{ 434 comments… read them below }

  1. Ahoy*

    Is freelance writing-related work going to AI now? It feels like so much of my work in copywriting/adaptation/proofing is at a trickle, and more and more clients are asking me to proof Google Translate copy. Just me…?

    1. Alan*

      Probably not just you. I don’t do that sort of work but seemingly everywhere now I see stuff that must be generated by AI. It all sounds the same, like a lecture by someone who thinks they know a lot more than they do, half fluff and the other half questionable, unsourced claims. If people are leaving humans for AI stuff, they’re going to be really sorry later. You get what you pay for.

      1. CL*

        I agree with what you’ve said. My concern is that enough people aren’t questioning the AI output and just accept it as truth/quality that it will take a long time for society to see that the emperor has no clothes.

        1. Double A*

          As a teacher, I’m trying to teach my students to question AI and really think about what it is and isn’t useful for. They just blindly trust AI. Which is one thing for a 16 year old but sad that it’s professional adults not noticing/caring about its terrible quality.

        2. Myrin*

          Yeah, I wish there were more of these situations where that AI stuff has immediate and obvious consequences, like with the court cases where the AI just straight-up made up cases to cite out of whole cloth. That tends to come out fast because the opposing side’s whole job is to poke holes into your argument, but I worry that with other writing, the people commissioning it are just going to see “uh-hu, text with seemingly relevant words in it, good enough” and it’s going to take a long time for someone to actually dig deeper.

        3. Busy Middle Manager*

          Agreed! People really need to start pushing back, en masse. Or stop reading articles from places. Also this is a huge issue on Reddit, I am not sure what other places have the issue. People need to stop denying it because they feel the accounts/writers are (at least temporarily) supporting and reiterating their views.

          You can tell something is AI or fake when you follow the same outlets or in the case of reddit, subs, and see how random milque toasts walls of texts get thrown in out of left field, with alot of words and either no point, or an agenda that doesn’t align with anything going on. And you’re sitting their having “sir this is a Wendy’s” moments. And then you see the same bland sentences get repeated in various places even though no normal person would be sitting there typing out such bland writing.

          1. Pickwick*

            Isaac Asimov advised writers who struggled with bland writing to write, and write, and write some more, till they were no longer capable of producing a cliche.

            But all that early writing went into the LLM training materials.

      2. Nonn*

        I wish that it were clearly labeled whether something is written by a human or AI. I feel like I’m so frequently reading pieces online now where I’m like, “Is this person just kind of a bad writer, or did a new robot overlord generate this?”

        1. Myrin*

          I’m experiencing this with a youtube channel right now, of all things. It’s in Japanese and the German subtitles (I’m German) are very clearly translated from the English subtitles (telephone translations – I can’t stand them!), but badly. Just yesterday, I saw one that translated the “staff” in “staff lunch” as meaning “rod, stick”, the “light” in “light colour” as meaning “not heavy”, and the “shaved” in “shaved flakes” as “freed of hair”.
          However, the English subtitles are bad, too! They’ll stop in the middle of a sentence, just string words together, repeat half of everything that’s spoken once but slightly different, etc. It’s incredibly hard to follow and I genuinely can’t tell if it’s someone who’s just pretty bad at English and then another person who’s bad at German or if they’re all AI translations and it just can’t make sense of either Japanese-English or English-German. Yeesh.

          1. Jasmine*

            This is also my experience. I often use Google Translate if one of my friends send me a very long text message in Chinese. Sometimes it comes out very clear, sometimes cute or funny and sometimes idiotically wrong! I can’t imagine a professional writer using AI and thinking they’re going to succeed.

      3. Old Admin*

        I’m in contact with a US college that requires a lot of writing heavy assignments, regardless if English composition, philosophy, or physics.
        The instructors are constantly hunting for plagiarism and straight up ChatGPT content in the assignments, using some very specific tools.
        I’ve seen some of that generated content, and the (content, grammar) mistakes and BS/hallucinations were glaring.
        I just don’t understand how a student with even minimal knowledge of the subject being taught could turn an assignment like that and be surprised it gets zero points.

      4. Fishsticks*

        AI always reads to me like a fifth grader who forgot to write the essay until they were on the bus on the way into school and is trying to bluff their way through it. I loathe it – especially since AI by definition is just rehashing and regurgitating content scraped from somewhere else.

    2. Come On Eileen*

      Not just you. I have a full-time corporate job but have also worked as a contractor for an editing service for many years. The editing service is severely paring down their contractors due to a decline in business — and they shared that many of their clients are simply using AI instead of humans.

      1. Ahoy*

        It is just so frustrating that clients with money are using this to increase profits, and yet the AI is full of errors and frankly fails to speak to humans like a human. And this isn’t (as some people like to say) the same as replacing horse and carts with cars. That was a long, complex process that took many, many years and afforded time to shift over. This is practically overnight, and not an improvement but a decline. And here we are, left trying to pay bills.

        1. Busy Middle Manager*

          On top of that, the profits aren’t even going to a useful place. All these extra profits seem to be doing is making inflation sticky (more rich people with cash to throw around and overpaying for anything from housing to watches), which means that extra money loses value anyway. Might as well spend it on something that will not have a negative impact, no?

      2. Old Admin*

        Unfortunately, my company firmly believes in AI and stopped hiring writers even before we had a semblance of topic specific text generators – that can’t even describe the new stuff we produce.

    3. Aggretsuko*

      From what I’ve read online, yes, that’s happening :( I do have one friend doing freelancing in Canada that doesn’t seem to have this issue yet, but a lot of people are mentioning it.

    4. RMNPgirl*

      I just saw that Google AI is pulling in headlines from the Onion and presenting them like facts to people who are searching for something. On the one hand it is absolutely hilarious but on the other hand it’s terrifying.
      Part of me is hoping it sort of goes the way of crypto or nfts. But there are some good uses for it. There was the story about the college student from University of Nebraska who was using AI to decode ancient scrolls.

      1. Lime green Pacer*

        The guy who runs Etymonline (yes, it’s just one guy) has posted some infuriating examples of Google’s snippets attaching his definitions to the wrong words, while still attributing it to Etymonline.

      2. But what to call me?*

        That thing where google gives an AI answer at the top of every search recently told me that millibytes are real. Based on the jumble of sentences it came up with, I imagine it going, “Hmm, millibytes. I can’t find anything about millibytes [this is the point where a human might conclude that no they aren’t real, but for some reason it is determined to find some way the answer to my question could be yes], but I recognize components of that word. Milli, SI prefix, abbreviated m. Bytes, computer thing that sometimes has SI prefixes attached, can be abbreviated b. So I’m looking for something computer-related that is abbreviated mb. Mebibytes! Mebibytes are real!” It then proceeds to confidently tell me millibytes are real, immediately followed by an explanation of mebibytes, with no explanation of what in the world mebibytes have to do with my question.

          1. Roland*

            Mebibytes are actually the real unit in this story! Millibytes are not real in any useful sense since you can’t go below a bit which is 1/8 of a byte :)

            1. Myrin*

              What! Today I learned! (I actually thought about googling “mebibytes” before I make a fool of myself but alas, I was just overwhelmed by the funny and now I came out looking a fool regardless.)

      3. Siege*

        Also Quora and Reddit, known high-value services. There’s been suggestions to eat a rock a day, add glue to cheese to keep it from sliding off pizza, that the optimum chicken cooked temperature is 102 F, that you can add gasoline to spaghetti to make a spicy spaghetti dish, that you can jump off a cliff and run in air as long as you keep running and don’t look down, and that Old Holland Green Drop (from context with the other provided paints toxic) is the best-tasting paint.

        People will die from this, and Sundar Pichai is acting like the AI overview “feature” is just out of his hands and MUST be kept.

        1. Pickwick*

          This!!! This particular path toward AI and rampant dislocation of humans everywhere is only inevitable because people like Sundar Pichai and Sam Altman, who have the power to choose otherwise, do not care to do so.

    5. Expectations*

      The problem us that people who aren’t writers don’t understand how unreadable the output really is – even when it’s accurate, which is a big if.

      1. Yup*

        People keep sharing those over-the-top AI pics with “Wow!” and “Beautiful!” and “I’d live there!” and even when gently called out, they claim it’s OK to like what we like and no harm done. Except we *need* to be educated in spotting this. We *need* to stop sharing it.

      2. Mairead*

        I’m not a writer, but I know slop when I see it. I do think AI has great potential for doing some tasks very well but producing high-quality accurate text does not appear to be one of those tasks.
        And then we have the absurd ‘emperor’s new clothes’ response from so many people who really should know better. AAARRGGGHHH!

    6. RagingADHD*

      I switched careers last year because I was already seeing downward price pressure and unrealistic expectations about output, based on what clients *thought* AI could do.

      I’m sure there are clients who understand the value of quality content, but they are getting fewer and farther between.

