients, imho.

      if you’re showing up to an interview somewhere people could be sick, and you smell like smoke, that’s gotta invite some questions about your judgment, right? allergies, asthma, i’m not an expert but if your first in person impression is “i don’t care enough about your patients to wear fresh clothes” that is not good. looking back to when i still smoked, fresh clothes weren’t even an option, cause i would be smoking the whole way there.

      1. BubbleTea*

        Whereas I’ve never been to a hospital that didn’t have multiple staff members standing outside in uniform, smoking. Nurses and healthcare assistants seem more likely to smoke than not.

        1. JulieA*

          This! My sister is a charge nurse for her local hospice, but she formerly worked in Oncology, and is and was a heavy smoker, so she’s seen first hand the affects smoking has on the human body. I am a former smoker myself, and I know how hard quitting can be, but it’s heartbreaking.

        2. Pet Jack*

          was going to chime in to this. If you look at the pavilion “off campus” where people have to smoke, there are always TONS of healthcare workers. I’m not judging them, they are no different than anyone else who smokes and now has an addiction to it. Their jobs are very stressful and I don’t think people in general look at health PREVENTION as much as we might think.

          1. saskia*

            (Note: comment above is meant to be slightly flippant and humorous.)
            The hospital I worked for was actually a smoke-free campus. Still, people would go to extreme lengths just to have a cigarette. I was fine with working on a smoke-free campus, but I don’t look down upon healthcare workers who still have the habit.

            1. Alpacas Are Not Dairy Animals*

              Flippant or not, we can’t have a system that works nurses like we currently do and not expect them to resort to the legal stimulant that doesn’t make them need more pee breaks.

        3. Butterfly Counter*

          I was about to post this! Back in the late 90s when I worked in a hospital, it was easy about 25% of hospital workers stealing a cigarette every few hours and coming back in smelling AWFUL. I don’t even mind the smell of smoke that much, but some coworkers smelled like they’d bathed in wet cigarettes after their “little walk outside.”

      2. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        Smokers literally don’t realize their clothes smells, their hair smells, etc. Because they are nose blind to it. My older sister smoked. I lived with her for a while and even though I did not smoke, my clothes still smelled of smoke. She never noticed it. Not even when she took a white shirt out of the back of her closet that had brown tobacco stains on the shoulders from the stuff in the air settling on it.

        1. amoeba*

          There’s also huge differences between smokers! With most people, I don’t notice any smell at all or hardly any on them – and then, occasionally, I meet someone who smells like a walking ashtray. No idea what the difference is – pretty sure it’s not the amount of cigarettes a day and they all appear to have normal hygiene standards. Maybe genetic? Maybe something about how you handle laundry?

          1. Pet Jack*

            May be the types of clothes too, some hold on to smells more than others, in general. Washing in cold and making sure the smell is gone before drying is also important. Once you dry a stink….good luck getting it out. It’s like a stain.

          2. Daisy-dog*

            The keys from co-workers who surprised me by telling me they smoked:
            – Do not smoke inside your home or car.
            – Wash your hands immediately after smoking.
            – Breath spray.

      3. BatManDan*

        I can state categorically that if she is applying in healthcare (and related) fields, smelling like smoke is an automatic disqualifier. The following anecdote is not proof of my assertion, but it illustrates the degree of avoidance; I once worked on an ad hoc team of insurance agents assigned to help with annual enrollment of employee benefits at a large hospital group (6000 total employees, less than 30 work days to get it all done, means we had to pull agents from all over the country for the blitz). We were all recruited, assigned, and paid by the insurance company offering the benefits (which is standard). The hospital asked the liaison at the insurance company to send the two ladies that smelled like smoke every day (even though they never smoked on site) to go home and replace them with someone else.

      4. DJ Abbott*

        I worked in a hospital and it was a “smoke-free campus”. Sadly, people still smoked in the garden and near the doors. One time I was leaving work, and a newborn baby and mother were waiting in the lobby for their ride. Some smokers, who were by the door and refused to move, were putting cigarette smoke into the lobby for that newborn baby.
        There was a garden that had no smoking signs all over, and employees would go out there to smoke. Of course, this made it impossible for anyone else to enjoy.
        I reported the incident with the baby, and they eventually got a valet and security service for the front door. There was still a little trouble with people who wouldn’t walk all the way off campus to smoke, but it was much better.

    3. Be Gneiss*

      When I worked there 10 years ago, our local hospital quit hiring smokers, and the entire campus is smoke-free, including in your car in the parking lot.

      1. Armchair Analyst*

        friend was in HR in the early 00s and already her company prohibited hiring smokers. she learned that this was acceptable practice as smokers are not a protected class in the way of sex race religion etc.

        perhaps the applicant could chew nicotine gum or use one of those less odorous vapes? I don’t know.

        1. DJ Abbott*

          It would be great if more smokers used alternatives when it’s inappropriate to smoke. They could carry nicotine gum and/or an e-cig and smoke only when they can get to an appropriate area.

        2. 1849 Wisconsin*

          If you follow Alison’s link, apparently there are “Smoker Protection” laws that basically make “smoker” a protected class in 29 states.

          (For some reason, the bald statement “The American Lung Association does not support these types of laws” strikes me as funny.)

          1. The Shenanigans*

            Out of curiosity, I’m wondering how those laws work with laws that basically make smoking in public illegal. Like you can’t smoke in public where I live except in specific bars in specific areas of the bar.

            1. D'Arcy*

              In general, such laws state that employers cannot require employees to refrain from smoking *off the clock* as a condition of employment unless there’s a bona fide occupational requirement, but do not make smokers a protected class in terms of ‘general’ civil rights.

              (Which would be deeply fucked up).

      2. DataGirl*

        The last 2 hospitals I have worked at test for nicotine as a condition of employment, you will not get hired if you are a smoker.

        1. Broadway Duchess*

          I’ve seen some places locally start this policy and I’m of two minds about it. As a non-smoker with a really accuse sense of smell, it’s great, but then I wonder what other habits can become disqualifies, too.

          1. 1849 Wisconsin*

            My feelings are also mixed. I hate the smell of cigarettes, but this does feel like punishing people who are already suffering from addiction rather than supporting them in making a change.

          2. DJ Abbott*

            Maybe make hiring contingent on smoking cessation program? But then some people would fail the program, and the company would have to go through the hiring process again.

          3. I Have RBF*

            I’m an ex-smoker. I quit in 2020. I still won’t work for companies that discriminate against smokers by testing for nicotine. Smoking is still a legal activity, so IMO no company has the right to restrict a person’s non-work activity like that. No, I don’t care about their excuses about health care costs, etc. They can say “don’t smoke on-site”, but anything else is not their damn business.

            1. Distracted Librarian*

              I hate being around smoking, and I agree with you. Ban it on company property, forbid people from coming to work smelling like it–no problem. But people’s private activities outside of work are none of an employer’s business.

        2. Global Cat Herder*

          My employer (not a healthcare provider) is non-smoking and tests for nicotine as well as the typical “we’re a federal contractor so we have to do a drug test” screening.

          The health insurance premiums are a WHOLE LOT lower because of it.

    4. RabbitRabbit*

      Last I checked, the hospital where I work is still hiring smokers, but you get a significant discount off your health insurance premiums if you are a non-smoker or if you actively enroll in smoking cessation efforts. COVID’s disruptions basically ended a lot of that while the hospital focused on more urgent health matters but I expect they may re-implement that part of the employee wellness focus at some point in the future.

      Smoking is not allowed on our hospital campus either – you have to walk pretty far out to a public sidewalk area to get into the smoking-allowed region. (Nicotine-using inpatients may get offered options like patches, I suspect.)

      I agree that any kind of disruptive smell may be a deterrent to an interviewer, regardless of the type. If you’re presenting your best in an interview and there’s a stink of some kind, that can come off like a warning.

      1. NotBatman*

        Yeah, I work on a school campus, and I think I’d consider it a small, but non-zero point against a candidate if they stank of smoke. A smoker is going to have to take at least two breaks a day half a mile from their office, or else break the law by smoking on campus. And they’d be exposing students to third-hand smoke from their clothes and belongings.

        If a highly qualified smoker ever applies, I’d be happy to hire them anyway. But if it came down to two equally-qualified candidates and one smoked while the other didn’t, I’d lean toward the non-smoker.

    5. Earlk*

      Slightly biased because I smoke but there is a large difference between how someone who just smokes smells and someone who reeks of smoke.

      I have a few colleagues who smoke as well and we were interviewing someone who made the entire room smell of smoke after she’d left. And if a smoker can tell, that’s pretty bad.

      As long as the niece makes sure everything is washed regularly (including coats/scarves etc.) She shouldn’t smell so bad that it’s offputting.

      1. Jennifer Strange*

        As long as the niece makes sure everything is washed regularly (including coats/scarves etc.) She shouldn’t smell so bad that it’s offputting.

        Not necessarily. If she regularly smokes in her home and car then the smell has most likely permeated them and started to cling to furniture/seats/etc. so simply by sitting on a couch/in her car she absorbs the smell. My brother and his wife smoke, and one time I slept on their couch and ended up smelling like smoke for days.

        1. Lily*

          When I was a home health nurse, there was one patient we all saved for the end of the day. They were a decades-long smoker and their house and EVERYTHING in it reeked of stale cigarette smoke.
          Even for a short 30-minute visit, I’d leave the house stinking of stale cigarettes and couldn’t see any other patients afterward.

      2. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Offputting is a subjective measure. In something like healthcare, noticeable smoke smell is likely to be a negative regardless. It would be for me too, simply as a smoke-reactive asthmatic.

        1. Earlk*

          not singling you out but the people in the comments claiming that healthcare jobs are even less likely to hire smokers is so funny to me, as someone who works in healthcare.

          1. Eldritch Office Worker*

            It’s a clearly stated policy at the hospitals and doctor’s offices around me. There are likely regional differences to this, just like the laws around smoker’s rights vary. But the commenters who are saying it’s a negative in healthcare are also largely identifying themselves as working in healthcare so this isn’t a manufactured reality.

      3. Lily Rowan*

        Yeah, it really depends. When I was a smoker, people were often surprised — even people like my hairdresser, who were standing very close to me and had no reason to lie. It’s at least partly because I always smoked outside and washed my hands right after.

        1. I Have RBF*

          It’s at least partly because I always smoked outside and washed my hands right after.

          This. It’s very different living with someone who chain smokes inside, and someone who only smokes outside. I will never tolerate an indoor smoker again if I have any option.

      4. nopetopus*

        Also a smoker here. It really depends on what you smoke, as well. I reeked when I was smoking regular filtered cigarettes, even though I only smoked outside. Now I smoke lights, which aren’t any better health-wise but I’ve had multiple coworkers shocked to see me outside smoking. In their words: “You never smell like smoke! Really? You’re a smoker??” If it was just one or two people, I’d assume they are just being nice. But it’s been over a dozen in the last few years.

        But I’m also sure that there are coworkers of mine who smell it on me. I wash my hands after each smoke break to try to help, but there’s only so much one can do.

        1. DJ Abbott*

          Is someone who is extremely allergic to tobacco smoke, it’s not the smell that’s the problem. It’s the fumes making me sick.

      5. Yoyoyo*

        For people who do not smoke, even the person who doesn’t “reek” of smoke but smells like it is unpleasant and the smell is not subtle. I am not a smoker and when I used to do home visits to people who smoke, it was very difficult and other non-smokers definitely noticed the smell on me later in the day just from sitting in their house for an hour (and they weren’t actively smoking during my visits). I would shower immediately after getting home and put my clothes right in the washer. Smokers really, really do not realize how much they smell of smoke.

        1. Golden*

          Thirding this. In college my boyfriend’s parents were smokers, and when I’d visit their house and come home my luggage would make my family’s entire house (which was quite large) reek of smoke.

          1. Jaunty Banana Hat I*

            This. My MIL used to smoke (had to quit when she was put on oxygen for COPD) and their house reeked, as would we if we spent the night. After spending the night one Christmas Eve, the next day when we went to my mom’s house, we had to wash our clothes that we brought, because everything smelled like smoke even though we hadn’t even taken it out of the luggage. From then on, if we were going anywhere other than home after visiting them, we kept our luggage in the car. We changed into fresh clothes just before leaving.

          2. MusicWithRocksIn*

            My husband’s parents smoke. Once we came home from their house and I pulled a hoodie out of my bag – that I did not wear that weekend! It was just packed in my bag – in our room that no one smoked in! I pulled it out and it reeked of smoke from just being in that house. I had to start washing everything we brought over there.

        2. Jennifer Strange*

          Fourthing. As I said above, my brother and his wife smoke. They even make a point of not smoking in their house (they have kids, and want to be able to sell it someday) but there is still a sticking odor of cigarettes every time I visit. The smell clings more than people think.

    6. Mystery Mongoose*

      Many years ago the hospital where my parents live banned all smoking on hospital property. You weren’t even allowed to smoke in your parked car if it was in the hospital parking lot. I don’t know how common that is at other healthcare facilities, but I would wonder if that’s another factor here. If they realize she’s a smoker, and they don’t allow smoking anywhere near the building, then that’s a logistical accommodation problem.

      1. 1849 Wisconsin*

        I worked for a healthcare-adjacent company, and they banned smoking anywhere on the very large campus. Then they had to tell smokers to stop going to a neighborhood playground to smoke, either.

      2. MusicWithRocksIn*

        To be fair, parking in a car with the windows closed is gonna make you smell soo soo bad. Level 10 bad smelling smokers are always the ones that smoke in enclosed cars.

      3. AnonRN*

        In my state (NY) it’s a law that you can’t smoke on hospital property. Punishable by a fine, at least in theory. This includes the parking areas but in reality I often walk past a car where someone is smoking with the windows up and I don’t think anyone tries to stop them.

        I’ve never smoked and I have seen. some. things. that smoking will do to a person, but I’m sympathetic to patient’s family members who have to trek off-campus for a cigarette and don’t blame them for smoking in their cars.

    7. Beth*

      One of my allergies is to cigarette smoke — if any of my health care providers smelled like tobacco smoke, I’d have to leave the room and then find another provider.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Yes, it is a migraine trigger to me. And I am a former smoker, go figure (it becoming a migraine trigger was actually what helped me quit).

        1. 1849 Wisconsin*

          Isn’t having near-immediate consequences so helpful for changing habits? I know I should be wearing sunscreen in order to prevent skin cancer after 20 years, but the real reason I wear it is to prevent having painful burn after 20 minutes.

    8. DataGirl*

      Many hospitals test for nicotine when drug testing for employment, so if she smells like smoke they may be screening her out with the assumption that she will fail the test.

    9. Nonanon*

      Depending on the facility, healthcare in particular can be designated “smoke free” (no smoking allowed on campus)*. If she’s a smoker, interviewing at “smoke free” facilities, it may not be an outright strike against her, but may show poor research into the organization’s fit/culture/values.

      *I’m admittedly not super certain how smoke free facilities are protected legally; I worked in a smoke free research facility, but of our core managers would just go into campus parking lot (so allegedly a smoke free location) to have a cigar on a fairly regular basis, so I assume some implementation is YMMV

    10. AnonInCanada*

      Even in non-health related roles, deterring people who smoke for the purposes of keeping supplemental health care coverage rates lower would be an incentive to not hire smokers. As unfair as that may be for those that do smoke, many employers will make that a factor in hiring decisions.

    11. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      At least one large clinic system in my metro area does not hire smokers, makes people sign a form confirming that they do not and will not smoke, and apparently tests for using tobacco products (no idea how or if they truly do it, I’ve heard multiple rumors that they do). It is a huge clinic and one of the main employers in the area.

    12. The Shenanigans*

      Agree. There’s also the fact that a lot of health campuses are smoke-free now, especially if they share or are next to a university campus. The ones near where I grew up are so big that it wouldn’t be possible to find the smoking section and get back to work within a 10-15 minute break. Perhaps the interviewer is concerned that the niece will miss work. I mean I don’t know. As you say, there isn’t enough info. I just know that would cross my mind in the interviewer’s place.