      1. Considering career change*

        What field did you change to, and do you find you can use writing skills there? Another writer here.

        1. RagingADHD*

          I am a corporate secretary assistant, which means I produce and track written materials for the Board of a large financial institution. I had a background in legal secretary and EA work in the financial world before I went freelance.

          Some writing, more copyediting and formatting, a lot of record keeping. Often dull but great pay and bennies, so I am enjoying having a life.

    7. JFC*

      Yes. I was doing freelance transcription on Rev for a couple of years until about eight months ago. The number of available projects on any given day was reduced by at least a third once their AI improved enough. When they had first launched it, the AI transcripts were so laughably bad that most customers would send it back and ask for a human-created or edited transcript. They evidently either switched AI platforms or massively improved theirs, because those transcripts were significantly better — satisfactory enough for customers and no need for a human touch from anyone at Rev. The only projects available for humans were of such poor audio quality that it was difficult to make sense of them. It was a part-time thing in the evenings for me and I eventually decided I wanted my evening time back. It wasn’t worth the few bucks a week I was getting.

      My full-time job is as a copywriter and I see AI trickling in more and more. Our office is now using it for idea generation, helping to create sales pitches, etc. It’s only a matter of time before it starts to create more of the content. I do not look forward to that day.

      1. RagingADHD*

        One of my agency clients used Rev to transcribe book interviews for a while. I remember how bad the AI used to be l. The client wound up building their own AI rather than pay for human transcription.

      2. Fishsticks*

        I work in health care and we have plenty of people trying SO HARD to force AI into places AI shouldn’t go. It’s going to get people hurt, misdiagnosed, or killed.

        We had some people trying to use it for idea generation and its responses were so weird that we had to step up and flat out refuse to use it.

        It’s so weird to me that AI should have been used for the grunt work and instead people want to use it to replace deeply human skills and creativity instead.

      3. Goldfeesh*

        I’m still on the Rev forums and use it mostly for socializing now. I rarely do any transcription since it has gotten so thin and only stuff that sounds like it was recorded in the Denorios Belt is available.

    8. Dread Gazebo*

      Editor here, I work with a specific kind of contract technical writing for a living. I’ve been seeing an uptick in AI-generated content from our writers lately, where they’ve been getting an AI to write generic copy and then hastily plugging in client-specific details throughout, often resulting in total nonsense. Every editor I work with can spot the AI content from a mile away and we ask our writers to re-write in their own words. The part where it gets insidious is that our execs either can’t spot the AI writing or don’t care whether or not the content makes sense, only that we get paid for it in the short term. In fact, they keep asking us to investigate using AI tools to automate our own work. So we’re in a tough spot where we have to be constantly explaining to both our direct reports and our own execs why it’s a bad idea to feed confidential client data into a third-party plagiarism machine and then charge our clients for the garbled results. The whole situation is unfair to our writers who are putting in the actual legwork to produce high-quality content and getting paid the same as someone slapping together AI copy.

  2. CircleCircleDotDot*

    my colleague just complained about me to our manager… saying I put a hex on her.

    I don’t know what to do with that info but laugh…. and well, now share this info.

    1. Alan*

      That’s awesome! Somehow I don’t think this is going to be the win she thinks it is.

      1. CircleCircleDotDot*

        Yeah… I think I just need to bide my time with this one.
        Tempted to redecorate my desk, though, just to freak her out.

        1. ag*

          Buy a houseplant for your desk that is extremely weird. Maybe a black toned succulent or something not commonly seen with creepy vibes. It is ‘just a plant’. to you know, brighten my desk.

    2. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

      We definitely need an update next week! Makes me think of the letter from years ago where someone was putting curses on her coworkers.

      1. Star Trek Nutcase*

        Well back in my late 20s (now 65+), I definitely tried to hex or curse “repeatedly” a professor in the department I worked in. I’m atheist but thought it was worth a shot. This guy was such a tool but could do pretty much whatever because he brought in big research bucks. Unfortunately, my hex didn’t work on him – though it did let me vent my spleen. Eventually I matured and focused on petty revenge and/or malicious compliance.

    3. Just a name*

      If only you had such powers! I had a few people back in the day I would have used it on.

      1. CircleCircleDotDot*

        I like where your head is…. and may have already made a joke about that to a friend

      1. CircleCircleDotDot*

        It was something I said… completely taken out of context. but I don’t want to share it here because it is too specific.

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

      are you Wiccan or another non Christian religion. Besides being hilarious this could be religious discrimination.

      1. Proud Pagan*

        ,,,And never understimate the abysmal ignorance that exists vis-a-vis modern-day Paganism! I understand that not everyone is into comparative religion, but a super-simple Google search can provide basic information about what Pagans believe, our religious practices and how utterly harmless we are. But hey, some people are happier running around accusing us of being Satanists (when Satan is strictly a Judeo-Christian figure who doesn’t even EXIST in Paganism!)

        The problem, of course, is when companies’ HR departments or managers believe the ignorant, bigoted dingbats; in some regions, that’s a very real, very dangerous possibility. And in those areas, claims of religious discrimination could well go unheeded and unheard.

    5. TheBunny*

      I’m fascinated. Why in the world does she think you hexed her? Even if you did (no judgment she probably deserved it) is not like you would have told her you hexed her…

      1. CircleCircleDotDot*

        We were talking about a former colleague of mine in another company. A 3rd person said “oh, I think know her” and I said “oh, did you know she passed away?” and the 3rd person said “Oh, then it’s a different person.”

        And then I made a comment about how there have been a few people that I’ve worked with that have passed away suddenly and tragically. That was what she construed as the hex, apparently.

    6. Firebird*

      Could putting a hex on someone be considered assault? The goal of a hex is to cause harm, so it is at least attempted assault.

      1. Catherine*

        Occult actions are not prosecutable offenses because the line between cause and effect can’t be definitively proven. No one can prove a link from me putting this guy’s business card in a jar of grave dirt and spices to his broken ankle the next week.

      2. RagingADHD*

        The law does not treat magic or religion as real actions. For example, you can’t prosecute a clairvoyant for being a peeping tom because they supposedly saw you in a vision inside your house. Nor can you sue a faith healer for medical malpractice.

  3. Daisy*

    I’m (hopefully) interviewing with a company in Belgium (Flanders, Dutch-speaking) for a tech role. Anything I should know about the office culture, formality, etc. for that region?

    1. Bird Law*

      I had a not great experience working for a Belgian company in Brussels (I think they were French-speaking, but everything was run in English.) The employees were amazing, and so kind.

      Our management was pretty racist and xenophobic. The US office was more diverse than headquarters. My business unit brought it the lions share of the profits, but instead of being rewarded for it, we were punished at review time.

      This was all pre-pandemic, so I can’t speak to dress code now, but it was on the business end of business casual (no jeans, but cardigans okay.)

    2. Dr. Prepper*

      I grew up in the Netherlands and worked in Flanders (Osterijke) for a while. The biggest thing is almost everyone speaks fluent English as a rule, but learning/knowing Dutch is to your benefit. Office culture is usually pretty stiff with suits and ties being the norm and seniority is based on age / duration with the company over accomplishments. You will have a contract (frequently 8 years) that will need to be renewed and there is no guarantee of renewal so plan for that in case you start thinking about real estate, etc.

      The biggest issue is that Belgium is an artificial country established by Napoleonic edict. The Flemish hate and despise anything French or Walloon and the feeling is mutual. You can literally be officially sanctioned for speaking French, listening to French stations or reading French newspapers. They make you sign contracts if you buy real estate that you will speak Dutch, send your kids to Dutch schools and can legally sell your house out from under you if you violate these requirements.

      So be careful voicing opinions about anything French-related that could be considered favorable to them.

      1. ag*

        Really bone up on Belgian history. As noted it is a country just made up with disparate parts rammed together (like was done in Africa). They even shopped for a king among lesser royals and came up with the widower of the crown princess of England. It has always amazed me that a country felt it needed a king — I understand that if you have a long tradition like England you might preserve that, but to just grab some guy who wasn’t too busy and slightly royal from another country to fill that role in your country has always seemed a tad odd to me.

        Bone up on civilities in Dutch — so you can great people, return greatings, use courtesies like please, thank you and excuse me in Dutch even if you do business in English.

        1. Roland*

          I guess it’s more common than we thought! When I visited Sweden I learned that their current dynasty only started in the 19th century when their childless king appointed some French guy as his heir (so Napoleon would like them ig)

          1. Richard Hershberger*

            Bernadotte. He was a Marshal of France (which is not quite the same as general, but you can think of it that way). He was named heir to the Swedish throne, and effectively ran the place. The kicker was that he adopted a pro-Swedish policy, much to Napoleon’s disgust.

            1. I take tea*

              I remember part of the allure being that he might get Finland back, being a great military man, but he was prudent and didn’t fight with Russia, but grabbed Norway instead and forced them into a union that lasted until 1905.