    13. Misty*

      Aunt didn’t clarify, but I’m assuming neice smells like smoke. And is resistant to hearing about.

      I wouldn’t hire someone who smelled smoky, just like I wouldn’t I would hire someone who smelled of body odor, or cat pee, etc.

      If you don’t even show up for an interview odor free, what will u smell like on the job?

      Likely same for perfume that could be smelled across the table.

      Not only are these all smelly, but shows some poor judgement.

      Aunt mentions niece isn’t receptive, and I know many smokers refuse to believe that cigarette smells are annoy to toxic for others. So not sure if Aunt was looking for magic words to get through, but niece is going to have to live her life and maybe she’ll find another smoker who won’t notice and will hire her?

    14. Not the Marlboro Man*

      I am going to be honest: I hate smokers, because they reek.

      I wasn’t aware that smokers are a protected class. It ought to be legal to refuse to hire smokers. They should not get to claim the mantle of victimhood.

      Fortunately, now I know not to say “don’t hire Edward because he’s a smoker!” and instead to find some other reason.

    15. Dust Bunny*

      I work for a huge medical complex and smoking is banned everywhere on campus (with varying degrees of success in actual practice, of course). But, technically, someone who wanted a smoke break might have to walk several blocks and cross a major road to be in compliance. I don’t know that they wouldn’t hire her based on that, but it’s hard to picture how she’d make it work.

  2. nnn*

    What strikes me about the “logic” in #5 is that applying with a resume and cover letter is also a way to make yourself known to employers!

    (Also, I can’t believe this advice is still circulating – it was around when I was young, and led to many awkward moments – from both sides of the table! – when some new grad manages to convince a professional to give them an informational interview and just sits there looking expectant because they totally expect to be offered a job.)

    1. MassMatt*

      I’ve definitely seen this. Grads from my college email me very generic form letters via Linked in, I offer to answer questions and talk about what I do etc and most drop it at that point, the few that have replied were really unprepared.

      I hope my college isn’t teaching nonsense in their career center but signs point to yes. Maybe they are expecting job offers based on this interaction when I’m not even hiring?

      1. Tomato Soup*

        They absolutely do. I’m in grad school and checked out the webinars from our career center. This is definitely advice they gave. Worse still, they included “the template” to use and then assumed that a bunch of fresh from school students could just take it from there. No advice on researching people, etiquette, or how to actually conduct an informational interview in a useful way. They just assume you’ll figure it out or something rather than a skill you learn. A friend loaned me a book that laid it out for me and definitely helped me get my current job. Telling students, “Talk to them about their job.” ain’t it.

        have over a decade of personal

      2. kalli*

        They may genuinely not know the difference between a job interview and an informational interview. Some college career centers are that bad.

        1. MassMatt*

          Yes, many of them are, and perhaps the one at my college is one of them.

          But even if they don’t know the difference between an informational and job interview, at least they should be prepared for one or the other?

          I suppose I should be grateful that my few actual interviews that took place did not consist of the interviewers thinking they were candidates and expecting to get a job offer. But a few minutes of college small talk, then a few about what I do, and then what questions do you have leading to… crickets? is not much better.

          One actually asked what questions *I* had for them, about the industry they had not even entered. That was memorable at least.

          Also, oddly, I got several requests from people in Indonesia and Malaysia, I have no idea why, I could not have less of a connection there if I tried!

      3. Unfortunate Admin*

        One of my college instructors really insisted I do this to network and get out of my comfort zone, and it ended up being the most awkward phone call with me asking questions and the guy I was trying to network with just giving me one word answers. Coincidentally, I did end up getting a job at his place of work years later. I don’t think he remembered our conversation and I never brought it up.

    2. AGD*

      The career coach at my previous workplace went around assertively telling people to do 20 informational interviews in a month or their careers would fizzle out. I didn’t want to explain to her that I suspected nonsense, but…I suspected nonsense.

      1. Emmy Noether*

        20 a month?! That’s about one per workday! Between writing the initial emails (non-generic, and a lot of them, because not everyone will bite), setting up a date/time that works for both, preparing the interview, and doing the interview… that’s nearly a full-time job in itself.

      2. Cj*

        Was this a career coach that was hired to help employees find jobs after a big layoff? If it wasn’t, why on earth would they be giving advice to the company’s employee that would (supposedly) help them find other jobs?

        The fact that they said “or your careers would fizzle out” makes me think they didn’t give this advice due to layoffs.

        also, did they mean 20 in one month for just one month, or 20 every month? either is ridiculous, but I am curious.

        1. Snow Globe*

          I worked for a large corporation that had a contract with a career coaching firm that employees could use – the idea was to help people develop a career strategy at that company. So in this case, they might be expecting people to have informational meetings with other managers at the company, which would probably be easier to schedule than meetings with someone who went to your college but you’ve never met.

          1. Snow Globe*

            To be clear, the career coaching firm that I am referring to did not actually (AFAIK) recommend informational interviews.

      3. GammaGirl1908*

        That advice is completely illogical. So if you don’t manage 20 informational interviews, welp, you’ve fizzled out, that’s it for you and a job forevermore, and now you have to give up and go home and live in the basement and be unemployed and broke forever? Bye! Nice try! Good luck paying those student loans!

        The worst part about this advice is that it’s misleading about what informational interviews are. I made this mistake early on as well — I thought an informational interview was a backchannel into an actual job interview when it is not. It’s a way to network and a way to ask questions and hear more details about a career or field or company, but it is not a job interview and people need to stop hoping that it is or trying to finagle it into an interview.

        1. Antilles*

          it is not a job interview and people need to stop hoping that it is or trying to finagle it into an interview.
          Agreed, particularly since it’s incredibly transparent when someone asks for an “informational interview” but then shows up looking to pitch themselves for a job.

          1. Anne Shirley*

            This, absolutely. ^^ Just hearing “informational interview” makes me cringe. Using it for anything other than information-gathering is the Pick-Up Artist equivalent of career advice.

            1. Anne Shirley*

              Meant to add: transparent displays of “gumption” in job-seeking are preferable to using the magical shield of an informational interview. Neither are great, but at least the first is upfront.

              1. Observer*

                transparent displays of “gumption” in job-seeking are preferable to using the magical shield of an informational interview. Neither are great, but at least the first is upfront.

                Yes. And if I had to choose, I would definitely choose “gumption” in most cases. Because being sneaky tends to speak to character, whereas most (not all) cases of “gumption” are about bad information, and you have a greater chance of counter-acting that.

            2. Not the Marlboro Man*

              Just hearing “informational interview” makes me cringe. Using it for anything other than information-gathering is the Pick-Up Artist equivalent of career advice.

              That’s ridiculous. I would say that in over half the “informational” interviews I’ve had, the “interviewer” has immediately picked up on the fact I am potentially interested in working in the company in question. You should absolutely be prepared to go into selling mode if that happens. (In fact, I landed the best job I ever had via what I thought was an informational interview.) It’s all about being able to pick up on the cues the interviewer gives you.

              1. Antilles*

                Maybe that works for you, maybe you’re great at judging those cues, and subtly pitching yourself as a natural part of the conversation. If so, that’s perfectly fine, keep on your successful strategy.

                But I’ll just say that in my experience on the other side, you would be very much the exception that proves the rule. Whenever I’ve been asked to be part of an “informational interview” and the other person is hoping to get a job, typically that other person will make it maybe 5 minutes max before starting to pitch themselves. And that’s where it’s transparent and highly annoying because it’s clear that you had no actual interest in this “informational interview” or “learning more about Teapot Design”, you’re just trying to bs your way past our normal hiring process.

                The analogy I’ll use is if an acquaintance invites me over to their house for drinks…then I get there and it’s actually an MLM sales pitch. Wait, what? No, this isn’t what you told me it was when you invited me, I would have declined if I knew what this was, and I’m guessing that you were intentionally shading the truth to get me here.

          2. Butterfly Counter*

            Oh gosh. This comment unearthed a memory where I had the exact opposite experience.

            I went into a meeting expecting it was an informational interview, but they were fully expecting me to pitch myself. I was caught totally flat-footed and while I saved myself in that I did have some materials that I typically shared when I was on a job interview, I stumbled quite a bit even then. I never heard from anyone there again, even after throwing in my hat for a job opening that was actually advertised later that year.

      4. bamcheeks*

        I generally tell people that if they approach 12 people on LinkedIn and ask if they could do an informational interview and get 1 response, that’s a good batting average and they shouldn’t feel upset by it. Are you sure it wasn’t 20 requests in a month is a decent rate to get one solid lead?

        1. MassMatt*

          This does sound more realistic. Whether it’s the best use of your time is another matter, but it’s definitely better than suggesting doing 20 info interviews in a month. I have done 20 in my life.

    3. MK*

      Exactly. This advice conflates being known by employers in a meaningful way (they worked with you before, someone they trust vouches for you, etc.) and them simply being aware of your existence, even in a positive way. The first does lead to jobs, for the second sending your resume works just as well as an informational interview.

    4. Kayem*

      My uncle has been parroting this at me. According to him, the reason I don’t get interviews and offers is because 1) I need to do informal interviews to get myself “out there” and let employers know I’m interested in the job; and 2) I don’t have a Facebook profile for employers to look at so they don’t know what kind of person I am.

      I’m pretty sure submitting job applications is a pretty good way of putting myself out there and letting them know I’m interested but my uncle is adamant. Which is why I never follow his unsolicited job advice. Especially since he hasn’t hired anyone since the 70s and the kind of hiring he did required talking to neighbors to see what sort of fellow John Everyman was before making an offer. None of the jobs I’m applying for need that kind of scrutiny. If the local library needs to talk to my neighbors to determine if I’m a good fit, maybe I should find another library to apply to.

        1. Cj*

          the uncle said so they knew what kind of person you are, which would almost always be facebook, not linkedin.

          of course, uncle is wrong.

          1. 1849 Wisconsin*

            Apparently there are LinkedIn “influencers” who put their entire lives on LinkedIn, but I have no reason to believe that is anything but cringe-inducing.

            1. MassMatt*

              I have an in-law that does this and it is indeed cringey. Pics of his fishing trips, nonsense polls about election conspiracies, sport team stuff, etc. Most of the family has unlinked him.

              1. I Have RBF*

                Yuck. I would block that so fast…

                The stuff I most despise on LI is:
                a) sports stuff,
                b) political conspiracy crap,
                c) exercise bragging,
                d) “health” advice (most of which has a big side of fat shaming), and
                e) those oh so “positive” listicles about how you have to get up at 4 am, do everything perfectly and live on 5 hours of sleep to be “successful”

                There’s a reason that I stopped reading the articles every day. Too much absolute bullshit.

      1. Dear liza dear liza*

        Oh, library land advice. “Oh, we have a library in our town, why don’t you get a job there?” was a common refrain from relatives when I lived across the country. Not how it works, folks. Also not helpful for me as an academic librarian: “Your uncle plays poker with the Vice Provost of Non-Library Things; ask him to set something up.”

        1. Jaunty Banana Hat I*


          I had an acquaintance tell me (a librarian) she was thinking about getting a library job because it would be easy. Said acquaintance had zero library experience–not even volunteering. But she loved reading!

          Needless to say, she did not get any interviews.

          1. SweetFancyPancakes*

            I once had a library patron tell me that she would make a great librarian because she loves to read and knows the alphabet that “there can’t be much more to it than that”. She was not my favorite.

        2. Irish Teacher.*

          Same in teaching: “why don’t you get a job in the school in your town?” Um, even apart from the fact that I prefer working a little away from where I live so I’m not constantly bumping into my students and their parents and hearing, “Miiiiisss, I saw you in the bookshop. You were looking at the mystery section. Do you like murder mysteries, Miss?” there’s also the fact that…heck, I once went for a interview for a six week job where the principal told me he’d had almost 100 applications. People hear about schools being unable to find teachers and don’t realise how much it depends on subject. Physics teachers and language teachers are very much in demand; my subjects not so much.

          1. Artemesia*

            I taught history and government over 50 years ago in high school and it was nearly impossible THEN to find jobs. I was lucky to get an offer in the school where I did my student teaching; it was one of two or three openings in the entire Seattle area my year. I doubt if it is better today for English or Social Studies teachers.

          2. Kayem*

            The other kind of listing I keep getting from well-meaning-but-not-listening relatives is ads for adjunct faculty at the local college. Which is something I’m looking for. But the subject areas the college is hiring are always physics, health science, and computer science. The subjects I can teach (geology, psychology, LIS) have zero shortages.

        3. Kayem*

          If I had a dollar for every time a family member sent me a link to a job ad for a grade school librarian…

          Sorry, but I guarantee they are not looking for a former academic librarian-turned-archivist with no certifications or grade school teaching experience. My evidence of this is the job ad which says they want both of those things, and my resume which is lacking both.

        1. Angry socialist*


          WTF am I supposed to do with an informational interview? I don’t need “information”. I need a salary and benefits.

      2. I'm #5*

        So funny – I have a family member who says the same thing about me and LinkedIn! And a lot of very similar advice-not-advice. Fortunately I’ve started getting interviews/good leads since getting this counsel.

    5. Jackalope*

      I had something of the opposite experience. I had read somewhere that informational interviews can be helpful in getting a job down the road, so I tried to set one up with someone I met at a job fair who worked someplace I thought sounded cool. (I still think it sounds cool, although now that I know more I suspect I have none of the needed qualifications… but I had NO CLUE at the time.) I tried to ask him for an informational interview and he was totally confused and apparently thought I was asking him for a regular interview for a job. My concept at the time, on the other hand, was more like interviewing him for a school assignment – the kind where you write a paper later on fans use the interviewee as one of your main sources. Looking back it’s probably just as well but I’ve always been a bit sad that I didn’t get to talk to him about what he did, because it sounded interesting.

    6. I'm #5*

      It just worked out that way for me! I applied the boring resume and cover letter way and got an interview. They hired an internal candidate but we had a great follow up conversation and things look promising from here.

  3. NeedAVacay*

    Dear LW1, just two years ago you were recruited into your current role! I’m not convinced your job prospects have changed so drastically in that time. Don’t let one jerk CEO influence your esteem given you were a sought out talent fairly recently. Start working that network. You got this!

    1. RedinSC*

      totally agree!

      I just got hired in to my new job at 55. they rallied hard to hire me. LW, you can get a new job. you’ve just got to get away from where you’re at right now.

      1. Cj*

        ITA. I’m 62, and just started a new job in June.

        I went through an external recruiter, who told me the company’s $10.000 range. I said my desired salary was right in the middle of the range.

        That was already 21% above my previous salary. they offered me $10,000 over what I was asking because they knew I other second and third interviews lined up with other companies, and really wanted me to accept their offer (no pressure from them to decide quickly, but I had already decided to take the job if the offered my at or even slightly below what I asked for).

      2. RavCS*

        I’m 67 and started my current job right before turning 60. Many fields look for experience and skills and age can be a positive factor for them.

      3. It Might Be Me*

        Another 60+ person who transitioned to a different employer recently. Received a major salary bump. All these scars count for something when employers are looking for experienced people.

    2. Pat*

      I agree! I hope you can find your confidence.

      I was very anxious to be job hunting at age 55, after spending 17 years at my previous employer. I was really worried about age discrimination, but I was going to be laid off, so I had no choice. And I had the advantage of being a reader of AAM. I followed the AAM job search advice, and I got a great job with an $18k pay increase from the old job.

      During the pandemic, I was laid off again, but I found an even better job, using skills I have been wanting to develop for a long time. I’m still there, and I still love it.

      1. Don't live to work*

        From the other side of the fence: we recently hired a over-50 person and the other candidate was in her late 20-ies. We went with the person who had more experience and who was looking for stability rather than advancement.
        Over 40 just means you bring other things to the table.

        1. Cj*

          This. 80% of recenthires at my job are new grads with no experience in tax preparation.

          it really is something you mostly need to learn on the job, because there is no way to cover anything but the basics in college because there just isn’t time.

          with so many accountants retiring or leaving the profession, that leaves few with a lot of experience, and they are highly sought after.