          2. Bruce*

            At least the Swedes had a long history of monarchy, so they may have felt some need to keep up appearances (I’m a Yank and I am not in favor of monarchy in general, but my British brother in law would like to see them turned out on the street!)

        2. allathian*

          When I was a student I had a number of Belgian friends, both Flemish and Walloon, and they said that the only thing that generally united the Belgians as a people was their royal family, whether they were royalists who were in favor of keeping it, or republicans who wanted to abolish it. That, and the national (men’s) football/soccer team and its (lack of) success.

      2. Been there*

        You are spewing nonsense, as someone who is actually Belgian/Flemish.
        Our dress code is much more casual than the US (jeans and hoodies are okay in most places).

        You can’t be officially sanctioned for speaking French, unless you work for local/regional government. They’re not going to sell your house just because you like Wallonia.

        Limited-term contracts are max. 2 years, after they have to give you a contract with no end date.

        The only thing based on age/time employed is how much you earn.

        1. Zona the Great*

          Gosh! Your first sentence was much more aggressive than is necessary on AAM.

          1. allathian*

            Well, the post they replied to was full of nonsense and it’s okay to call them out on that.

            That said, as a non-French foreigner in Flanders, the locals are more likely to be friendly if you speak English rather than French. As I learned to my cost when I flew to Brussels. The Brussels Capital Region is bilingual French-Dutch, but Brussels International Airport is in Zaventem, which is in Flanders. I was going to Lille, France and going via Brussels rather than Paris meant a shorter flight/trip for me because Lille is closer to Brussels than Paris.

    3. IHaveKittens*

      I worked for a Dutch company for several years and spent a fair amount of time there. I don’t know if it is different in Belgium, but I found the Dutch to be incredibly competitive – even on things that made no sense, rather chauvinistic, and difficult to get to know. Office culture followed these characteristics. It was not a pleasant working environment. On a personal level, when I got to know a few of the men I was managing, they could be very nice and very loyal. But in a group setting, not so much.

    4. Managercanuck*

      Know that Tintin is from the French side of the tracks, not the Dutch (so to speak)

    5. BeeCee*

      Don’t quote me. A lot of tech companies are influenced by the (in)formality of American tech such as the use of small talk and being casual. Please ask the locals just to be sure.

      Some cultures don’t do small talk.

    6. Been There*

      From reading this blog (and seeing TikToks) I think our dress code is more relaxed. I usually wear sneakers, jeans and a sweater to the office. I’ve worn hoodies and shorts before. I have coworkers who wear crop tops.

      Our personalities, on the other hand, are more reserved. Especially if you’re American, I think you’d do well to tone it down a bit. Speak a little softer, act a little more reserved. And don’t take it as an insult if you’re not welcomed as you’re used to. We take a while to warm up to people but it doesn’t mean we don’t like you!

      Although we aren’t as work focused as American work culture seems to be, sadly overtime/not using all your vacation time can still sometimes be used to brag (“I’m so busy, I can’t possibly finish all my work in my regular hours”).

      A full-time work week is 38 hours. 20 days vacation is the bare minimum. There’s no limit on sick time, but if you’re out for more than 30 days straight you will start earning less (I think it’s about 70% of your previous paycheck?).

      We get paid monthly. In either May or June you will get extra “vacation money” and in December you will get a year-end bonus. These are a percentage of your monthly pay.

      Work from home seems very common. My previous employer required us in the office 50% of the time (minimum). Current employer asks 1 day/week, but some people show up once a month.

      The best way to get to know your coworkers is to eat lunch with them :-)

      1. allathian*

        The advice to tone it down applies throughout Europe, except possibly in Italy and Spain. Even the French I’ve met are more reserved than most Americans I’ve met.

        In general, Americans are friendly in a way that can be perceived as aggressive in a less exuberant culture. The French can be loud, but they aren’t necessarily friendly in the same way that most Americans I’ve met are. That said, because I haven’t been to the US yet, so all the Americans I’ve met are international travelers so my sample’s limited to those who have the opportunity and wish to travel internationally.

        1. Alexander Graham Yell*

          Definitely agree that for most places, Americans toning it down really helps – I live in France and while I do find the French more outgoing and accepting of small talk and publicly expressing emotions than the Dutch or Danes (for example), my partner and I are looking for an apartment and I wanted to impress upon the agent that I *really* wanted this one in particular, and I told my partner that I showed as much enthusiasm as I thought I could get away with by explaining it this way: “I was at American 20%, so French 110%.”

  4. Sunset Light*

    I have a coworker who I want to get a gift for. He’s a very generous guy (his husband is well off from his job and they both have shocking luck with lottery/gambling) and is constantly giving gifts to myself and other coworkers. It was his birthday over the weekend, and he’s been dealing with a lot lately as his mother is in poor health. But I don’t know what I can get for him. Normally I’d default to baking something but my coworker and his husband are on strict diets and don’t eat desserts or carbs of any kind. Any thoughts?

    1. kalli*

      So avoid food, unless you know for sure which fruits to include in a fruit basket or similar.

      If you know him well enough to know about his husband’s diet (and not just his by osmosis from sharing a lunch room), you might know enough about his preferences to get him a book, new stationery or a small useful gadget, like a thermal mug or even a board game he can play with his mum (like a simple travel version or a 101-in-1 set).

      There is also always a voucher; given the strict diet and carb restriction, some kind of spa day may not be an option as they do sometimes include a meal or use oats in various products which may not be suitable (of course depending on why, which carbs etc. as some people can be celiac without contact reactions, some people can touch a wheat bag and that will set things off if they don’t wash their hands enough in time), but some stores will do vouchers for a session where someone will help pick products (including for gifts) if that’s a niche that might be welcome. Otherwise you’re back to considering him and his interests – and if you don’t know enough to know he’d prefer a PSN voucher over $50 to spend at the arcade, then a nice card with a voucher for backing him up at work if he needs time with his mum, if your jobs are compatible that way, or for him to pick a meal you can make ahead for him (that way he’s approved the ingredients and you just have to clean your utensils first) or just the card on its own because the sentiment is often enough when someone’s dealing with a lot.

    2. All The Time*

      Flowers + gift card to a nice restaurant or fancy wine/cheese/chocolate shop. I know they are on strict diets but a gift card is something that they can save for a splurge

      1. Observer*

        Disagree. If they are on a strict diet, you really should not assume that they are going “splurge”. Sure, some people do splurge. But many don’t – they can’t afford to. People don’t generally go on such diets long term without a good reason. And that reason often means that any deviation is going to be a problem for them.

    3. Jo*

      Maybe something else in the food area:
      ** If they cook, maybe a nice bottle of olive oil – ideally from a local or boutique farm.
      ** Selection of hot sauces
      ** Some sort of artistic fruit display
      ** Gift package of fancy cooking salts

      Non-food gifts are hard unless you know what the couple has/likes. One of our standby’s is a diffuser with essential oils. It’s always a favorite at say, gift swaps.

      1. Unscented everything*

        I really dislike essential oils. If there is any scent sensitivities or allergies, they can be very problematic.

        1. Future*

          I’m the same. It’s absolutely a lovely thought but I’d have to quietly regift an essential oil diffuser. I am pretty sensitive to scents and can’t have that sort of thing around.

          On top of that, appliances can be a problem if you haven’t been to their home recently – they may already have one, or not have space for one!

          I’d stick with consumables or gift certificates. Echoing a fancy olive oil, salt, or seasoning, or a gift cert to a fancy food shop. Or, do they have pets? Maybe a gift cert to a fancy pet boutique?

        1. Tea and Sympathy*

          This is what I was thinking – some interesting tea and/or coffee, if they’re not avoiding caffeine. Or a gift certificate to an online spice store like Penzys, since they’re probably cooking more.

    4. Observer*

      Is there a craft that they enjoy, or a hobby that they are really into? Perhaps a gift card to the best vendor of their craft supplies?

      1. Irish Teacher.*

        That was my thought too. I generally value cards like that more than most gifts.

      2. Stunt Apple Breeder*

        A hand-drawn or painted card by a local artist would be a lovely gift option!

    5. Vanessa*

      Maybe not in this case, but I have a good friend who is hard to buy for (earns quite a bit more/different lifestyles). I bought a little watercolor kit. It’s been a hit. It’s a nice, meditative practice. Maybe along with a bottle of wine or some nice tea.

      1. Anonymous cat*

        I sometimes give fancy/funny/quirky trivets.

        They don’t HAVE to match the dishes and they somehow go missing right when you have a hot dish.

    6. RLC*

      Maybe one of those elaborate and beautiful “paper art” 3 dimensional greeting cards with a handwritten “thinking of you” note. Paper decorations are typically a safe bet in case of allergies or pets in the family (our cats eat/demolish real flowers).

    7. Cookie butter*

      I have a coworker with strict diet limitations and scent sensitivity and I have given her two small plants, a photo frame, a cute little trinket box, and a mug. I have begun crocheting a pair of potholders in her favorite sports team colors, but I kinda stalled out on that and I have no specific gift occasions coming up anyway.