    3. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      Yup, that CEO is a bloody tosser but you’re never going to get an apology.

      But they hired you, I doubt you went from ‘ideal to hire’ to ‘too old to know anything’ in a couple of years! It’s harder, not gonna lie (late 40s, female, disabled, work in IT) but I’ve found that confidence can get you miles further in hiring. Go into it with the attitude of ‘it doesn’t matter what my age is, I’m worth it because I have the skills and experience’ and it does get a little easier.

      You’ve got the skills and experience. Go forth and conquer.

      1. Chauncy Gardener*

        Came here to say this! Landed a new job two years ago at 59.

        And for sure your CEO is a total jerk. “Bloody tosser” = best description!

      2. I Have RBF*

        I started my current job a year and a half ago at 60, in IT, fully remote. I have around 25 years in systems work. The company where I work underpays slightly, but for 100% remote? I went for it.

        I am AFAB, disabled, and now 62. Yes, it takes me longer to find a job because the pure tech world is ageist, ableist, and sexist as hell. But tech adjacent IT at a company (health care/biotech adjacent) that hires senior people as a matter of course is a good gig.

    4. londonedit*

      The idea that I might not get a job at the age of 42 because I’m ‘too old’ blows my mind. People get new jobs all the time, even if they are over 40! Or over 50! My boss is nearly 60 and only started his job about seven years ago. In the UK anyone can be a victim of age discrimination – if you’re unfairly dismissed or rejected on the basis of your age, that’s age discrimination whether you’re 20 or 60. It’s weird that the US ‘over 40 = age discrimination’ rule seems to have given people the view that over-40s are old or can’t get jobs.

      1. amoeba*

        Yeah. In addition, in my field people generally don’t have their first “real” industry job until their late 20s or early 30s – it certainly seems wild to me that after 10 years or less, you’d suddenly already be “too old” (after you were a very junior employee just a little while ago)…
        I’m in my mid-30s and still early career, and my coworkers who are older certainly don’t seem worried about career prospects in their 40s. It does get harder at some point (also because you become more expensive with salary increases), but I’d say not before… maybe mid 50s or so?

      2. Happy meal with extra happy*

        Just want to point that 1) the over 40 rule is federal and some states provide for age discrimination at any age and 2) one letter writer thinking they may not be able to find a job post 40 isn’t necessarily showing that people in the US think this.

      3. Sloanicota*

        Yeah I would have thought the 40s were the most desired time, TBH, because people my age are discriminated against for parenting reasons, and people in their 20s are dealing with still being treated as entry-level when they’re not. Like yes maybe your salary demands are higher, but nobody thinks a 40 year old can’t work hard or is just coasting to retirement (in 30 years!!). I would have guessed age discrimination in hiring would start kicking in more around mid-50s.

      4. BethDH*

        As a woman I feel like I get discriminated against LESS as I get older, at least in my white collar job environment. I would be curious to see stats on this by industry or job type, and adjusted for race or similar compounding biases.
        Wild speculation here, but I wonder if this is more likely to be an issue in highly physical jobs, or in jobs where appearance is often a factor in a specific way, like certain retail careers.

      5. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        > In the UK anyone can be a victim of age discrimination

        Yes, this happened to my ex. He was rejected for a supervisor role on the explicit grounds that he didn’t look “old enough” to be a supervisor in that environment (which I can understand if he had been only about 19-20 although this is still illegal, but he was about 27-28 at the time!) – they had had issues with previous supervisors being ineffective and instead of asking why that was in a holistic way, had concluded that they needed a supervisor who was a ‘badass’ and would whip them into shape, and that they would respect an older person more…

        (They also didn’t like his answer to an interview question about handling poor performance on the job. He answered that he would start by establishing why the work wasn’t where it should be — whether it is a case of attitude, lack of training, personal factors, etc etc. They said it doesn’t matter what the cause of the problem is, you just solve it!! It was a manufacturing environment, I hope they don’t apply that philosophy to technical issues…)

        1. Chocolate Covered Cotton*

          “They said it doesn’t matter what the cause of the problem is, you just solve it!!”

          Um, isn’t determining the cause of a problem kind of key to solving it? That’s like, “we’ve tried nothing and we’re out of ideas!”

          1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

            Yes quite – I can’t think why they were having issues as a company… apparently they had sacked a number of supervisors prior to this for not getting results. I am not sure if they recruited the wrong people (with “correct” answers to what to do about a problem…) or had recruited the right people but made it impossible for them to succeed.

      6. I Have RBF*

        If you work in the tech industry it is actually a real problem. Companies (coughIBMcough) have regularly decided to lay off or “manage out” people over 30(!!!) because they wanted “younger people with fresher ideas”.

        It happened to me at one company. They basically arranged to fire “for cause” 90% of their older, experienced people so that didn’t have do call it layoffs and do WARN act stuff. Then, to get actual severance you had to sign an agreement that stated that there a) hadn’t been any discrimination, b) you never experienced retaliation, c) even if the EEOC found against them you had to turn over any money you were awarded back to the company, and d) you couldn’t even mention the agreement to anyone. I didn’t sign it – I won’t sign lies that egregious.

        So there absolutely, definitely, and provably is age discrimination against people as young as 35 in high tech.

        A few relatively recent articles:

    5. Also-ADHD*

      Yeah, I’ve seen people change whole fields/careers after 40. Certainly senior level employees that age find new jobs in their field every day out there — even in a bad job market, that’s not rare, frankly. I feel like LW1 has been so beaten down by their company that it’s messed with their self-image or something.

    6. anonymous state employee*

      I completely agree!

      LW1, I was in my 50s and working in a leadership position when events changed to the point where I knew I had to move on. I took my time with the search and was very choosy about which positions I applied to and which interviews I took, but at age 54, I landed a job that ticked all the boxes on my list. I’m 66 now, still there, still thriving, and find the work so rewarding on so many levels that I’m not even considering retirement. It can be done!

      I wonder if possibly that jackass of a CEO has triggered something from a prior job (or even from your family of origin) that makes you think you are worthless. If you have access to a good counselor, you might find it helpful to explore that in therapy. Not that this is true for everyone, but I can absolutely attest to the fact that old unhealthy scripts I learned in childhood can and do creep back into my present-day interactions, and I can all too easily get myself into a negative spiral as a result. Part of the way I break that spiral is by recognizing that it’s happening, and therapy has been really helpful in growing my ability to see an impending spiral.

      Good luck to you in any case! You deserve better, and you’ll get it!

      1. Marzipan Shepherdess*

        It doesn’t sound as if LW1 is projecting anything from their past; in the present, the CEO has said that she can’t stand them, they’ve been demoted and the CEO won’t speak to them. This is NOT all in LW1’s head and going to counseling is NOT going to resolve it.

        LW1’s CEO is a jerk and is not going to change – their best bet is to get out of there ASAP.

        1. hbc*

          There are bad things going on at the current workplace, for sure, basically due to a snowball effect from one incident. That usually doesn’t make a straight line to “I’m completely unhirable” unless there are some things in your psyche that predispose you to pessimism or feeling unworthy.

        2. bighairnoheart*

          Agreed that the therapy won’t help the OP’s relationship with the CEO or ability to succeed in their current job. But it’s possible it could help with feelings of helplessness, fear of job searching, changing their mindset about how likely they are to succeed in other jobs, etc. Or not, who knows. But I think the latter option is more along the lines of why anon state employee was suggesting OP might want to seek outside help.

        3. Lily Rowan*

          In my experience, being demoralized from poor treatment at your job makes it really hard to project the confidence that helps get a new job, so a few sessions with a counselor/job coach/good friend could really help, outside of anything else.

        4. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

          I agree there doesn’t need to be anything from the past, but you must have missed this part that is entirely in LW’s head: “the idea of finding another job is terrifying and unlikely. But I also feel trapped”.

          The LW has known for at least a year that they need to get out, but they are telling themselves they are trapped. They are telling themselves they are unlikely to find another job, so they aren’t even trying. They are feeling terrified. That is what a therapist can help with.

    7. Johanna Cabal*

      LW, I was in your shoes not long ago, except it was the No. 2 in the C-Suite who couldn’t stand me. I started seeing the writing on the wall when other teams were getting laid off and work pulled from my plate (I’ve been through a “layoff” that I now think was a way to push me out, so that wasn’t happening again if I could help it). I did a soft job search and eventually found a position through a contact at a previous employer.

      FWIW, I’m also in my early 40s but life’s too short to deal with petty backstabbing.

      1. DJ Hymnotic*

        “Life’s too short to deal with petty backstabbing” is a whole philosophy (and a primary reason why I didn’t pursue a career in academia!)

      2. Work, Schmerk*

        Wow- brutal, I’m glad you got a better job. LW1- I think you’re realistic to be AWARE of age discrimination, but not to ASSUME it. It’s really dependent on industry and where you live. A certain booming city in the Mountain West is notorious bc a huge influx of younger people has made the city very young overall, but go 1 hour away, different story. AARP has a list of companies who are committed to giving older workers a chance. Think about remote positions for companies in areas where all the younger people have moved away. It never hurts to touch up any gray and make sure your clothing isn’t dated, but I hope you’re noting all the success stories in this thread. Your skills and confident will take you to the right place.
        Also, your CEO is a cretin and I hope a fly goes in her ear while she’s sleeping, and a bird poops on her expensive jacket.

        1. I Have RBF*

          One thing I do when I’m feeling “old and dated” when looking for a new gig is to dye my hair… purple. Not to cover the grey, but to fell invigorated when I look in the mirror. After all, who would believe that a “boomer” would dye their hair purple? (Lots of us do, but it’s still an anomaly.)

    8. DJ Hymnotic*

      To LW1, I’m only a few years younger than you, and I was in a very similar scenario last year. I wasn’t recruited, but it was an opportunity to work for a business that I admired, with coworkers whom I liked. A few months in, the owner posted a withering recording to the company WhatsApp trashing me in ways that I can only describe as mortifying. It made it clear that our relationship was broken beyond repair, and I resigned without another job offer in hand, reentering the job market with a very bruised and banged up self-image and self-esteem.

      Even though a couple of previous job searches had left pretty bad tastes in my mouth, this time around my first round of applications led to my current job where I am treated with respect by both my peers and my superiors. It took a bit of work and overcoming some unhappy memories of job searches past, but almost a year in I remain much happier now than I had been. I believe better things are possible for you, and I’m cheering for you.

    9. NewJobNewGal*

      Nothing happens overnight when you turn 40. At 40 + 1 day, you don’t wake up with an invisible ‘Do Not Hire’ aura that only interviewers see.
      I’m 45 and in the prime of my career. It took 20 years of experience to become an expert in my field. I’d have no problem finding another job if anything happened.

    10. Moodbling*

      I have hired people who were in their seventies at the time! Certainly we had a conversation about how confident they were that what they were looking for was a job & the details of the time commitment, but their age didn’t disqualify them.

    11. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

      Agreed! LW, treat this idea as a hypothesis. “Is finding a new job unlikely? Let’s see! I’ll go through all the same steps I always take to find a job and see what results I get.” I would bet actual dollars that your hypothesis is false.

      You’re a senior level person this company was excited to recruit a mere 2 years ago. You didn’t suddenly become old and worthless in 24 months. I do wonder why you didn’t immediately pivot when things went downhill. Why have you let yourself sit in Siberia stewing? What advice would you give a colleague in this same situation? I bet you would remind them of their strengths and tell them to reach out to their network and start the search. Give yourself that same advice and kindness.

    12. Generic Name*

      I’m an experience professional, and at 44 I just started new job last month. I even got a $35k raise (why yes, the last place underpaid me).

    13. Some Dude*

      I’m in my late 40s. I find that leadership experience is something that younger applicants are less likely to have, so you will likely be MORE competitive for those types of roles. Again, not to say that age discrimination (or gender/racial discrimination) aren’t real.

      This job is trying to convince you that you are worthless and the best you can hope for is to be stuck in this abusive position. They are wrong.

    14. A Simple Narwhal*

      Yes 100%! My dad is almost 70 and still has recruiters after him. He “retired” a few years ago and then got a new job shortly after because it was a tempting enough offer.

      Being in your 40s is absolutely not past your shelf life. Go get something better, you deserve it!

    15. Hills to Die on*

      exactly. I changed careers in my mid-40s and wasn’t even in a senior role. Seems like it’s a bigger issue in your mind than in reality. You don’t have much to lose by leaving and there are tons of opportunities.

  4. hellohello*

    I feel like an “informational interview” is way more likely to work to your benefit if it’s for an internal position, where you’re a known or at least semi-known commodity to the person you’re talking with, and they have an incentive to speak with you since you’re already their colleague. Outside of that, unless you have another personal connection with the person you’re talking to that could lead them to vouch for you in the hiring process, I have trouble imagining it making much of a difference one way or the other.

    1. Also-ADHD*

      So I changed fields recently (well over 2 years ago now) and very intentionally went into my vent field, and my current field is one where people often maintain a portfolio of work, which may be relevant here.

      I did get some offers though informational interviews and especially asking people to review my portfolio for feedback when they didn’t have a particular job. Not the one I actually took, but I got a lot of folks who became supportive of my career change and actively referred me to job openings not even just at their company but other places and to other people (my field can be a small tight network in a way), got me immediate freelance work, got me interviews immediately (I did have to put in applications for the process), etc. Networking and especially trying to sincerely learn made all the difference for me, in this particular change, and I think that’s the kind of story people point to but it’s not just cold calling people to ask about their company and if they’ll give you a job. In fact, I rarely asked anything like that! I asked about the field etc.

    2. ferrina*

      IME, “informational interviews” are a great way to get information. I’ve done these several times to assess if I wanted to work in an industry/company.

      In my industry, information interviews are a terrible way to get a job. Often the person you are talking to doesn’t have hiring power. Even if they do, they’d need to have business need and budget (and if they have the business need and budget, there’s good odds that they’ve already posted the opening). If you want to get the job, a better route is to get a job interview.

    3. NotBatman*

      Yeah, my husband works in a public-facing role for a very trendy org, and he gets 2 – 3 emails a week asking “to learn what the job is like.” Most of them are clearly unresearched — he doesn’t make hiring decisions, and all 5000 people with “a lifelong passion for llama grooming” missed that he’s head of goat breeding. A good 30% don’t even get his name right. He blocks the email address of anyone who sends one of those, with his manager’s blessing.

    4. Pink Candyfloss*

      I feel like this is also very industry-specific. In a field where creativity and having an active portfolio of your work is important, this type of networking can put you in front of more eyes. If I were a tax accountant or a very data-driven field or an individual contributor responsible for churning out deliverables regularly I’m not sure where the value-add is for these “informational interviews”.

      1. I'm #5*

        That’s exactly what I’m thinking. I’m angling to go into a science-based government field, whereas the person writing the newsletter is in a very corporate field that (I think) is more creative, networking-based, and individual work-oriented. I’ve been curious to see if there’ll be a newsletter about how people in the non-corporate world have benefitted from informational interviewing.

      2. Observer*

        In a field where creativity and having an active portfolio of your work is important, this type of networking can put you in front of more eyes.

        That’s probably true. And that would make these kinds of interviews useful in that kind of field. As Allison notes, informational interviews DO have some real benefits in many cases.

        The thing is, though, that too many people conflate this kind of benefit, which can be real, with direct hiring, which is a lot less likely, even in this kind of field.

    5. nonprofitpro*

      Another way to think about it! I think an informational interview is best when you’re exploring a career path. I sometimes recommend them for people who are part of AmeriCorps or who are college students. I do make suggestions about topics to talk about: what do you like about your role/industry, what don’t you like about your role/industry, what is an average week like, what kind of education is needed, do the job prospects look good for the long term, what’s the best way to enter this field. If you are thinking that you’d like to be an architect but have never met one it might be worthwhile to talk with one about the role before you invest in a degree. For some people who have broad connections because of their parents, this happens more organically (ie at a family bbq) but for people who lack those connections in their networks this can be helpful. Studies have shown that having access to broader networks help people with less financial stability in their own lives and their family’s lives have better economic mobility.

    6. lyonite*

      The worst one for me is when a well-intentioned relative or family friend insists on connecting me with someone they know in my industry, particularly when I’ve been between jobs. (I work in an industry where layoffs are a regular thing.) I’ve ended up having some (short, phone) conversations just because it’s easier than trying to explain that I’m pretty familiar with what the work is like and their friend is unlikely to be in my particular sub-specialty.

    7. toolate12*

      Informational interviews and building relationships are incredibly critical in my industry. Nearly every job I’ve gotten in the last 7 or so years came from an informational interview or pre-existing relationship, and in general even the jobs that are competitively posted across the industry often have a candidate in mind. Not to say it’s not worth applying blind (even if you know you’re going to be rejected because it’s clear the job description was written for someone else, it’s actually a great way to network with the hiring manager if you get an interview), but usually the best jobs rely on networking your way in somehow.

      1. I'm #5*

        See that’s what I’m wondering about, if this advice is industry-specific. If you don’t mind my asking, what field do you work in?

  5. Fikly*

    LW1: You describe yourself as having a breakdown. Mental illness lies to you, at a fundamental level.

    Two years ago you were hired into a very desirable role. Just don’t ask the CEO for a reference, and keep your college graduation date off your resume.

    1. pally*

      And keep the resume focused on the most recent 10-15 years of your work experience.

      Remember, the resume is to showcase the skills and experience one has; it’s not meant as a rundown of one’s entire career.

      Might also remove graduation dates for any other subsequent education acquired. Unless it’s recent.

      1. Marcella*

        I’ve been hearing this a lot lately – to only keep the last 10-15 years. Would that be viewed as deceptive if someone then went to my LinkedIn profile and saw additional positions?

        1. Donkey Hotey*

          You should be fine so long as the dates don’t overlap (saying you worked for X company for five years when you only worked there 3 and did 2 somewhere else).

        2. fhqwhgads*

          A resume isn’t meant to be a full accounting of everything ever. It’s a marketing document. In most cases, stuff you did 15+ years ago isn’t really helping your chances today anyway, so it’s not deceptive to leave it off. It’s tailoring.
          I’m sure some people might perceive it as deceptive, but I’d argue those people are being unreasonable. Unless they ask you about the older stuff and you lie about it, you’re not being deceptive.

    2. DJ Abbott*

      I started a new job just before my 60th birthday.
      For me the key thing is to not tell my colleagues my age. Back in the 90s I had trouble with colleagues getting jealous because I seem younger than I am, so I stopped mentioning it. When I was hired at my job I expect they thought I was around 50.
      Of course HR will see your age on your ID when they do the paperwork, but they have to keep that confidential.

    3. AbruptPenguin*

      So important! LW, please look for something better, it is out there. I work in a notoriously young industry (tech) and there are multiple people on my team who are in their 40s and 50s. Their experience is highly valued.

  6. Kate*

    LW1 I started back in the workforce in my early 50s and changed careers in my early 60s. I am v valued. Look at the stats and flip them. Here in Australia 20% of over 50s have a hard time getting a job, but 80%! are successful. They are good odds. I suggest you truly identify what you have learned from your experience as that always goes down well at interviews plus will make this sucky thing that’s happened a more positive thing moving forward.

    1. High Score!*

      THIS! I’m in the US and have switched jobs twice in my 50s. Many of my colleagues have found jobs in their 40s, 50s, and even 60s! Yes, at some places there is ageism but at many there is not. It is very likely for you to find a place you’ll be happier. Do it sooner rather than later!

      1. Anne Shirley*

        Totally agree! There are companies with wide age ranges that will welcome you. I have experienced this first hand.

  7. Ally*

    I personally have crossed smokers off my hiring list because I have to work closely with my employees, often sitting right next to them at a table, and I don’t want to smell cigarettes all day. I have asthma and chronic migraines so it’s a health hazard for me. If one comes in for an interview and I can smell smoke, I mentally just cross them off my list. Maybe it’s unfair, but I get so many strong applications for the roles I hire for I’m able to easily make this choice.

    (I’m not in one of the states where smokers are protected in any way.)

    1. Daisy*

      #4 – since Covid there are many part time/remote positions that used to be butts-in-seats only. Please, please just start applying (or even do freelance) at a decent pay rate. Look at salary dot com, Glassdoor, and graphic design/professional associations as to appropriate pay ranges.
      Your current employer is absolutely taking advantage of you. Decreasing your quality or productivity isn’t going to change her mind and will only hurt your self-worth.

    2. John Smith*

      I dont think you’re being unfair. Even without the medical reasons, turning up smelling of cigarette smoke is a no-no (I’m a former smoker and would never have a cig before an interview or while wearing interview clothes, and no, I’m not one of those militant ex smoker types!). If it were a strong candidate, would it be possible to raise the issue of smells in general as you would with, say, strong cologne/perfume or other scents that’s been raised on AAM previously?

      I completely disagree with Alisons advice that the LW has no standing to raise it with their niece. If it were my niece, I’d certainly raise it with her, but more of a question (“You’re not having a cigarette before interviews are you? If you are, the smell of cigarettes on clothes may be whats putting interviewers off”). I’d say it’d be unkind not to mention it.

      1. NotBatman*

        If nothing else, there’s the third-hand smoke research showing that existing in the same room all day as a smoker increases your cancer risk, even if the person always smokes outside. Tar and other carcinogens stick to clothes/hair/skin and transfer to shared surfaces.

        It’s wildly unfair that cigarettes are *so* hard to quit — every Philip Morris exec deserves jail time — but at some point workplaces have a right to protect their shared spaces.

      2. Firefighter (Metaphorical)*

        I don’t think this was a general comment about nieces , but a response to the OP saying this specific niece gets defensive when the subject of her smoking gets raised.

    3. Weez*

      I don’t think it’s unfair not to hire people who are voluntarily* stinking during an interview. People make an effort to give a good impression during interviews – they shower, dress up nice, etc. – so just imagine how bad it will be once they have the job.

      Besides, if someone is spreading third-hand smoke during a job interview, you don’t want to hire them and have them do that every day.

      *As opposed to people who stink because of a medical issue, for whom it is unfair (but in practice will probably still have adverse employment consequences).

    4. Frodo*

      I worked with a woman who smoked and applied perfume after each cigarette break. I couldn’t work with her. Like, literally, I could not breathe. It was a customer facing position and the customers started complaining.

    5. Rachel*

      That is absolutely your prerogative.

      As long as you are fine with somebody not hiring you because of a voluntary decision you make, there is no issue here whatsoever.

      For instance, if a hiring manager got a migraine from your laundry detergent and didn’t hire you, are you mad? If no, then proceed. If yes, think a bit more about this.

      1. Be Gneiss*

        People do not get hired over voluntary decisions they make all the time. I could say that I enjoy riding my bike to the farmers’ market in my free time, and the hiring manager could hate cyclists because his really annoying neighbor is a cyclist and decide not to hire me.

      2. Observer*

        For instance, if a hiring manager got a migraine from your laundry detergent and didn’t hire you, are you mad? If no, then proceed. If yes, think a bit more about this.

        That’s a really, really bad analogy. I do think that an employer has a right to not hire over getting migraines from what the prospective employee wore. But it is reasonable for the employer to let someone know about this.

    6. Justin D*

      I think those laws are more about merely knowing that someone smoked off premises (like you see them in the community smoking or you know them personally) and then not hiring them. Smelling like smoke isn’t really the same, that implies that they lit up right before the interview. It’d be the same with alcohol, there’s a difference between knowing that someone consumes alcohol sometimes and refusing to hire them and refusing to hire them because they smell like alcohol.

    7. Misty*

      How does the smoker protection worker? I get not discriminating based on smoker/not smoker, but smokers don’t have to smell!

      Just like not hiring someone with body odor isn’t discriminating against people who sweat, only those who don’t wash it off!

  8. MassMatt*

    #4 I hope you follow Alison’s advice and get out and get something better! Please give an update when you do!

    I wonder whether your having worked there a long time has warped your sense of worth, or perhaps you are self-conscious about needing a flexible schedule/WFH a due to needing to provide child care. But graphic design jobs are often REALLY well suited for that!

    I hope to read your update in a future “Friday good news!” column!

    1. Laura*

      LW#4, what MassMatt says, plus:

      You write,
      I started “working my wage” (basic designs, clipart, etc. as opposed to detailed pieces the customers were used to)

      This is a bad route to go IME, unless you have another outlet where you can do your best and keep up your skill level. With skills it’s “use it or you lose it.” Add to that the the place erodes your sense of self-worth, and you have a very bad combination.

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Yeah, this is a slippery slope. You don’t want people to see what you’ve done and think you’re not good at what you do, but I also understand phoning it in for this terrible boss. So the solution is definitely to get out of there, OP!

    2. Slow Gin Lizz*

      Seconding this! OP4, you definitely have mad skillz that many people and companies are looking for. Maybe you have zero desire to freelance (totally understandable) but it can be a lot more flexible, schedule-wise, and graphic design is one that people freelance a lot. And if your current employer is not giving you as many hours as you want or need, you could start now and do it whenever you are not working for your boss. Then maybe you’ll build up a large enough clientele that you can say sayonara to your terrible (and she sounds really terrible) boss. Or if you don’t want to go the freelance route, I’m certain you could find work at another company, even part time (or, again, if they’re hiring folks on a freelance basis). I also hope to read an update from you soon! Best of luck!

    3. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

      I think the LW should look for another job. However, if she wants to try to get more from her current employer, she should not say she doesn’t “feel valued” but talk about the market rate. Also, “she told me she doesn’t charge customers for artwork” is false. If the artwork is of value, it is built into the price. If it’s not of value, she doesn’t need a graphic designer.

      1. Observer*

        Also, “she told me she doesn’t charge customers for artwork” is false. If the artwork is of value, it is built into the price. If it’s not of value, she doesn’t need a graphic designer.

        Your whole comment is good. But especially this. I would also add, that it’s not your problem if she charges directly or not. This is the market rate and if it’s not worth it to her, then she doesn’t need you.

  9. ds*

    To OP#1, I’d just like to give you a ray of hope. I’m 40, will be 41 in October. I just changed careers back in February. Like, full on changed entire career paths. Not just adjacent, complete and total overhaul. And I’m doing just fine. It’s possible, you can do it.
    I’d also like to state that as someone who just summarily left a place with similar bitterness and outward disdain from a higher up… BAIL. Get out. Run and find somewhere that cherishes and values you. Trust me, it’s worth it.

    1. Van Wilder*

      Maybe I’m naive or biased because I’m newly 40, but I was momentarily confused by OP’s “40’s” reference. I see people in their 40s as being in the prime of their careers, with decades of experience behind them. And OP is in a leadership role, so it’s not like she would need to start over at entry level.

      Go get ’em, OP!

      1. Silver Llama*

        Agreed, I’m in my forties, and am just now reaching ‘mid career.’ We just went through a round of hiring for multiple positions at a similar level to me, and all our strongest candidates are in this age bracket because they have the experience we want and this is a common age/career point to move into a new role (so most older folks are established somewhere and less likely to apply, and younger applicants are just finishing training, and have less experience).

    2. Itsa Me, Mario*

      This! I’m 42 and it has never even occurred to me that I would face “ageism” in hiring! I have at least 25 more years of working life ahead of me. I definitely assumed this type of thing was more for people in their late 50s or early 60s, where a candidate in that age range might be thinking of retiring soon.

  10. nodramalama*

    LW1- This might be because I’m in an industry with a lot of movement at senior levels, but we have a lot of change over for senior management roles, and, because of experience, most senior people are also 40+ so I think you’re in a better position looking for a new role at a senior level than otherwise. I think if you start putting feelers out, maybe through your work networks, there will definitely be opportunities for you! Good luck! your CEO seems awful

    1. Joron Twiner*

      Yes, I don’t think it’s common to discriminate against people in their 40s for senior roles. Mathematically, people in senior roles will usually be 40+. It takes time to develop the expertise for senior roles. I have not seen many senior roles under 40 except at like, startups.

  11. non-smoking healthcare worker*

    LW3, smoking can definitely be holding her back from healthcare type positions. All hospitals that I have worked at (and most clinics that I know of) are smoke-free areas. Meaning she can’t even take a smoke break out front, out back or in her car. Can she make it 8 hours plus without smoking?
    You may not be able to tell her this directly, but maybe if it ever comes up in conversation you could mention something about it.

    1. Daisy*

      Yes, many research, laboratory, and healthcare positions are non-smoking. This isn’t just not smoking during the work day, many won’t accept the smell of smoke on clothing either. Smokers usually can’t smell cigarettes or vape on their own clothing – she will need to ask someone she doesn’t live with (and who will tell her the truth) if residual scents can be picked up from her clothing.

      1. Fieldpoppy*

        I’m also guessing that if she « gets really defensive » that also might show up as an edge in her interview in some ways, which wouldn’t help. If she’s defensive about smoking there might be other things she sounds a bit difficult about in the course of an interview.

        1. len*

          I don’t think this person’s uncle’s perception of her reaction to unsolicited job advice from him is likely to be indicative of how she behaves in a job interview.

            1. Meg*

              Or aunt. Does it matter? I don’t think I would have been keen on unsolicited advice from my aunt or uncle at that age, especially if the advice was as difficult as “kick this addiction you have to get a job”.

        2. Thatoneoverthere*

          It might be hard for the person who lives with her to tell her the truth too. My husband smoked for a long time. He never smoked in the house. However I became nose blind after a few years of being together. I hardly smelled it on him anymore. Honestly she really should quit. But if she can’t she needs a shower first, teeth brushed/flossed and mouthwash. Then clean clothes for the interview and not smoke on the way.

  12. Yentl*

    I work as a young, high-level professional in a field that is almost impossible to break into, and the final letter set off alarms for me. I absolutely have a job you can’t apply for, and can only be selected for by standing out. But you can’t set up “informational interviews” and expect to get hired. If you want to network, be explicit about the fact that you want to network. And assume you might just get a friend out of it, not a job.

    (FYI, my grandfather is a Hollywood screenwriter, so that’s partly where I’m coming from.)

    1. Cj*

      It’s extremely rare to be looking for “a job you can’t apply for”. I understood this better when you said your grandfather is a hollywood screenwriter, but you said you have a job you cant apply for, and I’m curious what that is.

      in any case, while it is most certainly bad advice, I’m not sure it rises to the level of “setting off alarms”, unless somebody is truely going to try and set up and informational interview every working day for a month. I think would be impossible to get that many people to agree to even if you tried.

      1. lunchtime caller*

        A lot of creative industries have that type of job, I’m in one myself. It is vanishingly rare for anyone to make a job posting, even on industry boards, for my job title. You get it by introducing yourself to the right people and making a sufficiently impressive pitch for yourself based on the body of work you built up while starting at the bottom. Or possibly by having a successful and connected grandfather, but I missed the boat on that one myself!

          1. lunchtime caller*

            Usually one where they don’t actually need to hire anyone, but they certainly could benefit from the right person. That might be an “apprentice” type role to a creative type like a producer, staff writer, photographer, etc. Or it could something that relies on a body of work or little black book to drive business, like a real estate agent, literary agent, interior designer, and so on.

            1. Itsa Me, Mario*

              All of the jobs you mention go through typical hiring channels. It may not be the kind of typical hiring channels that the corporate world uses, where you list a job on Indeed and get x number of resumes submitted. But it’s the same thing, just on a smaller scale. If you need an on-set stills photographer, you either call the appropriate union local and ask for an avail list, or you call the stills photographers you’ve used in the past, or you ask friends for their recommendations. You don’t find such people via informational interviews. Nor do you sit around waiting to meet a photographer at a party and hope they happen to be good at BTS work.