    8. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      I don’t know if this is appropriate, but a voucher for a massage. Or could you contribute to someone coming in to clean for them once? Basically, rather than stuff, what’s something that could relieve some of the burden of adult responsibilities?

    9. Even Steven*

      I may be too late to chime in here, but a couple of national parks passes or museum passes might be nice.

    10. hi there*

      A thoughtful card sounds like the way to go here. Maybe birthday candles (or something related), so they can have the festive bit?

  5. allx*

    I can relate. I am a lawyer and just had a client ask me to look at a business contract that (it turns out) she created using GPTChat. It “sounded” contract-y, but didn’t make any actual sense. I assumed she had drafted it herself and was being careful of her feelings in asking about the origin of the document. AI-origin just didn’t occur to me. Good grief.

    1. Ahoy*

      It really is a strange and depressing feeling to have clients (many who are making record profits!) save more money by using AI and then turning to me to “correct” it with my 20+ years of expertise. It’s not correctable–I have to rewrite whole sections. Ugh.

        1. Ahoy*

          How though? It’s cut my revenue by about 75%. I used to do the writing and adapting.

          1. CircleCircleDotDot*

            fixing the mess.
            I mean I didn’t say it is a good one, just a new one.

          2. Mephyle*

            How to make it a new revenue source? Possibly by revisiting your pricing model. The goal is to be making your target income per hour of work whether you are writing, adapting, or picking up dog poop from the lawn, excuse me, I meant correcting AI text.

            1. AcademiaNut*

              The problem is that writing from scratch can be significantly faster than fixing AI generated garbage, so you either need to charge much more (in a market where work is drying up and people are scrambling for jobs), or suddenly start working much faster.

            2. Jasmine*

              I saw a sign on a car repair garage wall a long time ago… something like this:

              Cost of labor per hour
              – by mechanic $
              – by mechanic/w customer watching $$
              – by mechanic with customer helping $$$

              I think this could be adapted to your situation!

          3. kalli*

            And AI text is a lot harder to correct than a human generated document because all the usual context clues are gone- if something’s not right you have to reconstruct the intent, instead of going ‘oh they said recombinated and meant constituted because they’re talking about leather’. I don’t think people realise that until they actually have to fix it themselves.

      1. Can you?*

        Can you explain that? Every time. Say, “This isn’t fixable. I have to rewrite.” Then, charge them for reviewing it and your standard rate for the rewrite.

    2. sagewhiz*

      Look at the trouble Drumpf’s “fixer, Michael Cohen, got into, pulling a bunch of legalesy stuff off AI that turned to include a bunch of cases & rulings that didn’t exist! He did later fess up to it and the judge did not sanction him back in March.

      1. fhqwhgads*

        What? Cohen had already gone to prison (and was already anti his former employer) when ChatGPT came out . There were definitely lawyers who used it and got in major trouble. Did he use it for himself after the fact?

        1. sagewhiz*

          From Courthouse News Service, March 20 of this year: “A federal judge in New York City on Wednesday declined to impose punitive sanctions on Donald Trump’s former personal fixer, Michael Cohen, who said he had unwittingly provided bogus, artificial intelligence-generated case citations to his attorney before they were submitted to a judge.” … ‘I did not know that Google Bard could generate non-existent cases, nor did I have access to Westlaw or other standard resources for confirming the details of cases,’ Cohen wrote in the declaration.”

        2. *daha**

          This happened in December 2023. Cohen was requesting an early release from supervision. Search on Michael Cohen and chatgpt for plenty of hits.

          1. Pickwick*

            But how many of those hits were hallucinated by Bard…? ;)

            I didn’t know Cohen had done this. He’s not the only, not the first; lawyers have, indeed, been sanctioned for this already. The first case I read about filled me with foreboding about the way this technology will be used. The lawyer asked ChatGPT for citations to support his case, then he tried to do his due diligence: he asked ChatGPT if it had made up the citations, and it assured him that they were real cases.

    3. Future*

      A lawyer in Vancouver recently got in big trouble for using ChatGPT in a custody case. It made up some cases from pure air. I don’t imagine her client was too pleased. And not that it should make a difference, but the client was a millionaire, so I have to assume her services didn’t come cheap.

    4. the cat's ass*

      One of my patients before coming to see me for an MRI review ran the radiology report through Chat GPT and came to see me more confused than ever. I gave her the ‘correct’ translation. The ChatGPT version was wrong in a couple places and omitted other stuff as well. It sounded like the radiologist had dropped some really bad acid. We laughed about it but folks, PLEASE don’t do this.

    5. AICantWrite*

      I’ve found this to be the case for any technical/specialty content I’ve seen. It has some of the right words but it’s put together as gobbledygook. And don’t get me started on the “please summarize this into bullets” requests one of my colleague does – at best it doesn’t capture the point of the article (sometimes actively contradicting it), at worst it feels actively misleading.

      1. Zweisatz*

        People do not understand that ChatGPT and all the others doesn’t “understand” anything, they just do predictive text completion. Like if you want nonsense fiction that sounds smart, go ahead, but this stuff should not come near any serious business or when you simply need facts.

  6. Can't Sit Still*

    I have a contractor working on a project in my home who is appallingly racist and abusive to their workers. I am ashamed that I didn’t speak up in the moment, and it haunted me all night that I didn’t. The project is halfway done, scheduled to be completed this coming Friday. The job itself is going fine, and I’ve had a lot of difficulty finding someone to willing to do this project. How should I proceed? Do I have a conversation with the contractor? Do I find someone else to complete the job? (Long term, I need to practice difficult conversations with racists and other noxious people and be a better ally.)

    1. Ahoy*

      Tip the workers well–in front of the contractor, and let them know it’s for putting up with him as well as the good job they did?

      1. Rincewind*

        I recommend this. And if the workers are speaking a language other than English, try to learn just enough to explain the situation. “You did a good job, your boss is a bad man, here is money.”

        1. BellaStella*

          Yes and also explain to the boss that his behaviour is unacceptable. And leave an online review of the business perhaps? My worry is he will fire all the workers.

          1. Observer*

            My worry is he will fire all the workers.

            If he remains in business, he won’t because he needs them. If he goes out of business it will be because someone who is not so racist got the business instead – and odds are these if these guys are good, they will get other work.

      2. I should really pick a name*

        Actually, I might suggest tipping them where he can’t see so he doesn’t take a cut.

        1. Lime green Pacer*

          If he’s a massive jerk, I wouldn’t put it past him to try to claw back some or all of the tip. He could even deduct it from their pay (which would be massively illegal but… !)

        2. Zweisatz*

          Yes, tip them generously where he can’t see it. You cannot fix their work situation for them, but you can show gratitude and make sure they get to keep it.

      3. Dark Macadamia*

        No, don’t do anything to put them on the spot in front of him. This is so passive aggressive and puts them in a position to defend/side with him to protect their job, possibly even decline the tip or give it to him. You talk directly to him and/or give his company a bad review, but don’t involve the people being mistreated.

        1. Typing All The Time*

          I say this because my dad bought drinks for a foreman’s crew (soda, water, etc.) and asked what they’d like to have (like Pepsi). He was told that not a lot of people do this and workers have to buy everything they would need for the day with them.

      4. goddessoftransitory*

        And try to make sure he doesn’t take said tips away from them. He sounds like the type to demand “his cut” because they wouldn’t be tipped at all if it weren’t for him being horrible!

    2. kalli*

      If you have someone else do the job, all those workers don’t get paid, so please don’t do that. You also don’t know whether calling him out would result in him withdrawing from the job, or make things worse for the workers, since that’s not actually uncommon.

      I would personally wait until the job is done and you’ve checked it over and paid and you’re no longer dependent on this contractor for your home being in one piece and the workers should have received their pay, and then leave feedback by email or if they have a structured feedback form, through there, simply along the lines of ‘it was shocking to experience racism in my own home; it made me very uncomfortable and i didn’t feel safe raising it at the time because of the nature of this person’s conduct.’ and if you don’t get a ‘whoa, sorry, that’s unacceptable we’ll investigate’ then leave an honest review on their google listing or yelp or whatever the local handypeople site is for you. ‘the work was fine but btw, racist!’.

      Long term you need to not necessarily prioritise your comfort and pressure to be an internet-approved ally over the people actually being victimised – it doesn’t help them to go part-paid because their supervisor is racist, and they’re going to move out of your life once they’re done in your home – what’s speaking up going to do when you won’t be there at their next job? So in this situation you need to be guided by them a bit. If you have a chance to chat with any of them without a supervisor around and can go ‘hey, that’s not okay, would you like me to say something?’, that’s also an option, especially if you’re willing to be deposed or testify, although you do need to be prepared to respect a ‘no, i need this job’ because as much as we’d love everyone to magically go ‘oh, i’m not going to be racist any more!’ the reality is that racism is so structurally embedded that people have to make choices about what they tolerate, and can’t always risk speaking up or walking away.

      A middle option is when the supervisor /racist person turns up next time, you just quietly go ‘I was so shocked by the racism in your team; this is my home and I don’t tolerate racism here.’ but that has the exact same risk of just making him worse on the next job, or him choosing to not complete the work, and I think the priority here needs to be keeping those workers paid (and hopefully correctly, but that’s not in your influence at all unfortunately) and getting the work done.

      That said, if you do keep this crew around, and there are future incidents of abuse – if you’re in a one-party state you might be able to film some of it and pass it to a worker if you’re comfortable with potentially being called as a witness if they pursue it.

    3. Observer*

      ? Do I find someone else to complete the job?

      No. There are a number of reasons not to do that.

      I do agree with the idea to tip these guys, but I’m not sure I would do it in front of the boss, because I would be willing to bet that if he knows for sure you gave them money, he will try to take if from them.

      Get their names and contact information, though, and if you are ever talking to other contractors / people are looking for contractors / handymen, pass this on.

      And, also leave an honest review and let the contractor know that you are certainly not going to be hiring him again and why.

    4. Venus*

      Is it hard to find employees in the trades? Maybe talk quietly to the employees and suggest some good employers and say that you’ll offer a reference if they want to leave the abusive contractor. Getting them away from him will be the best thing for them and you!

      1. Observer*

        Maybe talk quietly to the employees and suggest some good employers and say that you’ll offer a reference if they want to leave the abusive contractor

        That is a great idea.

    5. Zona the Great*

      If you can find a way to hire the workers to finish the job without boss finding out, that would really be the move. I don’t know how to make that happen, unfortunately.

    6. TheBunny*

      Tip the workers and leave a review once you are sure the task was completed correctly.

      Canceling the job now will result in those workers not getting paid.

    7. So not using my real name for this.*

      If you end the job early; the workers will take the biggest financial hit proportionatly.

      Tip well and SECRETLY. Please do NOT tip the workers in front of the boss. If they are in a situation where they need to put up with this ^#$$% and he feels comfortable behaving this badly to them in front of you; he may take part of the tip or reduce their pay.

      Offer drinks (even if all you can afford is cool tap water), a place to sit on their lunch break, and a bathroom to use.

      Especially if you are in the USA and the workers are latino, there is a good chance that many do not have authorization to work yet and are especially vulnerable to abuse by their employer. This is not something that you can fix by interacting with the racist supervisor or his manager. You can only make it worse by interfering directly. Instead look at what is going on in your community and do what you can to improve the overall systems.

      In the future, for bigger projects, many states have lists of DBEs. For smaller projects you can go to the local latino grocery or remittance store and check their bulletin boards for small latino owned companies that offer the skilled labor you need. (You will still need to do the same due diligence as normal. )

  7. Anon Y Mouse*

    How much do you share about what’s going on in your life out of work? I have a number of outside stressors, and they do affect my concentration and occasionally mean I have to take off early. I’ve been told by my bosses that this is fine, but I feel compelled to justify the absence each time (it’s usually a family member’s health – he has a chronic condition which is unlikely to go away altogether). If you were the boss, which would you prefer? A little background (and some assurance of how much of a disruption it’s likely to be) or just saying I have a family emergency, no details?

    1. Jay (no, the other one)*

      I prefer a bit of background and info on how much of a disruption it’s going to be. It’s helpful to me to know it’s not your health that’s an issue. I don’t need details on what exactly the problem is and I don’t need explanations each time.

      In April of 2020 we had a major personal crisis. I told my boss that I had a serious issue to deal with and would be out for two hours about twice a week – and “out” meant “completely unreachable,” which was unusual. Mostly if I blocked my calendar I was still available by phone. I did not give him details other than telling him I wasn’t ill and he didn’t ask.

      1. Anon Y Mouse*

        I always say how long I’m going to be. It’s never more than a day and I can work from home to some extent, so it’s not a case of missing a lot of hours.

        I’m in the UK so being ill myself isn’t something I’d want to conceal, since sick leave is counted independently of annual leave or flexitime. Most of the time these emergencies would come out of flexitime, ie I’d be making the hours up later.

    2. Claire*

      It’s totally up to your comfort in sharing and after that, your office norms. In my office, people are fairly open. Like, I shared openly that I was supporting a dying friend and let people know when I’d be off for his care. My colleagues knew he had cancer, that the prognosis wasn’t good, that he was in palliative care, that he was still being cared for at home with outside nurse support. These sorts of things just came up in conversation and I didn’t share anything I wasn’t comfortable sharing or that he wouldn’t want me to share. But I wasnt being super tight lipped about it and that was normal in my office. Others have shared similar things with similar amounts of detail.

      But, if someone came in and said they had a family emergency and gave zero details, that would be fine too so it’s totally at your discretion.

      It IS helpful to know details for planning IF you know them. In my situation, my office knew that every Thursday I was off work to help my friend and was unavailable. They knew this unavailability would last indefinitely. At the very end, they knew that I was completely off and that I didn’t know when I’d be back but I’d keep them posted. So if you do have details that help logistics, you can share them but you don’t HAVE to give explanations. Like, if I had a team member say “I have an apt every Wednesday for the next 3 months that means I’ll be 15 mins late so I’m going to work later that day,” and they offered no details, that would be completely fine.

      1. Anon Y Mouse*

        Yeah, it’s quite a share-y office. I know all my colleagues’ kids’ names and they usually tell me what’s up when they have an emergency of their own. I suppose I feel it might be a bit much simply because I have MORE non-personal emergencies than anyone else – I have both an unwell partner and kids who occasionally have things happen during the working day… the others have one of these at most (or neither!)

    3. Moving away*

      At my previous employer (nine year tenure) I feel like I over shared a lot and so did my colleagues, it was just kind of the culture. We knew about a lot, and sometimes too much (one coworker was going through a divorce and would kind of dump on me and I didn’t know what to say, we were friendly but not close). That was a nonprofit.

      My new job is much clearer, my coworker is my coworker not my friend, and the stuff I know about them is surface level and while I felt a bit strange at first, I actually prefer that now. Everyone is polite but no one at new job would complain about intense personal matters to me. Maybe a quick line or two and then back to work and for me personally that has been better.

      1. Anon Y Mouse*

        Yeah, this is a nonprofit and a “caring profession” (or adjacent to it – I’m not in that business area, but it has a strong influence) and it’s very normal for senior staff to take an almost pastoral approach. I feel like I know what’s going on with most of my close colleagues at any one time… but they generally don’t have as many occasions to head home early or whatever. I feel like I’m that colleague with the complicated life, and I don’t want to be, but on the other hand… it’s true?

    4. Anon for this one*

      As the person with the diagnosis, I share as little as possible. Having health issues is bad enough without worries about being sidelined or worse at work because of it. HR knows what’s going on, and my manager knows I have a diagnosis requiring frequent appointments. That’s it. I’m sure management will say they want all the details, but that’s in the company’s interest, not mine.

    5. OldHat*

      I’m fairly private, but work with a more shared office. For my direct reports, I prefer them to tell me what they need (or accommodations they are wanting to explorer) if things have changed rather than the why. They can share that info to others. If something is reoccurring, focus on the pattern instead of he reason since different people have different needs even to a similar situation.

      When one was pregnant, I really had to get them to only tell me when something changed. Giving me a play-by-play meant nothing to me. I didn’t know what they needed when she said something happened.

  8. MET_ocean*

    A coworker of mine just got called in for a kidney transplant. Looking to put together a card and gift from a group of us. Any ideas of what to include?

    1. TackyB*

      A close relative received one and it fundamentally changed his life, for the better. A card, and maybe a gift card for order-in food, or a housekeeper.

      For my relative, the initial recovery was very quick, however, it took almost a year to get the cocktail of anti-rejection drugs just right.

      The most important thing is to understand that the co-worker may not be 100% on their game for the first little while, and to support them through this.

    2. Joelle*

      When I had a friend go on dialysis I looked up what kidney friendly foods/snacks were and sent a Harry & David (think fancy food basket) thing of apples and pears. He was delighted! So I would suggest something similar.

    3. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

      Oh I really like the housekeeper gift card and food ordering.

      Other ideas could be coloring books, lists of your favorite shows/movies/audiobook recommendations for surgery recovery (maybe useful and regardless will send the message ‘we are thinking thoughtfully about you’).

    4. RMNPgirl*

      One of the best things I’ve found, and gotten good feedback on, is fun socks with rubber grips on them. The hospital will have some for patients but they’re mass produced and generic. I’ve found good ones at Target that are Christmas cows or giraffes or cheetah print. Everyone I’ve given them to said it made them smile when putting them on or seeing them on, while they were in the hospital or at home recovering.