              1. lunchtime caller*

                Never said you got it by doing either of those things, actually! I’m one of those jobs on that list and got my job by emailing the places I wanted to work after getting introduced to their bosses via connections I already had, and then walking them through my body of work (so not quite a resume but more like a portfolio mixed with a cover letter). Was just commenting on the types of jobs you don’t apply for in the traditional sense.

    2. the bat in the office popcorn machine*

      > I absolutely have a job you can’t apply for, and can only be selected for by standing out

      > my grandfather is a Hollywood screenwriter

      Are these sentence connected in any way, shape, or form at all? Because Ink’s comment just below seems like the perfect companion to yours.

      1. Hlao-roo*

        Take this with a heap of salt because I have no experience in Hollywood, but I have heard (from the ever-reliable friend of a friend) that many positions in Hollywood are obtained by networking more than by traditional applications. I think “networking” covers both “my friend got a lucky break and was hired as a screenwriter on show X and then convinced them to hire me to be a screenwriter on that show too” and “my father/mother/cousin is [Position X] and asked their friend who is [Position X] on [Show Y] to hire me.”

        1. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

          I have a friend who moved to LA a few years ago to go to film school. She was always outgoing, but since she moved there she will literally chat up any total stranger within a few feet of her. Elevator, chat; bartender, chat; waiting for the bus, chat – she said she’s had to put herself out there even more just to get noticed. It’s all about building a network of people who might think of you the next time they need someone or think to introduce you to someone who might introduce you to someone else.

          She’s queer and said this is one of the reasons Hollywood has been so un-diverse for so long. Execs just keep pulling from the same list of people they already know.

          1. I'm #5*

            Oh gosh, I would practically do this in my last job! It involved crossing paths with people who often worked in the field while I was out working. I worked alone and was lonely, so I talked to anyone who I ran into. Mostly for my own entertainment but there was some networking thrown in.

        2. Itsa Me, Mario*

          Not really. It depends what the job is, but usually hiring practices are broadly similar to corporate hiring practices, they are just smaller in scope and more informal. It’s still the same basic routine of soliciting the resumes of people who are available, and finding the right fit. The real differences is that the openings aren’t listed publicly for the whole world to submit, and turnaround times tend to be really short. I’m now on the corporate side but worked in production for years. When I worked in production, I would get a call from a friend asking for my resume and then potentially have an interview that day or the next day, and be on the job by the end of the week. On the corporate side, I just had a recruiter screen yesterday which concluded with “I’ll reach out in a few weeks to set up next steps”. In my old life, there wouldn’t have been any kind of HR pre-screen, usually wouldn’t be multiple rounds of interviews at all, and the turnaround between each step would be hours or days, not weeks.

      2. Itsa Me, Mario*

        Yeah, I don’t want to rip this person a new one or anything, but there’s a strong whiff of “nepo baby” about this comment. Absolutely, there are some people who don’t need to wait for a job opening or apply for anything on their own behalf. But that’s not how it works, across the board, in entertainment. That’s how it works when your grandpa is a screenwriter and asks someone to hire you for an opening that may not even exist.

    3. Itsa Me, Mario*

      If you’re referring to the entertainment industry in general, here, informational interviews are absolutely not a thing, even a little bit. Even for “networking”. Networking, in entertainment, is being a good friend, collaborator, and community member among people at your own level. That way, when your friend who is an agency assistant gets promoted and is looking for clients, they will hip-pocket you. Your friend who becomes a production manager will think of you when looking for a gaffer. Your friend who gets staffed will be able to talk you up to the showrunner. Etc. Networking in entertainment is vehemently NOT asking someone more senior than you to do you favors. That pretty much never happens, beyond nepotism being at play.

  13. Ink*

    I wonder how much a silent “…with your parents’ network” is hanging off the ack of that advice. An informational interview defintely got my brother a job! …with a guy our dad worked with for years, who was explicitly willing to put in the effort to train him (FAR more than if he hired conventionally, brother was just out of high school) because he likes our dad and trusts him to assess his reliability. It was much more family connections than informational interview at work, but that sounds REALLY bad if you shill for it as practical advice!

    1. nodramalama*

      I think it also applies with just networks and contacts generally tbh. I work in a field where a lot of people know each other, and people have definitely been poached/offered a job based on a coffee or a lunch. I wouldn’t say it is strictly an “informational interview”, it’s almost less formal than that, but its along the same lines.

      1. GythaOgden*

        Yup. I definitely made use of my network at work to ask about things like data analysis and higher level admin work. I also go on things like the rare training day afforded to Reception or voluntary projects — partly because I am otherwise terribly bored at work, but also because it gets me exposure to other parts of the business and just how much work goes into keeping things running behind the scenes.

        I’m not a big people person outside of work but at work I do talk to a lot of different people in the course of my job and it really helped me move up in the company. You have to be somewhat proactive and engage with others, but it did help being in a front-facing role where people were naturally always having to come to ask for stuff.

      2. Retired Merchandiser*

        Yep. I realize merchandising is a whole ‘nuther animal, but I started out doing greeting cards (in my 40s after my original career played out) and I was forever being approached by other companies with a version of “I like the way you work. Would you be interested in working for us?” I would also find business cards left in my supplies storage area with notes to call them. I started carrying a copy of my resume with me so I could hand it out. I got to do a lot of interesting work that way.

      3. Bee*

        This is how I got my current job – I was looking to change companies but had some specific requirements, so I emailed basically everyone I knew in the same role, and one of them recommended I reach out to my now-boss because they might be open to bringing on someone new. Two lunches later I had an offer. But I was 8 years into my career at that point! An informational interview for a new grad would not have gone the same way.

    2. Knope Knope Knope*

      Yeah. I got my first job out of college this way. Not ashamed to admit it either. I’ve built a full career in a separate, tho related, industry over the decades since.

      I honestly don’t think informational interviews are a bad networking strategy. I’m getting 10x applicants than I normally get to my open jobs, and while I’d never just give someone a job from an informational interview, having prior knowledge of someone who seems like a go-getter couldn’t hurt chances either.

    3. ecnaseener*

      Yeah, that’s a great point. An informational interview is probably very helpful in getting you from “oh sure, Bob’s kid, it would be nice to get them an internship” to “yep, this kid seems reasonably smart and professional, they won’t embarrass me, I’ll try to get them the internship.” It’s a much larger gulf to cross if you’re just cold-contacting people.

    4. Mill Miker*

      I’ve always assumed the “informational interview” advice was similar to how budgeting advice eventually turns to “get a better paying job” if you push on it hard enough.

      “I need a job” -> “the best way to get one is to reach out to your network” -> “I don’t have a network” -> “Then get one” -> “How?” -> “Connect with people and make work friends and keep in touch over the years” -> “But I need a job in a month, not 6 years” -> “umm… then call some people and try to get them to like you in a quick meeting?”

  14. LifeBeforeCorona*

    LW4 Please update your resume and portfolio and look for another job. Based on your pay even a $5 an hour bump would be a big upgrade. Good luck and hopefully you will return with an update. You right, you’re worth much more.

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      OP4 (underpaid graphic designer) – Have you considered taking on freelance work yourself, either in addition to this job or in place of it? (The irony though if she farms out work to someone on Fiverr and it turns out to be you!)

      You can legitimately try to negotiate a raise, but I think it is very unlikely that she’ll come up to the amount the work is actually worth.

      1. LG*

        Yes, OP4, I too recommend you consider freelancing. Especially if you can find clients with recurring work, that brings in some consistency. (If you are interested in freelancing, see if your library has a recent edition of the Graphic Artists Guild Handbook, Pricing & Ethical Guidelines–it can be very helpful.)

        Also I just have to emphasize HOW deeply underpaid you are. You have a very marketable skill! With 20 years experience!!! I have been a freelance designer designer for 17 years…my initial rate was $40/hour, and my current rate is $120/hour (which is comparable to the other freelancers I know). Obviously you don’t make as much working on a staff since you are getting benefits and not having to buy the software and equipment. But, in my non-freelance job right out of college, in 2005, I was making $23/hour.

        I am thinking all of the good thoughts for you to find a new job or strike out on your own, and either way, to be paid what your work is worth. (And to be treated fairly and kindly, too.)

    2. I Have RBF*

      Seriously. I can’t imagine someone with experience in graphic design working for $14/hr. I would expect three times that, or even four if you have a good portfolio. Life’s too short to work for peanuts.

  15. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

    3: Former heavy smoker and advise her to have interview/work clothing that is kept away from smoking at all times (febreze really doesn’t hide the smell I can tell ya), not smoke at least 2 hours before an in person interview and brush teeth multiple times, have some kind of exfoilant in the shower as well (boy does that yellow stain on the fingers give a lot away) and wash hair thoroughly.

    It is a bias, yes. But unlike skin colour, age, fat, disabilities etc. it’s one that can be masked or changed.

    (Btw the number of medical staff I see outside the bounds of the hospital smoking is actually impressive)

    1. Thistle Pie*

      Speaking of febreeze, sometimes smokers’ sense of smell gets totally dulled and they overcompensate smoke smell with extreme amounts of scented products to “cover up” the smokey smell but in reality they now just smell like smoke AND perfume which is more offputting and gives others headaches. I agree with your suggestion of having smoke-free clothes that are kept in garment bags

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        I have some work clothes that are kept secure away from the air in the house because I burn incense at home and a coworker is allergic/sensitive to the smell of incense. It does work!

  16. Je ne sais pas*

    You already negotiated, that negotiation failed. The next thing to do now is to follow Alison’s advice and go look for a job elsewhere.

  17. frida*

    Here in the UK some companies have made the news for giving non-smoking employees additional holiday to make up for lost productivity from smokers going on breaks – there aren’t any sort of discrimination protections for smokers here. I used to work at an office where I was basically alone to man the phones for 30 mins after lunch because we had so many smokers!

    1. Turquoisecow*

      I had a coworker who was a smoker and notorious because he would always disappear just after we were given a big project. The big boss would get everyone in a room and tell us about a big project. We would leave the meeting talking amongst ourselves and ready to get right to work. We’d get back to our desks and oh! Smoking Coworker just had to take a break right then, which completely disrupted the flow. The rest of us were left trying to delegate different tasks while also not having him around to give his opinion or offer to take on any part. Then he’d come back 15 minutes later while the rest of us were already getting started and want to give his opinion.

      I’ve also had many coworkers who were out on break when the boss would randomly come by looking for them, and trust me, regardless of reasons, it’s not a good look to be repeatedly not at your desk when the boss wants you.

      Never mind the multiple breaks throughout the day that the rest of us didn’t get. I mean, could I have walked away from my desk to stand around doing nothing outside and then come back? Sure. But it would have looked crazy.

  18. GeekMissy*

    #1 – if there’s one thing I’ve learned from being an avid reader of AITA on Reddit, it’s that every person who uses the phrase “ungrateful brat” is the a-hole. Every. Single. Time.

    I completely changed careers at 35. Then I completely changed careers again at 43. Both were terrifying at the time, but were the best moves I could have ever made. You can do it!

    1. FashionablyEvil*

      every person who uses the phrase “ungrateful brat” is the a-hole. Every. Single. Time.

      Preach. I loathe the word “brat” because any time someone trots it out, it means that they’ve decided the problem is that the other person is a crappy human being, full stop. There’s just no forward progress to be made at that point.

      1. bamcheeks*

        It also means they’re putting themselves into a adult/child hierarchy in relation to that person, and there’s almost zero situations where that’s appropriate.

    2. FD*

      +1 I can’t think of any conceivable situation where it would ever be appropriate to think of somebody that way. It’s a super gross way to talk about a child, and used about an adult, it reflects a weird perspective of the dynamic of the workplace. One where your CEO thinks that they should have the role of an authoritarian parent, which is all sorts of problematic.

    3. I Have RBF*

      I became disabled at 33. It took me until I was 38 to finish changing careers. The change has benefited me in so many ways that it’s impossible to list. I went from a career that I sort of “fell” into, but enjoyed, to a career that had started as somewhat of a hobby that I still enjoy. Part of it is that I knew much more about myself and my limitations at 35 than at 19.

  19. Nela*

    #4 I recommend to try freelancing while you’re looking for remote work (if a job is what you really want), and end this engagement immediately. You’re being paid an insulting rate. This company is just using up time that you could and should invest elsewhere.

    It’s a great time to be a work from home graphic designer. Keep looking!

    1. Also-ADHD*

      Yeah even with higher taxes and less work to start, a graphic designer could easily make more freelance, and fully remote!

    2. Graphically insulting*

      Insulting indeed. I have a college freshman graphic design student doing part time work for me right now and I pay her $15/hr in a LCOL area.

    3. Weaponized Pumpkin*

      Yeah, it is insulting. I made that rate doing design production on grocery store circulars in 1995 with little experience.

      Freelancing may be really important, for reengaging creatively and polishing up skills — sounds like this job hasn’t been feeding creativity or generating great portfolio work.

  20. the bat in the office popcorn machine*


    I am on your side and agree with Alison that your CEO sucks. But this sentence, “During this time, I experienced some growing pains with my role and expressed my frustrations to a colleague. That colleague unfortunately betrayed my confidence, and word that I was unhappy got to our CEO” makes me wonder how large these growing pains were, how much people think they were tolerating, and how deep your frustrations were that they “betrayed” your confidence (was this coworker a known tattle-tale or did you say something that maybe had them thinking, “Oh, they’re unhappy in their role and that’s why they have these growing pains?”) Then, “I was dropped from our leadership team without explanation” — did you get over the hurdles? How long after that comment did this happen?

    You can try talking to your CEO but it’s been a year and you’re dwelling on this. Did you two talk before or is the not talking par-for-course? Being dropped from the leadership team is probably from the confidence betrayal (if you’re not happy, CEO thinks, then you don’t need to be on the team). However, it sounds like your supervisor is supportive. I am unsure what you want HR to do against the CEO — what resolution would you like? It’s not clear here.

    LW #2:

    I’ve seen jobs that say in bold that the salary range is firm. This is one method — you could consider finding that 2-5k and adding it to the band anyway, so you can give your exceptional employees their worth. Another is to just review all 300 applicants and pick out your top candidates — reach out for the phone screener with Alison’s note about the salary. I agree to just stop asking them in this case. If they apply with a job with a posted salary range and expect way more, then it’s just bad luck. Likewise, are you adequately paying for this position? Do people who work in this role in other areas make 1.4x more? I’m just wondering about the consistency on the over-shooting here.


    You can make so much more money at a remote graphic design job (not terribly uncommon). If you have any UI experience, even more so. Please keep searching — you will likely not get a 50%+ raise from this person. The time to have gotten that was when they were begging you and I doubt even then they would have been able.

    1. I'm just here for the cats!!*

      I thought it was a little odd that LW 1 said that she had growing pains in the role and that the coworker she talked to said that she was unhappy with the role. Maybe she is using growing pains differently, but to me, growing pains means that maybe the LW wasn’t quite ready for the role, things weren’t going well, etc. That would also be a reason why LW was taken out of the leadership role, because she wasn’t performing well. I don’t see how growing pains would = unhappy with the role.

      1. Itsa Me, Mario*

        Maybe, but I still feel like if someone is having performance issues, management should fish or cut bait. Either they improved and stopped having those issues, in which case they should be a trusted member of the team, or they did not improve and should be let go. Or it’s all still happening, and they should be given space to resolve the issues. (Or just be let go, if management legitimately doesn’t have faith in the process.)

        The way OP describes their treatment makes it seem much more like office politics or a personal issue between her and the CEO, and much less like someone who is actively having performing issues at work.

        1. Johanna Cabal*

          It could be that CEO is afraid to fire or layoff LW because they know it will look bad to do that so soon after recruiting her. Or CEO is afraid of a lawsuit from LW.

          Also, there are companies where if management wants someone gone but doesn’t feel they can fire the person will just make the person miserable enough to quit.

  21. Lilo*

    Re LW2: there’s actually evidence that particular groups tend to advocate for themselves more and so basing salary on a self assessment may result in pay disparity for women and minority candidates. You can’t fully remove that from the equation as entirely refusing to negotiate on salary is a bad idea. But asking for desired pay, especially as early as you appear to be doing, is likely to play into this.

  22. Flying Fish*

    I work in healthcare and part of our dress code is no strong smells because of the impact it has on patients and coworkers. Smelling like cigarettes would probably impact your ability to get hired where I work. Also, you can’t smoke anywhere on the hospital campus, so a quick smoke break would be nearly impossible.

    1. PhilG*

      The health system I work at even does nicotine testing as part of the pre-employment physical right along with drug screening. Absolutely a deal breaker.

      1. I Have RBF*

        IMO, nicotine testing is a reprehensible idea. Yes, say “no smoking on campus”, or “smokers pay more for healthcare”. But, unless the nicotine is physically impairing them on the job, they should not be testing for what is still a private, legal activity. I am an ex-smoker, but I still would not want to be tested for nicotine, since I have friends who smoke.

        I would feel the same about testing for alcohol metabolites that stayed in the system after the booze was gone. Sure, go ahead and have your employees blow into a breathalyzer to clock in if you need to. But don’t say they can’t do a legal activity on their own time that does not prevent them from safely doing their job.

        This tendency of employers to act as lifestyle nannies makes me mad. I want to work for money, I don’t need a company to act “in loco parentis” for my entire friggin’ life in and out of work. Companies, stay in your freaking lane!

  23. FashionablyEvil*

    #3–I’d be shocked if your niece doesn’t already know that her smoking is holding her back. Smoking is a tough addiction to break and piling shame on top of it isn’t likely to help her quit. Just stay far away from that one.

    1. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

      Nobody needs to be shamed, but you can talk about a subject without shaming someone. She sounds like she might “know”, but not know/want to deal with it, hence the defensiveness. Likely because it is so hard.

      Possibly if LW was able to neutrally bring it up (once), that might be the outside voice she needs to hear to break through the denial. Or she might double down. But I think this is the kind of thing you can mention once and then let her do what she wants with it.

      1. Weaponized Pumpkin*

        A lot of smokers seem to be in denial about how noticeable it is, she may be thinking people can’t tell as much as they can. If she keeps smoking, she may need to hear that she needs to mitigate the odor. That’s at least constructive.

    2. Caliente Papillon*

      I don’t think mentioning something is automatically shaming someone… I did have a friend who I had to tell was making me nautious to hang out with because of smoke smell which she didn’t realize she had. So she’d just make sure to be in fresher clothing, etc, when hanging out, it was fairly effective and other people actually mentioned the difference later! Then she was perturbed no one had said anything before… lol

  24. Bookworm*

    LW1, sending you sympathy. My situation was nowhere like yours but I did work for someone who had no issue with gossiping and even bad mouthing clients, former employees, (of which I am now one…), etc. She wasn’t going to change and made it clear she didn’t want to hear about how anything just maybe, possibly, remotely wrong with how she did things. We are not one and the same but as I can tell you I can really relate to your post. And for the sake of your mental well-being (esp. with the lack of support), I urge you to find other work and/or just leave ASAP. There is nothing to be gained (other than a paycheck, perhaps, and avoiding questions in interviews).

    Good luck. I’m sorry.

  25. Hiring Mgr*

    Every time I’m at a hospital, clinic, etc. there are always tons of Drs, nurses, etc standing outside smoking. That’s anecdotal and maybe it differs by region, but just to say that it’s not unusual for medical folks to smoke.

    1. FD*

      Yeah, I’ve definitely observed that too.

      Once I started working in an office, it became super unusual for people to smoke, but my wife works in healthcare and it’s definitely pretty common there in her workplace. I feel like stressful jobs that tend to be chronically underpaid have a higher instance of smoking. A lot of healthcare jobs fall into that.

    2. danmei kid*

      Definitely regional – when I travel to hospitals/clinics in certain parts of the US there are a lot of smokers, other regions have very few. The tobacco belt gets its name for a reason. The Northeast US has fewer smokers in general (although not none – just fewer).

    3. SB*

      All hospital campuses in my state, public & private, are no smoking zones so there is no way to duck out for a quick dart on your break (the walk to be outside grounds would take longer than the break). Some patients do try their luck but if security clocks them they will be directed to put it out & go back inside. If you are a smoker you can get free patches for the duration of your stay though.

  26. Skippy*

    LW2: the fact that you list a salary in the posting, but then say you could come up a few thousand dollars for an exceptional candidate, is precisely why people list a higher salary on the application. Even when companies list the salary, there’s often a perception that the company may be willing to go higher, and candidates don’t want to lowball themselves.

    1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      Sounds like OP2’s problem is that those candidates are aiming so far – 40% – above the limited extra for exceptional candidates, rather than the few thou she could squeeze out.

      She can’t tell whether these applicants are just doing a Hail Mary or whether they are genuinely stating the ballpark of their expected salary. In the latter case, it’s not just wasting interview time but even if a very strong candidate does take the job, it’s likely just for a couple of months e.g. while waiting for offers from other places they already applied to, or they’ll continue job-searching.

      If she has a large number of suitable applicants and wants to quickly reduce their numbers, then it’s sensible to remove the salary outliers, whereas if she finds she needs higher quality applicants then having exploratory phone calls with the very strongest would make sense, providing she’s very clear that their stated target is far out of reach.

  27. Pink Candyfloss*

    Smoking is absolutely a deterrent to hiring in health care related fields if they are patient-facing, and some other fields that are customer-facing. In fact strong odors of any kind, including perfume, cologne, or the bane of my existence – scented laundry detergent that clings to clothing and brings instant headache or nausea – can be off-putting to interviewers. Especially if they have previously received complaints from patients. Also smokers are sometimes discriminated against under the assumption they will require smoke breaks. And finally but importantly, smokers cost more in health insurance premiums!! a small business cannot absorb that cost as easily as a megacorp can.

    1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      I agree with the above reasons that smoking is a deterrent, but not the other smells listed, which seem more like personal dislikes:

      Employers can institute a ban on perfumes, body sprays etc and expect to have it obeyed. However, smoking is an addiction so people won’t stop smoking and will often not realise how much their body & clothes stink from smoking e.g. before coming into work, let alone after smoke breaks.

      Bans that require people to find different products that produce the same quality of results for their daily/weekly hygiene, e.g. laundry sheets, shower gel, shampoo, deo are very intrusive, often more expensive and likely to put off many applicants, hence considerably reducing the talent pool.
      imo, they are only justifiable in very specialised fields where they significantly affect actual patients/clients rather than offending a few coworkers.
      Particularly for interviews, it’s asking for a lot of time prep & expense for a job they may not get.

      1. Jackalope*

        Not to go too far into a discussion with this one, but most people aren’t “offended” by scents. They have a physiological reaction to them. I can have someone walk past me wearing a perfume that lingers in the air for only a few seconds after they walk past and I’m immediately stuffed up and unable to breathe well for 30 or so minutes. Forget sitting next to them. I am close to someone who has an instant migraine in the same situation. You can deal with disliking a smell; you can’t force your body not to have an allergic reaction. Because of that I would actually consider coworkers to be a more significant issue than clients or customers who can at least get away if needed.

        1. I Have RBF*


          I’m not “offended” by perfume/fragrance products, I am made ill by them. I don’t have a choice, it’s not a “preference”. If I get exposed, it can be anything from a stopped up head, or a migraine, to full-on coughing, choking, wheezing and gasping for breath. It can be terrifying and/or painful.

          People who think banning fragrance is based on “offense” are severely clueless about the reality of the situation, or are just being assholes.

      2. Pink Candyfloss*

        Sensitivities to strong scents of perfume, cologne, detergent are not personal dislikes any more than sensitivity to pollen is a personal dislike of flowers. Scents are physical entities – when you detect a fragrance, a molecule of something has entered your nose and bound to a receptor in order to send a signal to your brain. People can have allergic or sensitivity reactions to those physical molecules. Please do not operate under the assumption that people object to all strong odors as a personal choice. For people like myself who have MCS or MCAS or migraines or other medical conditions, your “smells” are not just a deterrent but a medical hazard to our physical bodies.

      3. Misty*

        “Particularly for interviews, it’s asking for a lot of time prep & expense for a job they may not get.”

        Just like everything else about interviewing?

        And it’s not like they have to rewash their clothes to get scentfree detergent out!!

        1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

          They’d have to hunt for and buy scent-free detergent. Also scent-free shampoo, shower gel and deo – and find products that actually work for them, which could be difficult in the short time before interview.
          That takes effort, time and money in addition to the normal investment in an interview.

          In my 40 years at work, I never came across any scent rrestrictions, but if I had, then I always had sufficient options that I would not have applied to such a place.

      4. DJ Abbott*

        Several years ago, there was a long and comprehensive discussion here about perfumes at the office. I was surprised by how many people are sickened by those scented laundry detergents. There are people who said they couldn’t function in proximity to someone who had that on their clothes.
        I don’t like them, and they sometimes irritate my respiratory tract. When I go to the laundry room, I won’t use a washer dryer that has had that scented stuff in it. The last thing I need are more allergic reactions!
        Really, there should be a law against it. The chemicals are very unhealthy in several ways.

  28. Hiring Mgr*

    Someone who is going on informational interviews is likely already ahead of the game as far as networking, so it wouldn’t surprise me if there was some truth to the overall thought. Not that it’s a secret trick to get a job, just that whoever is doing this is already a few steps ahead in general

  29. Sundance Kid*

    OP1: Please don’t despair about your age! I’m a senior-level position myself, and I just went through a successful job search earlier this year (with all of AAM’s excellent advice and ebook!). Depending on your exact industry, you may find p-l-e-n-t-y of senior level positions that want 15-25 years of experience. Your experience will be a benefit to those roles! And don’t discount nonprofits, which often are very eager to get solid, experienced people on board. Good luck getting out of that office soon!

  30. Up and Away*

    OP#1 – I’m in HR and have been hiring people for 30 years. I’m here to tell you that I consider the 40s to be the “sweet spot” in hiring. You’ve still got 20+ years in the workforce, and you bring a wealth of both life and employment experience. I think you’ve got a great chance of finding something awesome. Plus, the job market is extremely tight right now, so it’s an employee’s market. Good luck, I hope you’re able to extract yourself from that nightmare quickly!

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Strongly seconding this. If you’re applying to senior roles, being UNDER 40 can be a knock against you – I’ve dealt with this personally. I started working relatively young and got a big jump upwards after I got my MBA, so in my 30s I’m relatively senior but I’ve now at two jobs had to start half a step back and prove myself before I got that title/promotion/responsibility. I don’t think that would’ve happened if I were 5-10 years older.

      You’re not old, you’re experienced. Jobs like experience. I’m sure this job has hurt your self-confidence, but that doesn’t mean you won’t get hired somewhere else and treated the way you deserve to be treated.

    2. kiki*

      I was honestly really surprised to hear the LW say that they felt like it may be unlikely to find another job due to their age and position. While it’s possible there could be extenuating circumstances (they’re in an industry that runs young, it’s a field without a lot of senior-level positions available to external hires, etc.), I’m wondering if the bad circumstances at their current job are making LW feel hopeless in a way that isn’t based in reality? I think leaving may boost their confidence and help them see that they have plenty of options.

      Ageism certainly exists and I don’t want to invalidate their experience, but outside of a few relatively niche fields, I’d say most folks wouldn’t bat an eye at hiring somebody in their 40s. That’s really mid-career!

    3. Anon in Canada*

      “Plus, the job market is extremely tight right now, so it’s an employee’s market.”

      Complete and utter myth.

      You’re right though that someone 40-something in a senior role is not likely to be subjected to significant age discrimination.

      1. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

        The person you are responding to is in HR. It is not a myth, it is true for them in their field. It is apparently not true for you in your field. Both of these statement can co-exist, you don’t need to be dismissive.

      2. kiki*

        It depends on the field. I work in tech and that is not currently true, but it’s definitely true of some other industries.

  31. Pickaduck*

    LW #1, I am 57 years old and was terrified to leave the job I was in as a senior director because I figured I could never find anything else, but then I started trying, and just landed a great job as a director! You can do this.

  32. Michelle Smith*

    LW2: I agree with the advice to stop asking candidates if you can, especially since you said range (and I’m taking you at your word that it is a true range like $50-62k rather than “starting at $50k” which is useless for any candidate that exceeds the basic qualifications – my current job was advertised the second way and I was offered a salary more than $10k over that open-ended range and negotiated for more).

    However, if you keep asking or if people reject your offers/try to negotiate higher than you can afford, please do not wait until the screening interview to let people know you can’t meet their expectations. I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to prepare for a couple of hours, researching the company and interviewer (yes, I prepare for phone screens! they are real interviews!), practicing questions, taking time off or rearranging a lunch break on a WFH day, navigating my anxiety, making sure my place is absolutely quiet and I will have no interruptions, etc. etc. all to find out 20 minutes into the call that they can’t offer me a salary I can live on. If you ask my salary expectations, I put them in the cover letter, and you invite me to ANY type of interview after that, my assumption is going to be that if you’re impressed by me, you’ll be able to offer what I’m looking for or something reasonably close to it. Don’t make me waste both of our time with a call just to find out that assumption was false.

    1. Michelle Smith*

      To be clear, I absolutely AM SAYING that I would prefer you reject me categorically at the resume review stage if we are wildly far apart on salary expectations (e.g., if you can only pay $50k and I said I’m looking for $70k) than invite me to a phone screen to tell me you can’t afford me.

      1. I Have RBF*


        If you are a recruiter, don’t reach out to me with lowball roles. I will not take a role that pays $90K when I’m already making $135K. It just makes you look either stupid or out of touch. Also, don’t pitch me an in-person data entry role in New Jersey when my resume says clearly that I’m a sysadmin living in California. I’m not moving across the country for an entry level temp gig. Stop wasting both our time.

  33. honeygrim*

    Regarding #3: I looked at a few of those state laws against discriminating against smokers. I had assumed they would be more explicit medical-type protections, since addiction is a medical condition. But no, it’s the act of smoking “outside the course of employment” that is protected. The state where I work is on this list, which leads me to a question about my options in the following situation:

    I have an employee who recently started smoking again after having apparently quit over the course of the past year. Whether or not there’s a law against it, I wouldn’t presume to tell him he’s not allowed to smoke ever, and he complies with workplace smoking restrictions (he goes outside to the designated area to smoke during his break), though he does smell strongly of smoke for quite some time after his break.

    However, after being raised by a parent who chain smoked for decades–and who died a year ago because of it–I absolutely cannot stand the smell of smoke. It makes me physically ill and emotionally wrecked. Since my workplace allows people to smoke in designated areas while at work, I obviously can’t tell him he’s not allowed to smoke during his workday. How do I handle him when he wanders into my office right after his break absolutely reeking of smoke? I can’t seem to figure out appropriate phrasing, and now I’m concerned that anything I do say will be deemed discriminatory.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Do you have HR? I’d check with them, because I don’t work in a state with these laws, but your health is protected as much as his right to smoke. So if you came to me (HR) my suggestion would be:

      “Hey [name], this is a personal issue on my end but the smell of smoke makes me really ill, and I can smell it on you after you go out for a smoke break. Could I ask that if you need me within 30 minutes of a smoke break you send me a message on slack/email/intercom?” insert appropriate communication system for your office.

      This should be legally workable, and it’s not discriminatory as long as he can still contact you and do his work duties.

    2. MommaCat*

      “Hey, can you wait at least (x amount of time) after your smoke break before coming to my office? Something about the fresh smoke smell (makes me nauseous/reminds me of parent/whatever excuse you think would work best for him).” It’s not discriminatory to have your own needs, and you aren’t asking him to *not* smoke, you’re just asking him to wait a bit before coming to your office.
      I’m sorry about your parent, I lost one of my parents a couple years ago, and it’s a crappy club to be part of.

    3. Office Skeptic*

      If it’s making you sick, I think it’s totally fine to just say that. “The smell of smoke makes me ill, so if you can wait a bit after a smoke break to be around me, that would be great.” People are sensitive to a lot of different things.