    5. CheckBeforeSending*

      make sure you send whatever you send in a way that’s easy for him to acquire and that takes into account any temporary location changes. This drives me bonkers about my work place – they think they’re doing something nice but they’re actually making an already stressful time more stressful

    6. Corky's Wife Bonnie*

      When I was caring for my husband after a lengthy hospital stay, someone sent me an instacart gift card and it was a God-send! I ran our of dressings for his wounds and the visiting nurse wasn’t coming for a couple of days and I couldn’t leave him alone. I was able to get more supplies plus a couple of grocery items, it was so appreciated.

    7. H*

      If you know what kind of phone they have, extra-long lightning cable phone chargers! My hospital has a lot of old buildings and there aren’t always convenient outlets available for patient use.

      1. Tired Librarian*

        Also power blocks! They’ve been an absolute saviour for family members in hospital when they’ve not had plugs they can access themselves; they could ask the nurses to put the power block on charge rather than having to give up their phone to be plugged in somewhere inaccessible.

  9. Sydney Ellen Wade*

    I started a job a few months ago in a department of five. One of my co-workers recently gave their notice and my boss and I discussed having me take over some of their responsibilities, rather than hire a new person full-time. Another co-worker is adamantly arguing for hiring someone new. Any advice on how to navigate this?

    1. CircleCircleDotDot*

      depends… do you want to stay there or poke the bear? “Will I be compensated for a change in job responsibilities?” may lead to you having to think about leaving.

      1. The Dude Abides*

        Second this.

        How many times have LWs taken on progressively more responsibility without getting paid for it and ultimately come to regret it?

        I know I did – I got paid for it for a few months, then was stuck with the tasks by new boss without the pay. Within a month, I was applying elsewhere.

    2. Awkwardness*

      Carefully listen to the arguments of the co-worker.
      How long have they been there, how much insight did they have into the workload of the co-worker and respective breaking points?
      They might be frustrated and unhelpful, or there might be a reason why boss is discussing this with you (and not work co-worker). It’s difficult to tell from the outside.

      1. The Real Fran Fine*

        Yup. I would defer to the coworker who has been on the team longer and, thus, knows better about what’s going on on that team. If she’s pro new hire, it’s for a reason.

    3. WellRed*

      Do you know the boss reasoning for not hiring? Are you underutilized? Was that position? What’s the backup plan when you want to take a vacation?

      1. Sydney Ellen Wade*

        The other position was definitely underutilized. My boss has seen how efficient and proactive I am; I know I could do a good job with the role.

        1. Rebecca*

          If you are taking on more responsibility, then definitely advocate for a change in job title and pay. I don’t know how roles are structured in your company–at the places I’ve worked, increased responsibility could translate into the next higher job level even if you stay at the same pay. The advantage to at least getting a bump in title is that the upper level of the pay band is higher, allowing you to get more raises. Look into the right thing to ask for given how roles/titles are structured at your company.

          1. Sydney Ellen Wade*

            My boss has been open about giving me a new title but we still need to talk about change in pay.

            1. goddessoftransitory*

              Don’t sign or agree to ANYTHING until after that discussion!

              Remember, it isn’t just you–if you take on more tasks without additional pay, management is much more likely to go ahead and distribute other tasks to the rest of the team without paying them more either.

    4. Aggretsuko*

      It’ll probably depend on the budget issues going on as to whether or not you’d be allowed to hire a replacement. I’d guess that decision is made above your team and supervisor.

    5. goddessoftransitory*

      Discuss as in “discussing your raise?” Because you absolutely should be getting one if this is a permanent reassignment of additional work.

      Is your coworker arguing for a new full timer because of bad experiences “folding” tasks into other peoples’ duties before this, or are they worried everybody’s going to get more on their plates with no additional renumeration? Both those things are important to consider.

    6. Part time lab tech*

      Does it have to be a full timer or no one? Maybe a part timer would provide flexibility? If another person quit, would you be swamped? Is there still coverage for holidays and illness?
      I’ve worked in a couple teams of that size that were easy when fully staffed but quickly became overloaded without that extra person.

    7. Dancing Otter*

      You say “take over SOME of their responsibilities.” So, where will the rest go?

      Further, you’ve only been there a few months, so you may not have experienced busy season yet. Even if you think you have excess bandwidth to take on more, that may not actually be true during crunch time.

      I don’t think you should push to go against your co-worker’s advice.

  10. n.m*

    I am beginning to search for a job with the expectation that my PhD will be complete in one more academic year. I went straight from my bachelors program into this graduate program, and I’ve never seriously job searched in my adult life.

    I have a lot of questions, and my advisors’ advice is influenced by the fact that they’ve only ever worked in academia. Can anyone here recommend some resources to learn about going into industry after my degree? My research is in a tech/STEM field, in case that influences what sources you would recommend.

    1. AnalystWoes*

      I’d ask your advisor to give you the names of some former students so you can connect on LinkedIn. Or if they are particularly helpful ask them to introduce you to them. Then check out their resumes andessage them in LinkedIn to ask your questions.

      Other then that I can’t really help you despite being in STEM because it really depends on if you are in Science, Tech, Engineering, or Mathematics. I’m in the Science and Math based fields and that’s really different then breaking into engineering or even Biotech.

    2. Generic Name*

      My experience as a scientist who has worked in various industries over 20 years is that while a phd might get you a slight bump in pay, the vast majority of employers will see you as an entry level candidate. I’ve known a lot of phds who assume their degree will enable them to leap over entry level roles and I’ve never seen that happen. So my suggestion is to apply for roles that list 0-3 years of experience. Don’t overlook paid internships; see if your university has info on local internships.

      1. nearly*

        I second this. The only time you might get an advantage is if a company wants your particular niche skills. (“operations research applied to the gold mining industry”).

        1. Sweet Clementine*

          Yeah, this is really field specific. I’ve always gotten credit for my PhD across my various employers (for big tech/ startups).

        2. RussianInTexas*

          Partner’s company has entry level start at different pay bands depending on the education levels, although you still will be starting with the grunt work. So it depends!

        3. EducationAndJobs*

          I went right to mid-level jobs because I got credit for my education. But it was in science from top 10 schools and I know I got extra credit for both, and I’venever seen anyone else jump the early years like that (and it was a mixed bag because I was expected to know things about the working world I didn’t get to learn in actual entry level jobs). The places that care will likely treat your education as a requirement for entry but not give it “extra credit”, a few may think you’re overqualified for jobs you aren’t even qualified for yet, you may find it a detriment every sooften, and most of the time folks will find it interesting but not particularly relevant.

          Good luck!

      2. Rebecca*

        Yes and no. As pointed out earlier, it depends on which letter you are, and also the type of company you apply to. I got my degree in physics and went on to work for large engineering companies that have several levels of seniority.

        Everyplace that I have worked, a PhD was regarded as equivalent to 5-6 years of experience in both job title and salary. However, even with that seniority, fresh out of school, you are still junior in experience to someone with a BS and 5-6 years in the workforce. Do not go in expecting that your PhD means you will be mentoring or supervising people who do not have a PhD.

        Definitely overlook paid internships. You have two college degrees, you are qualified for full-time regular employment. Look for job listings with any combination of 0-6 years and BS to PhD or graduate degree preferred. That is, if the job requirements say new graduate and prefer a PhD, you are qualified. If the job requirements say BS and 6 years, you are also qualified.

      3. Tau*

        Yeah. My experience has been that you may be able to compress your career timeline with a PhD by leveraging the transferable skills, extra responsibility and maturity, etc. – I went from entry level to senior in four years, and about two years in my new boss mentioned to me how it was obvious I had deep lengthy experience in the field! But I still had to look for entry-level positions because none of my PhD skills transferred directly to the new role and I was missing absolute fundamentals. I was in the UK at the time and looked for graduate scheme jobs meant for people just leaving university.

        This does depend on what your PhD was in exactly and what field you’re going into, of course. I was pure maths going into tech. Other STEM areas might be able to skip the absolute junior level due to having done some programming during the PhD (although I still wouldn’t be sure, enterprise programming being a very different beast from research), but I’d just spent the last five years working through problems with paper and pen – not a chance.

      4. amoeba*

        I am probably too late, but at least in my field (Chemistry, Europe) – well, yes, you do apply for entry level roles. But those are entry level roles *specifically for people with a PhD*. There’s typically no way whatsoever to get one of those Scientist jobs without one (and they are, luckily, also compensated accordingly!)

        There are different roles (typically “associate scientist” or “research scientist”) that are for people with a Bachelor’s, Master’s, or traditionally in my country, trained lab techs. Those can also be more junior or more senior but aren’t really “more entry level” than the PhD roles – it’s more like parallel tracks, with these focused more on hands-on lab work. Although sometimes people do cross over, but it’s rare!

        More generally, I guess going to conferences and meetings where people from industry are also present (and give talks, etc.) can be an easy way to learn more if you don’t have personal connections! But also, yes, former group members are great – isn’t there anybody who graduated before you who is already in industry?