    4. Keymaster of Gozer*

      It’s actually fine to say ‘can you come back in a little while? You smell very strongly of cigarette smoke right now’

      You can add ‘and that has adverse effects on me’ but I think the first sentence is okay – and something I did hear several times when I was a smoker! It’s not offensive nor discriminatory, it’s just a statement of fact.

      (I kept a jacket away from the cigs for the office in the end and always left at least thirty minutes after a cig break before going over to people’s desks. Most smokers are quite happy to accomodate requests like that!)

  34. HonorBox*

    OP2 – We’ve found ourselves in a similar situation. We’ve listed the salary range absolutely knowing that candidates may likely negotiate, and we’re willing to listen when that happens…within reason. We’ve had candidates try to negotiate 40-50% higher than the top end, which has put halted the negotiations entirely. It is frustrating when the ask is so much higher than the top end, but I appreciate that people work for money and have expenses that they need to cover. While it may take a little more time in your process, I’d stop asking what people’s desired salary is. Just as we don’t know where someone needs to be financially and have to move along from the “perfect” candidate if their salary request doesn’t match what we can pay, you don’t know that one of those very qualified candidates would consider your compensation package, too. Talk to them. You might get a yes.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      This happens at my job too. We’re in market range, and post our salaries, but often people will negotiate no matter what. We send the job listing a second time and ask people to review the details and confirm they’re still interested before we interview them, it still happens. It’s just something you need to be prepared for.

      Definitely stop asking them to share their range though, that’s inviting trouble.

  35. Risha*

    OP1, I’m sorry that happened to you. I agree with Alison and strongly suggest to find another job ASAP. I know it’s not ideal and I also understand the hesitation due to your age (I’m in my 40s too). But at this point, I think this would be the best option for you. It will be best to start new, where no one knows you. Even if you can’t get a new leadership position, at least you will be at a place where the CEO isn’t badmouthing you. You can always work your way back up.

    I learned this lesson awhile ago the hard way–never vent to a colleague. Coworkers are not friends (unless you’ve been friends with them outside of work prior to working there). Go ahead and vent to your friends, family, online, anywhere but to your colleagues. Years ago, I made the mistake of venting my frustrations to a coworker who I thought was my friend too. She told the manager of course, and the manager found a way to fire me about 2 months later (I was well liked until this incident). They accused me of falsifying documents, which I never did but couldn’t prove it. So now, whatever issues I have at work, I never tell any coworker. Even if they vent to me, I just listen and say something like “yeah that sounds tough for you”. I never even agree with them, I just listen. Good luck in your search OP.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Never vent to a colleague is important – and I’m also bad at it. I’ve modified it for myself to “never vent to a colleague about information you wouldn’t own if it got around”.

      1. Michelle Smith*

        This is my philosophy as well. I am naturally a complainer and I find it hard to keep my mouth shut about things I disagree with or feel are wrong, but I own what I say. I try my best to only criticize policies and actions, rather than people’s character, and if I say something negative, it’s absolutely something I would and probably already have said to the person’s face.

        If I’m not comfortable with it getting back to the person who did the thing or created the policy, I just complain about it to my friends or my mom.

      2. I Have RBF*

        I’ve modified it for myself to “never vent to a colleague about information you wouldn’t own if it got around”.


        Also, even in your employer’s direct message/private chat, never put in writing things that you would not want to hear read out loud in court. Because it’s discoverable.

  36. 1-800-BrownCow*

    I used to work for a medical device manufacturer that we did not hire smokers at all, so not specifically in healthcare, but healthcare related. Plus smoking was not allowed on company property, even in your vehicle so we when had outside maintenance in for the day, if anyone smoked, they had to leave the property (drive somewhere, nothing walkable) during lunch break to smoke.

  37. Parenthesis Guy*

    LW #2: Honestly, I’m fine with what you’re doing. You can’t do screening interviews for three hundred candidates. Doing it for thirty is probably a stretch even if it’s just the recruiter doing it. So, finding ways to eliminate candidates make sense.

    I do think it’s reasonable to reach out to strong candidates that request more than your range and tell them that the range is such and such and does it make sense to interview. I’d probably bring that up before the first screening interview to make sure you’re not wasting each others time.

    But I mean, you have three hundred applicants. You’ve got to find a way to cut down the number some way or other.

  38. Michelle Smith*

    LW5: Informational interviews are for information, job interviews are for jobs. However, informational interviews *can* help you get a job. How?

    (1) You get valuable information from someone who has gotten from where you are to where you want to be. If there is some type of volunteer work, a soft skill, or a certification that can give you a leg up on the competition, an informational interview with someone in your field can clue you in to that useful information. But take care to find people who are only 2-3 years in for that kind of info – someone who has been in the field for 15 years might be able to help advise you on how to rise through the ranks, but their advice on getting your foot in the door may not be as relevant unless they are involved in current hiring for entry-level positions.
    (2) It’s good networking. I did informational interviews with people that I used to work with, albeit not closely, who had gone on to do the kind of work I was interested in pivoting to. Those people did NOT hire me directly, to be clear. However, one of them sent me job listings (internal to her company and external), one of them put in a good word for me with the hiring manager at his company, and one actually did invite me to their organization’s interview process for a role where she would have had decision-making authority over the hire – I just ended up withdrawing from the process prematurely because I got a different offer elsewhere.
    (3) It’s good practice and a good way to get feedback. If you are new to the working world or haven’t interviewed in several years or are changing fields/roles, it can be helpful to tell your elevator pitch (your answer to “Tell me about yourself.”) to someone in the field to see how it lands. It can be helpful to have someone in the field tell you that X on your resume needs more emphasis and Y is irrelevant. It can be a confidence boost as well to have someone review your materials and hear your story and say that they’re great and you will likely be successful if you keep trying.

    I’m sure there are other ways but these are the ones that come to mind from my job search last year. Never expect a job or lead from an informational interview, but be very aware that they can be a great way to get you closer to jobs if you take them seriously, approach the right people, respect people’s time, and generally come across as competent and likeable.

    1. I'm #5*

      That makes total sense – and I’ve always seen the connection between informational interviews and jobs, I was just wondering if Alison saw any merit in the idea that “information interviews are THE way you get jobs! Resumes and cover letters don’t matter!”

  39. Sneaky Squirrel*

    #2 – Just a possibility here, but are the best candidates the best because they’re overqualified?
    When you post an ad, you’re posting for the minimum qualifications for the job (e.g. job requires a bachelors + 5 yrs of experience) and your salary range is likely determined based on those qualifications. If you’re finding that you’re interviewing candidates whose experience is well over that, then perhaps you need to reconsider whether your requirements truly reflect the type of candidate you’re looking for and/or whether the range is realistic for the number of years of experience you’re truly looking at.

    1. Sneaky Squirrel*

      I wish I could edit this comment; OP doesn’t say that the best candidates are the ones who are asking for more money, just that a good portion of the candidates are. It’s still worth questioning whether you’re getting the right types of candidates out of those who are ok with the salary range compared to those who are not, but I would say it’s pretty standard for candidates to try to push the limit to see if there is any wiggle room.

    2. Eldritch Office Worker*

      “When you post an ad, you’re posting for the minimum qualifications for the job ”

      This VERY much depends on the wording of an ad. If you’re seeing phrases like “an ideal candidate will have…” it’s much more likely they’re posting a wishlist than a must-have list. Even without that, the general wisdom is to apply to jobs you’re 80% qualified for. Another way to delineate is to say “requirements for this role” followed by a section of “not required, but a plus”.

      In a perfect world, a combination of that plus the salary will indicate what level the role is written as, but you may also want to look at the market around you. We have senior people applying to more junior roles right now “to get a foot in the door” and have had to seriously look at “how overqualified is too overqualified” for certain roles.

      So look at all these small details. You don’t necessarily need to change your qualifications (you might!) but you can weight them differently, do some A/B testing, try to understand your market…there’s a lot of nuance here.

      Also stop asking for salary requirements.

  40. Alex*

    I’m in my 40s and just landed a new job–in a bit of a pivot in terms of field, even–this year! 40s is not the death of any prospects, I promise!

    Especially when you consider that in your 40s, you probably have *at least* 20 years left of working, if not more.

  41. A reader*

    Could OP1 or another reader clarify for question 1–how could the person’s first six months be “extremely positive” yet also full of “growing pains” and “frustrations”? Am I missing something on the timeline for this question? I reread the question and still doesn’t make sense. I’m not challenging the OP’s perspective, just puzzled by the apparent contradiction of “*extremely* positive” with the negatives. Thanks.

    1. Sneaky Squirrel*

      I think the wording is a bit off. OP has been at the job for 2 years it sounds like. The first 6 months were positive, the subsequent 1.5 years had growing pains.

    2. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

      They could have felt like people liked them and everyone was on the same wavelength and yet that the processes were confusing or they wanted to jump in and do something only to find out the culture was to think and talk and plan before acting. I can think of lots of ways.

      Also, frustration doesn’t usually come out of nowhere – it’s a slow build. One thing, oh, okay. 2 things, hmm, didn’t expect that. 5 things, what is wrong with this place?!

    3. bamcheeks*

      It make sense to me! The kind of first few months where the feedback is, “you’re doing really well, everyone’s impressed with X, Y and Z. That said, the way we approach ABC here is obviously very different from the way you’re used to, and you seem to be struggling to adjust.”

      You can be cracking at 80% of the job but still be trying to run meetings in a way that’s way too formal / relaxed / slow / fast for this organisational culture, for example. Or anything else that you’ve internalised as The Way Things Are Done, when it’s actually just your previous employer’s specific organisational culture. You can both get on each other’s nerves without realising what’s gone wrong until you figure out the mismatch and consciously adjust.

    4. NaoNao*

      I think the growing pains and frustrations occurred when the OP was moved into leadership after 6 months of really positive performance. A promotion can reveal all kinds of things about the mechanisms and politics of a place that being a new hire “rank and file” employee doesn’t.

    5. Hell in a Handbasket*

      It’s not totally clear, but I read it as she had the extremely positive 6 months and was promoted, and then things went south after that.

    6. Astor*

      For me, ‘growing pains’ explicitly means that the frustrations seem temporary and don’t seem to indicate a deeper problem. Like how the first time you do a new task at work it might take you 3 hours, but you can see how once you’ve been doing it for a few weeks it might take you 10 minutes. It’s frustrating that it takes 3 hours, but you know that with a little practice that time is going to sharply drop. I personally wouldn’t call it a growing pain if it took me 3 hours to do a task and couldn’t even imagine how that time could be reduced to normally only take 10 minutes.

      I think this is one of those things where people’s vocabulary and attitudes just have a range. Some people wouldn’t even feel frustrated by those 3 hour type tasks. Some people recognize the frustration but don’t dwell on it. Some people wouldn’t feel positive about their job until they’ve conquered the frustrations. And then the same kind of thing where I’d only call something a growing pain if it was temporary and didn’t indicate a deeper problem, but I can see in this post that a lot of people would use that term to indicate a problem with how it’s growing!

  42. sunny days are better*

    I was laid off when I was 46 years old after 20 years at the same company.

    I was afraid that I would never find another job because of my age and language barriers (I am not fluent in the predominant language of my area and English was the predominant language at my previous job).

    Not only did I get the first job that I interviewed for, but after 8 years, I can honestly say that this job is far more interesting than my previous one. The major difference is that all of my team members are so much younger than I am – including my boss, but I roll with it and everyone treats each other with respect.

    You can do this!

  43. LucyGoosy*

    LW 1 – I think you’re forgetting that you have a lot of significant skills, knowledge, and experience that are in-demand in the job market. In fact, given the experience you have, it’s likely that you will have clients, partners, customers, or other professional contacts that will want to hire you or that will put in good word for you elsewhere. You can subtly start putting feelers out to your professional contacts and see where it gets you–my husband did this recently and just got a great new job with a pay bump and better title, and because it was through his professional network, it was an expedited interview/hiring process. Have faith in yourself!

    1. Johanna Cabal*

      A former employee at a previous job was how I found my current position. I was also in a similar position to LW.

  44. umami*

    OP1: Go! You can do it! After my amazing boss retired after 11 years, I found myself with an unbearable boss (asked me to do questionable, then unethical things to which I tactfully refused), and job hunting at 46. Unfortunately it meant having to be open to moving a significant distance because there were so few leadership opportunities in my field where I was living, but it was so worth it! I probably applied to 50-60 different places and ended up somewhere where it turns out I was their first pick from the moment they read my resume. My boss is great, my colleagues are great, the culture here is great, and I couldn’t be happier. Don’t give up!

  45. S.B. Hawkins*

    I hate that information interviewing is now being touted as a backdoor way to get a job, because it has great value for people who want to learn about an industry. I’m an adjunct college instructor and recommend it to my students all the time. Now I know that I need to emphasize making it VERY clear to people you contact that you aren’t intending on asking for a job or internship. UGH.

    1. I'm #5*

      UGH indeed. To be fair, this one small newsletter is the only place I’ve heard it (and, as I mentioned, took with grains of salt). It’s funny, the “late career professional” I mentioned in my letter is a tenured community college instructor who is in a similar role to you.

    2. Observer*

      Now I know that I need to emphasize making it VERY clear to people you contact that you aren’t intending on asking for a job or internship

      That’s a really good idea. Not only that they make it clear that they are not asking for a job – but to actually NOT ask, even indirectly.

  46. 15 Pieces of Flair*

    LW 5 – The problem statement behind that advice – that getting hired from a cold application is difficult – is valid; however, the specific advice to try to schedule conversations with strangers as an “in” is off base. Ask anyone who has worked in business development how many contact attempts it takes to schedule a meeting. The success rate is typically as low or perhaps even lower than the interview rate from applying to random postings.

    A more effective strategy is to ask your professional contacts (anyone who is familiar with your background and may have relevant connections) what types of roles and companies they would be exploring if they were you. Your next question should then be whether they have any connections working in those types of roles or at those companies. Someone is more likely to connect with and potentially refer you if you’re introduced by a mutual connection.

    Referrals from current employees typically receive a closer look than other applications, and an internal connection can help you learn about roles before or shortly after they’re posted, parse postings to determine if a role is a potential fit, and provide context on the company. Spending more time on networking to make these connections makes sense because they’re a huge advantage.

    Source: I work in a high paid (250k+), fully remote leadership role in tech. For my three most recent jobs, I connected with the employer via internal recruiter outreach, an introduction to a current employee like I described above, and a referral from a former coworker. In my most recent job search, I also tested cold messaging employees at companies where I didn’t have any connections as the bad advice suggests and didn’t get any responses.

  47. skadhu*

    OP4, I’m a retired graphic designer and this immediately stood out to me: “She told me she doesn’t charge customers for artwork.” That tells you right there how she values your work; her business is something that benefits from the inclusion of design services, but isn’t design-focused, so she’s using it as a loss leader.

    Good design enhances communication and makes it more effective; if she understood and valued that, she’d be passing on the cost of your services to her customers. But it sounds like either it’s so far from the core of the purpose of her business that it’s just a minor add-on in her mind, or she does not even understand how to run her *own* business effectively (design-adjacent companies like printers or small newspapers that offer design as part of their services generally know exactly what benefits designers add, and value them).

    Either way: she sees no value in what you do, and that seems unlikely to change. Your best bet is to leave and find a job that actually values design as a skill. Or start freelancing on the side till you get enough of a stable of clients that you can walk.

  48. Anne Shirley*

    LW1, please do not hesitate to job hunt! I found solid jobs (in my field) with comprehensive benefits at 47 and later at 53. Both companies have a good mix of age ranges. I have never felt sidelined. At times, I had to get up to speed with some technology or social media, but it wasn’t a steep learning curve. Good luck.

  49. ecnaseener*

    LW4, just to drive home how very under-compensated you are: if you had been getting just a 1% cost of living increase every year (ridiculously small!) you would still be making more than $14 today. Even if the market rate wasn’t so high above you, moving to a company with ANY raise structure at all would be an improvement.

  50. BellyButton*

    OP1- get out. Something very similar happened to me. I too was very senior level- we got a new global head of (my area) and she didn’t like me from day 1. She threw me under the bus so many times I can’t even count them all. She would roll her eyes when I was presenting to the CEO, she would undermine me, she out right lied about things, she was awful. She all but ruined my reputation with the global company, a reputation I had spent years building.

    I was also late 40s, had been at the company for 8 yrs. It took time, but I did land the most amazing job I have ever had. You can do this. It is terrifying as a mid to late 40s person job hunting, but it is easier now than mid 50s. You got this. Get out of there.

  51. Lacey*

    LW4: Hi, I’m a graphic designer in a low cost of living area and I consider myself outrageously under compensated.

    I’m still making much more than you.

    You absolutely can find a better job that fits your needs. I know it’s hard to find a good graphic design job, but they’re out there.

  52. Swamp Witch*

    For LW 3: It’s possible in medicine that she might be getting turned away if she smells strongly of cigarettes or scented vape but there isn’t enough info there. It would depend on if she’s applying to a direct care position like an LPN or CNA or MOA, I’d say maybe but probably not. When I was a medical receptionist unfortunately nobody cared and we had nurses that would chain smoke in their cars between patients and then wonder why our pediatric patients would have asthma attacks when they entered the room (actually happened like six times in a year). And that was like five years ago so.

  53. Sabrina*

    OP5, I used to give a lot of informal interviews when I worked a field biologist. My whole team did, we really wanted to support people entering the field. I can say with complete certainty that in the ten years of doing this no one was offered a job through these informal interviews. They consisted of us going over the resumes, making suggestions, discussing their backgrounds, and finally working out what they could do to be a better applicate (often get a specialized certificate because their area of interest would require it) or suggest they apply for jobs they were overlooking. These were always friends of friends of friends so I wasn’t able to follow up on how much we helped, but I hope we did some good.

    1. I'm #5*

      That’s so kind of you! I’ve received some similar guidance that’s been invaluable. What just hit me is that I hope people aren’t getting this advice and figuring “well if my informational interviews don’t lead to jobs I’m doing it wrong.”

  54. DivergentStitches*

    #1 – I’m 48 and I got a new job this year that was a 55% salary increase and a step forward in my career. Don’t be afraid to look elsewhere! This time next year you’ll look back and be so glad you did <3

  55. Observer*

    #4 – Underpaid designer.

    I agree with Allison. You have no reason to stay there. And your field is one where remote work tends to be a more common than others, even for offices where most people are in the office.

    I could think of a lot of things you could say, but your boss is never going to treat you well. She “begged” you to come back, but tells you that you are not valuable. What does that say about her?

    The fact that she’s penalizing you for quick turnaround and thinks that it’s ok to pay minimum wage for skilled work because you’re working from home is just icing on the cake. This is *terrible* management, and I don’t think anything you say can change that.

  56. Elizabeth West*

    Apologies if someone already said this, but many healthcare facilities and other companies have instituted no-smoking policies that extend to the entire property. If they’re not running afoul of any discrimination laws, they can absolutely do that. That means no smoke breaks outside, either. So if you get a job in a multi-story building or on a large office/healthcare campus and you want to smoke, you have to go all the way downstairs and off the property. I can see where people are going to side-eye someone taking long breaks to have a ciggy — and if you’re going to do that, it will often be more than one.

    As a recovered smoker, I know how hard it is to stop. It’s useless to suggest she quit since the OP says she’s defensive about it — that means she isn’t ready to try. But running into the no-smoking thing is unavoidable these days, and she needs to take that into consideration.

  57. Ex-prof*

    LW #5, that advice is perennial. When I was a young thing, which was quite a while back, the version of that advice was “99% of jobs aren’t advertised in the newspaper!” Instead, you were supposed to go into your employer of choice’s office, well-dressed and with lots of enthusiasm and a one-page, well-proofread resume, and interrupt whatever they were doing to knock their socks off.

    Literally no one I knew ever got a job that way, but the advice persisted.

  58. Trout 'Waver*

    LW#2. Think about this from a candidate’s perspective. They don’t know how good your job is yet and you’re asking them to bid on it. Of course they’re going to bid high.

    I’m pretty flexible on salary. There are some jobs I’d work for $100k. There are some jobs I would need $200k to do. If you posted a range of $100-120k and asked me to name a number, I’d apply. I’d also probably list $150k as the number to anchor high. If I learn more about the job and culture and find it a good fit and got an offer for $110k, I’d take it (after trying to negotiate higher of course). If I found out the job sucked and the culture was terrible, I’d reject the same offer. I’d probably also reject $150k.

    If I put my “I’d take it if the culture was perfect” number on the form, I’d never get higher offers for the less desirable jobs. You can’t really say to employers, “I wrote $110k initially but after learning more I’d need $175k to take this job”.

    This is how the game is played. By striking candidates that put higher numbers on your form, you’re subconsciously flexing the power imbalance between candidate and employer. This is a red flag to high quality candidates.

  59. spcepickle*

    I work for a state government – we clearly list a salary band in all our job posting and I go over them in the interview. Mostly so people understand that once you top out the only way for a pay raise is to get promoted.
    The bands are 100% non-negotiable. To get outside of that band requires an agreement between the powerful union and the state congress.
    I still have people get to the end of the interview process and ask $10 – 15k more then the top of the band, when I tell them that is in no way possible and that is why we post the salary bands, they will turn down the job offers.
    The whole salary game is frustrating for everyone and to hear that people are posting salary bands and then negotiating above them is extra frustrating.


      I work for a state-run university and tell people who want to get hired here, even for jobs I’m not hiring for (acquaintances, colleagues, etc) what the rules are for hiring within the [publicly posted] payband. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told “oh okay” only for them to proceed with trying to negotiate for more and then come back to me and say “gosh, you were right!”

    2. SalaryRequirementAreUsuallyVariable*

      Because for most companies it’s a preference not a requirement and many places will go higher- sometimes a lot higher – for the right candidate. Or someone might be okay with that salary if the benefits are really good and they like the job but not otherwise so they apply to find out enough to make that judgement and, having a
      ready invested time, feel there’s no harm in asking for what you’d need to say yes to that specific position.

  60. Jared Leto's kombucha*

    OP#1, I feel your pain. I had a similar experience with a boss and I’m here from the future to say that you can find other employment. It’s not your age that will hold you back, but your years of experience working for someone truly unhinged that’ll do it. Working for someone who doesn’t like you or support you is someone who won’t help you grow in your career, and they certainly won’t be a good reference for you when you’re looking for work. Make your plans to exit and find a place that will support you. Good luck!

  61. Peanut Hamper*

    I’ve worked at plenty of places that will not hire smokers because of the increased health care costs. And yes, it’s completely legal in my state.

    And yes, I know it’s an addiction. But that doesn’t change the calculus.

  62. Observer*

    #5 – Informational interviews

    I told a late-career professional in a very different field about this and they scoffed and said, “Yeah, not at my workplace!”

    That says it all. I don’t know of any workplace where this kind of thing works. And there are a lot of people who would put a black mark against your name if they figured out that your so-called informational interview was really a way to sneak in a job interview. It’s dishonest and disrespectful. Which means that I would not trust anything this newsletter publishes.

    Allison says that I think it’s because they’re looking for some distinctive piece of advice to make their own — something that sets them apart from the standard “write a great resume and cover letter that show your track record of achievement.”

    It’s very much like all those articles that claim that “This one (odd) trick” will solve some nagging and / or major problem. And it’s always nonsense. There is not “one trick” to getting a job, much less one that depends on being deceptive.

  63. CSRoadWarrior*

    #1 – In my opinion, saying that, whether you are the CEO or just another employee, is very unprofessional. And it destroys trust that can almost never be recovered if said out loud. I wouldn’t trust the CEO after hearing that. Please look for another job ASAP.

    #4 – If you didn’t say you were a graphic designer and working part-time, I probably would have thought you worked for the same boss I did 6 years ago. Because your situation mirrors mine almost exactly. To give you a little background, I worked for a small accounting firm, but the owner only paid me $15/hr for a job that had a market rate of $50,000/yr. I didn’t try to “act my wage” but unfortunately my unconscious starting taking over so I started “acting my wage” either way, no matter how hard I tried to do my best and go above and beyond, because I was pissed (and that is an understatement). I was eventually fired. Mind you, this is in a very high cost living area in California as well so it didn’t make it easier.

    Please start looking for another job that values you and pays you at least the market rate for your experience. You will be much happier.

  64. Ally McBeal*

    LW3: At a previous company we hired a great deal of our admin staff (myself included) from temp and staffing agencies, so we often had the opportunity to work full days with these folks, giving us a better sense of skills and fit than an interview would. One woman we brought in as a temp had decent work quality – not the greatest, but it was a complicated industry with a lot of demanding stakeholders, so it took everyone a while to pick things up – and she probably would’ve been trainable, but none of us could bear to sit next to her because she REEKED of smoke. She smelled like she bathed in cigarette water (which isn’t a thing, I know, but picture bong water but with cigarettes, or tea but the teabag is full of cigarettes). It was just awful. We brought her in for two separate roles, a few weeks apart, and decided we just couldn’t move forward.

  65. Nay*

    I did a bunch of informational interviews when I was younger and all they did was get my hopes up that I had some sort of “in.” Have never gotten a job that way.

  66. Abogado Avocado.*

    LW#1, I feel for you. You sound like a hard worker who has been betrayed by a colleague and devalued by the CEO. That is awful.

    May I share something I learned yesterday about EAP’s? Many EAP’s provide free counseling services — whether that counseling is for depression, anxiety or help looking for a new job. And if you don’t have an EAP, if your spouse or room-mate has one, many EAPs will provide free services to anyone living at the same address as the covered person.

    All of which is to say that an EAP’s services may give you the boost to get out of your current situation and into a better one. I hope you have access to one.

  67. Elizabeth*

    LW 2 – I pushed hard for salary transparency at my last job, got it, and lost 3 out of 4 finalists, including our candidate of choice, for the first management job we posted under this policy. It’s like people are so used to employers playing stupid games that they weren’t willing to believe that our range was firm (I offered too of range to the selected finalist who asked for more). I had also indicated that I thought we weren’t competitive to HR but, still, it was tight there in the ad and I confirmed it during screening. It was frustrating to say the least.

  68. Ess Ess*

    Very bluntly, if she is smelling of smoke then she shouldn’t be hired to health organizations in a patient-facing capacity. That is a serious allergen for many patients. My lungs seize up when a coworker sits next to me and smells of cigarette smoke. Going into a physician office when I am already having health issues and being in the same room with someone smelling of cigarette smoke would put me into the emergency room. She would be a health hazard for patients no matter how nice or skilled she might be. It’s the same with any job candidate that douses themselves in perfume or scent as well.

  69. Petty_Boop*

    2 of my brother’s jobs have had “NO SMOKING” requirements, and tested for nicotine, as well as “illicit” substances, so he quit cold turkey and waited 2 weeks to take his drug panel. Funnily enough, his most recent job is fine with his medicinal marijuana use, since it’s ingested and not smoked! So, maybe that’s just where I live, but smoking CAN be a factor in employment, probably because it drives up the cost of employer subsidized health insurance significantly. Smokers (thank goodness) aren’t a protected class. TBH, back when I was working in an office, I’d get so mad when smokers would take multiple breaks a day. They’d always say “it’s only 5 minutes” but it never was. We were on a high floor, and the designated area was ~100 feet from the doorway; so they had to wait for the elevator, walk out, smoke/chat/vent, wait for elevator up, etc.. it was always anywhere from 20-30 minutes. The worst guy would smoke at say 8am, be back at 820, go again at 9, back at 920, etc.. allllll day. Once I just wrote the times down as I saw him pass by for a few days, and he wasted over 2 HOURS of his day on average (not including lunch) on SMOKE breaks. Still makes me mad how much work he was permitted to miss, whereas if I said, “hey I’m going shoe shopping for 2 hours, ok?” They’d have looked at me like I have 2 heads!

    1. JustaTech*

      I knew a guy who said he picked up smoking when he joined the Army because smokers got smoke breaks and non-smokers got no breaks, so in his 18-year-old mind it was obvious that he should start smoking to get more breaks.

      Of course then it took him years to quit.

      1. H3llifIknow*

        My hubby did the same thing in the AF because they’d be like “smoke ’em if you got ’em and everyone else scrub the bathroom.” Like WTF, right? Fortunately, he basically faked smoking and never picked it up as a habit, but such a weird time!

  70. JJ2021*

    Hi all LW1 here

    First thank you all for your kind words and advice. It’s deeply appreciated and many of you offered perspectives I was lacking in my own circles.

    To clarify:Yes, I was essentially “demoted” without notice. No PIP, no conversation of why and what bars aren’t being met. I am also well versed in therapy and have been holding up my end by continuing to work through my emotions around this in order to still be professional and try to enjoy my job, but it is a long term concern that this is hanging over my head. And third, on age thank you all so much- I work in an industry that loves cheap, young, too naive to know you are being overworked labor, so senior positions open infrequently.

  71. No Name*

    LW2: We also clearly post salary ranges. I’ve had candidates get to the end of the interview process (our first choice of 2 finalists) and at that point say that their salary requirements were 50% higher than our range. We are also a nonprofit – I don’t know why people think we’d have that level of flexibility! Luckily our #2 for that role turned out to be excellent – truly couldn’t have asked for a better employee.

    So I’ve started doing what Alison suggests and prompting multiple times during the interview process for questions about comp and benefits, and now I explicitly ask them to confirm that our advertised range meets their salary expectations. No issues since implementing these checks.

  72. Dawn*

    LW#1 – I’m a publicly-out trans woman and I’m 40 and I have a disability I speak about and I have recruiters reaching out to me. If I can do it, so can you.

    1. Dawn*

      And I hear what you’re saying about your industry but leadership skills/experience are portable anywhere. You don’t have to stay in your industry if the roles aren’t there.

  73. SB*

    Just to present another POV. I will not use a hairdresser, massage therapist, or aesthetician who smells of cigarette smoke. I find the smell offensive & it prevents me from being able to relax during my appointment. I make this choice clear when booking with a new salon & request a non smoking provider. From what I have been told by my hairdresser (who owns the salon), this is not an unusual request from clients & she is finding it harder to book people in with the one woman on staff who smokes.

  74. NotARealManager*


    I’m adding to the the chorus of look for a new job immediately. I also worked very hard to get up to $15 an hour at a previous position, only to find out a couple years in that the same job paid $45-$100 an hour elsewhere. I went to elsewhere.

    That company is still wildly underpaying for the position and wonders why their turnover is pretty much constant.

  75. Sava*

    So, I totally got my first job doing informational interviews. To be fair, it is really hard to land your first job, and while I had a strong internship, I wasn’t hired due to the current workload at the firm. However, my informational interviews were always referrals from people I did my internship with. And then that would lead to about 3-5 more contacts. About 1 in 3 to 2 in 3 replied to my requests, but I always mentioned my referral and included a short portfolio that was tailored to the firm.

  76. Grim*

    LW3: This is probably something with a lot of regional variation, but I work in healthcare, and quite a few of my coworkers are smokers! More so among the nurses, carers, and wardies/support staff, less so among the doctors, no idea about admin staff. I’m not sure how the statistics would compare to smokers among the general population, so it may be that it still negatively affects your chances of getting hired, but it definitely doesn’t seem like a total barrier.

    Although the point some people have made about a lot of healthcare environments being non-smoking areas is an important one to consider, because break times are pretty inflexible and smokers will end up having to spend their entire break getting far enough away from the facility to be able to smoke. Depending on the workplace, it’s not an impossible thing to manage, but it must get pretty inconvenient! And while I have a pretty poor sense of smell and hardly notice it, I have to assume the smell probably bothers some patients, or is a health issue for some. I’m not interested in lecturing anyone about quitting, they’ve almost certainly heard it all before, but there’s probably easier industries to work in if you’re a smoker.

Comments are closed.