    3. OtterB*

      Try the website for the Computing Research Association http://www.cra.org and search for non-academic career paths or for industry jobs. This is turning up mainly slides from grad student workshops but it might connect you to more in-depth resources.

      1. Stunt Apple Breeder*

        Professional associations often have career websites where members can search the listings and apply for positions. As a student, you will probably pay a discounted membership fee. That’s how I found two of my last three positions.

    4. Sailor Susie*

      If you can, get a job in the field now so you can put the experience on your CV. I was lucky that my field could be done remote— can yours? Much easier to juggle.

      A year’s part time experience is still a year.

    5. trust me I'm a PhD*

      I’m a humanities PhD who works in academia but who couldn’t, for a variety of boring reasons, rely very heavily on my advisor’s suggestions. Here’s what worked for me:

      I did lots of networking with fellow PhDs and recent grads, people I knew through being involved in my field, via social media, etc. I cultivated mentoring relationships outside my institution and talked to people there. I asked people to share sample application materials (promised to keep them private), and I asked people to help me interview. I read a lot online; I don’t personally like The Professor is Out, because I find it relentlessly negative, but a lot of other folks find it useful and you’re heading to industry, so it might be a good FB group for you to join. I started applying to things before I absolutely had to, e.g. starting off “soft” on the market, targeting jobs I thought I’d be a good fit for and/or really wanted for various reasons. And then when I got into my first job and it was actually super not what I was happy with, I turned right around and got a different job; that first job isn’t where you need to stay.

    6. Sweet Clementine*

      I made the same leap as you (bachelors-> grad school-> industry), with advisors who had no experience in industry.

      What helped:
      1. Talking and networking with folks who are in industry. Talk to other grad students from your university (also from related fields), and folks from other schools who have studied the same subject as you. Some of the other professors I knew had worked in industry, they also helped.
      2. Try to get an internship, if possible. Also worth considering are industry focused postdocs, which are a good way to transition.
      3. Brush up on industry specific skills. Try relating your experience in grad school to relevant industry skills.

      Hard to say more without knowing your specific domain, but happy to answer more questions!

      1. Sweet Clementine*

        Another thing to add, a lot of conferences will have industry partners try to recruit grad students. I heavily networked in these places, which got me a few interviews.

        1. Generic Name*

          Yes! There are typically a handful of students at industry events I attend. It’s a great way to network and get your name out there at places you might want to work.

    7. Rebecca*

      Talk to your university’s career office, and rely heavily on any job fairs and/or company presentations that your college has (or other colleges: as a physics student, I went to both College of Natural Sciences and College of Engineering job fairs).

      Talk to your fellow students about their strategies, too. I started thinking about job hunting a few years before I graduated and spent a lot of time talking to people in the years ahead of me. Since you are past that point, talk to your peers who are graduating the same year. It helps to compare offers, too.

    8. Squirrel Nutkin (the teach, not the admin)*

      Chat with everyone and anyone about what they do at work and at some point mention the fact that you’re interested in going into industry. My ex made polite conversation with the guy next to him at an awards ceremony who worked in paints for an auto manufacturer, asking what issues the guy faced. Next thing you know, the guy was inviting my ex to apply for a job, which he got. He would never in a million years have thought that this was how he was going to put his Ph.D. to good use.

      1. Sharpie*

        That’s a wonderful story. There are all sorts of industries and roles out there that we just don’t know about.

  11. AnalystWoes*

    Anyone who is getting interviews in the job market right now, what did you do to help your resume get over the misuse if AI?

    I’m a mid senior analyst and in the past I’ve had about 1 in 4 apps land an interview.
    , including during the great recession. I tailor my resume and cover letter to the job, which takes a bout 2 hours per application and I’m getting absolute crickets. One role I applied to was incredibly niche, think data analyst for forensic criminologist. Well in this scenario I checked all their required and preferred boxes, but on top of that I’m a former criminologist who transitioned to data analyst, and I didn’t even get an HR screen. Oh and I’m in the same title role in my current job!

    The only hits I’m getting are recruiters reaching out to me for things not at all on my resume. Sales, and even more weirdly, clinical management (I’m a healthcare analyst not a clinician). It’s so strange because healthcare is a very regulated industry with licenses like RN, MSW, CNA, etc. and none of these certifications are on my resume!

    I’ve never in my life did things like paste a bunch of invisible keywords into my resume but I’m considering it.

    1. Observer*

      I’ve never in my life did things like paste a bunch of invisible keywords into my resume but I’m considering it.

      Don’t bother. If the systems are ANY good, it’s going to work. If the systems are trash, you’ll wind up getting more of the junk outreach. Neither one is helpful.

    2. MissGirl*

      Find the recruiter on LinkedIn and send a message with your resume. If there are multiple recruiters, find the one that’s the best match for the role. Often they’d forward me onto the right recruiter. I had good luck with talking to a human. No one was ever frustrated by my reaching out as I was respectful and only sent one message.

      However, in most cases it wasn’t AI that was holding me back. It was my own qualifications. There would be skill or language that was listed as optional in the post but they’d decided it was required. Despite not always getting an interview from this, it was very educational about why I wasn’t getting selected.

      1. AnalystWoes*

        Thanks for that. A few of the jobs I’ve applied to on LinkedIn have a recruiter linked. I haven’t messaged any of them but I’ll give that a try.

        I’m not applying to any jobs where I don’t meet most if not all of the preferred qualifications. With software it can be less straightforward. Often listings will say experience with R or Python preferred and I have one but not the other for example.

        1. MissGirl*

          This was my situation exactly. They would say R or Python preferred but when I reached out, it was must have Python. One said bonus points for consulting experience, which I have, and double bonus points for consulting at a Big 4, which I don’t. The recruiter told me Big 4 experience is a must. Why they don’t put that in the posting is beyond me.

          AI wasn’t the reason I was getting rejected on these. Putting invisible text in your resume isn’t going to help as that’ll shoot out as gibberish in a field somewhere. If those words are necessary to get you through, then make sure they’re in your resume in a way that makes sense.

          1. MissGirl*

            Also, the market is tough right now. I did a job hunt in Fall 2022 and had lots of interviews and two offers in six weeks while I was still interviewing at six different companies.

            I was laid off in June 23 (chose the wrong company) and the market had completely changed. Less postings, lower interview rate, and lower offer rate. I’ve since bounced back with a way better job than ever but had to take a lower one for a few months when the interviews dried up. Suddenly nice-to-haves for candidates became must-haves.

            BTW there’s a lot of opportunities for analysts in healthcare if you’re interested.

    3. Yup*

      I recently took a CV class, and one of the points was to ensure you use the exact wording in your CV as they have in the ad posting. AI scans for that before HR even gets the CV pile. Also, older AI software can only read very plain CVs–plain font, no designs, very boring paragraph-style, some bullet points only, etc. Anything else is unreadable and discarded.

    4. nearly*

      My experience with hiring/interviewing etc is that HR doesn’t write the job ad correctly. The last person I was asked to interview (I was not the hiring manager, did not even know the hiring manager) – the job ad had a bunch of skills that I was the only one in the company who had, and were listed as key skills in the ad. I reported to the hiring manager that the candidate was weak in X/Y/Z, and the hiring manager said that he wasn’t interested in those skills at all, he wanted A/B/C, which wasn’t really in the job ad. I don’t know why the ad was written the way it was.

      TLDR: don’t trust job ads

    5. M2*

      This is why I have HR send me all the applicants. I get sent a portal and tell them I want to see every application not just the ones they flagged to move on. I have interviewed and hired at least one person who they would not have moved forward!

      I know it takes a lot more time but if you’re the hiring manager I strongly advise you at least ask HR to send over every applicant so you can at least glance at resumes. People do get missed. It does take considerable time, but I find it is worth it.

    6. Moving away*

      I just got a job at a tech company after being in the education/nonprofit world for over a decade. The company I’m now at can get 100s of applications in days. After hearing of a friends success story with ChatGPT I entered my resume and the job description into Goggle Bard and wrote “tell me why I’m a good fit for this role” and it was so helpful. I used those arguments to adjust my resume to even better match the JD (not lying but just organizing it better per the suggestion) and used it for a draft of my cover letter.
      I got the job so it was a success for me, it’s the only time I’ve used AI in a job application.

  12. Not A Manager*

    Can someone point me to a good, detailed resource for data validation in Excel? I need to limit the acceptable text input one cell, based on the data that’s already in the adjacent cell. I have separate lists of acceptable inputs.

    At one time, I figured this out and made them all work, but I’ve forgotten how I did it. I need to change up a few items and just messing with my separate lists is not quite working. The general info I’m finding on data validation is really geared toward manipulating numbers and isn’t helping me with limiting text. I’ve been using the INDIRECT function to reference my lists, but again I really don’t understand how it works or what I did previously.

    1. AnalystWoes*

      Indirect treats the results of a formula as a reference so from what I can tell not what you want to do. You use it when you want the text output from a cell “e.g. A1” to be used in another formula and treat the text A1 as it it were later of the formula such as sum(A1:B3).

      The best thing you can do is probably create a hidden sheet called Lists or something similar and put your full list of acceptable inputs into one column there. Then use data validation to set your acceptable inputs to that range.

      If that list needs to change, then I’d still set it up as it’s own column and then utilize formulas in that column. COUNTA may be helpful for getting the length of data in any given column.

      I’d check out Chandoo.org if you need more help.

    2. 653-CXK*

      I use ExcelEasy for any questions I have, and there is a section about Data Validation that is helpful. I will include the link as another reply.

      Also, you can go to Data > Data Validation > Settings and select the type of validation you need. You can enter formulas in the Custom section, and use input and output messages as well.

  13. Michigander*

    The conversation about messaging coworkers “Hi” first became more relevant to me today. I wanted to message a couple of former coworkers with “Can you believe what this academic is trying to expense on a research grant?!” messages but wanted to make sure they weren’t screensharing first, which came up as a reason for saying just “Hi” in the comments. I did say more though in my initial messages, to make it clear I had an anecdote to share if they were free.

    In case you’re curious, the expenses are:
    Champagne (multiple times)
    95 euros in candles (repeatedly)
    A cashmere sweater

    1. I should really pick a name*

      If it’s just an “Isn’t this ridiculous!” thing as opposed to requesting some kind of action, I tend avoid putting that kind of statement in writing

      1. Generic Name*


        I never put anything in writing I wouldn’t want to read aloud during a deposition.

        1. Michigander*

          I would not mind it being read in a deposition that I think it’s audacious to try to claim reimbursement for a cashmere sweater using research funds from a hospice charity.

        2. Observer*

          That’s true. On the other hand, it could be “I don’t want this to be the topic of conversation today” but ALSO “If this ever gets public, I’ll be fine.”

    2. Venus*

      I once expensed undergarments! It was for a work trip where they paid for everything, including clothes, so I joked that my boss bought me bras and panties. I’d then mention that he also bought me everything I needed to wear for two months, in addition to the suitcases and anything else within budget.

    3. BikeWalkBarb*

      Thinking about some of the messages that have bloomed in the corner during a screenshare, this is a very good reason to check on whether someone’s available before sending some messages in chat. If I’m presenting I close other things but if I’m in Teams those messages still come through. Fortunately I usually have my presentation on a different monitor but if I only have my laptop because I’m traveling then I’m stuck.

      Dying to know what the research problem statement was….

      1. Archi-detect*

        I think do not disturb will stop them from popping up. I really wish teams just had a ‘do not show popups when screensharing’ option especially for when you are sharing on a team’s call

        1. notaphoneexpert*

          you can activate that option in Teams by clicking on the three dots next to your personal icon in the top-right corner of the screen, and select Settings -> Notifications and Activity and under ‘Display’ uncheck the “Show notifications during calls and meetings”

    4. Cookie butter*

      The IT team I collaborate with has a norm of greetings first that I think has been hammered into them. If I IM my specific question without a greeting, they pause and greet me first before responding and I feel so chastened. I have made an effort to send a greeting first and wait for them to respond before sending my question. And because I collaborate with them a great deal, the habit of greeting first has bled into my other communications. I used to be a staunch “get to the point” person and it’s been a strange transition.

      1. SoloKid*

        People aren’t against greetings; they’re against a message that is nothing but a greeting. (or against a message with NO greeting)

        I am IT adjacent and the best messages I get go something like “Good morning Solokid! I hope you had a good weekend? When you get a moment I’d like to [request]…”. Launching straight into a request does feel abrupt, but I also would take my time replying to just a “Good morning” message since there is nothing actionable there.

  14. Grumpus*

    I’m in a strange position at work where I was promised a pay rise and a promotion (which should have come with another small pay bump and a better title). The pay rise came through as promised, but the promotion just… never materialised. I don’t work in the same time zone as my manager and it’s a struggle to get synchronous time with her. I feel really embarrassed that I have to chase them up on this in writing. How should I phrase it?

    1. blue wall*

      Hi Manager,

      Wanted to follow up on our earlier conversation. I was glad to see that the pay raise came through; thank you for coordinating with HR.

      Is there anything I can do on my end to expediate the title change?

      Please let me know if we should set up a meeting to discuss.


      1. Lizzie (with the deaf cat)*

        Blue wall, that’s an excellent letter! Friendly, to the point, and with a clear question. Ten stars!

  15. PropJoe*

    Suppose you are a recently-retired professional athlete who had a decent amount of career earnings, but not so much that you’ll never have to work another day in your life.

    Further suppose that you went through the NCAA path in your amateur years, and have a business or humanities degree from a university with a decent amount of name recognition.

    If you want to go into coaching or broadcasting for your sport, the nuts & bolts of resume writing, cover letter drafting, & networking with potential employers seems blindingly obvious.

    But what if you *don’t* want to stay in sports? What if you want to pivot to something entirely unrelated, like healthcare or sales or nonprofit work? How do you rework your resume and proceed?

    1. Claire*

      This is where I think a cover letter really shines. You’re likely going to have a lot of transferable skills that you can highlight in your resume but use your cover letter to explain why you’re keen on entering a new field and how your experience applies.

      E.g. My experience in professional pole vaulting has been fulfilling and is naturally winding down. I’m keen to apply the skills I’ve learned over the past 8 years to the field of Banana Sales. I have a lot of transferable skills and the banana ripeness consultant role would be an excellent place for me to dive in and learn.

      [enter 1-3 examples of your transferable skills that are not instantly clear from your resume here]

    2. nearly*

      There are a shocking number of physicians who were former athletes – the thing med schools look for is tenacity – being able to work through hard things. So, what’s the degree in? How does the degree + whatever you learned in sports translate to the day-to-day of the job at hand. You need to start calling around everyone you know for informational interviews, find out how to *do* the job you think you’re interested in. Also: volunteer.

    3. AnalystWoes*

      So I have a friend in a different field that is similarly pigeon holed. We are all under 40 fwiw.

      He’s a vet, spent 16 years in the military. He did not want to be a defense contractor or in defense at all. He got a really good MBA and was extremely involved in socializing, building his network etc. He managed to land a prestigious rotation program outside of defense, but it was close and he almost didn’t get a placement. Every. Single. Step. of the way was – why aren’t you leveraging your experience in defense? You should just do defense. I don’t have a job for you in [preferred field] but what about defense?

      Despite working crazy hours during his rotation and it typically resulting in 100% placement my friend was not placed and lost his job. After another year of being unemployed, he got a job for an NGO in defence. If he had just done that from the start, he’d be much further along but he spent 5 years trying to break out.

      Feel free to try, but know that when you’ve been in a career so long as to have retired from it that it’s very, very hard to break out of it. Career switches are much more feasible before you hit the 10 year mark when you are seen as young enough to be worth the effort of cross-training.

      Not trying to be a downer, just trying to be honest about what I have seen. I’d think seriously about how you’d feel if you spend 3-5 years in low pay dead end opportunities only to go back to sports. If you know you will feel good about yourself giving it a shot then go for it! If you’ll feel better about the wasted time think hard about going for it.

      1. Observer*

        Career switches are much more feasible before you hit the 10 year mark when you are seen as young enough to be worth the effort of cross-training.

        Sports is a bit of a different beast, though because “why don’t you just get a job in sports” in not a reasonable question. Most people *do* understand that playing sports is essentially a different field than broadcasting, etc.

        I’m pretty sure that most professional athletes go into other fields after they retire from sports.

        1. allathian*

          There simply aren’t enough jobs available in coaching and sports management for every retired athlete.

          Besides, professional and semipro athletes have comparatively short careers, many are forced to retire by injuries in their twenties or early to mid-thirties, and even if their career isn’t terminated by a sufficiently serious injury, comparatively few professional athletes are still competing in their forties, although that varies widely depending on the sport.

          Even if a professional athlete earns enough money during their career to retire, most probably don’t because it doesn’t match their personality type. Those who’re happy to rest on their laurels are rarely ambitious enough to be successful at a competitive sport, regardless of their innate talent. People who are ambitious and successful athletes are usually able to use that ambition to be successful doing something else, too.

    4. Generic Name*

      I worked with a guy at my last company who was a minor league baseball player for a few years. He got hired for an entry level job relating to his bachelor’s degree. He listed his time as a baseball player on his resume as a job. He had at least 1 job during his undergrad years that related to the position we were hiring for, which helped him a lot.

    5. Cedrus Libani*

      The standard advice for making a big career shift is to do it in stages. In this case, you could look for sales or non-profit jobs that are related to sports. Once you have experience in that new role, you’ll be competitive for similar positions outside of sports, giving you more options and probably better pay.

      1. JR17*

        I think my comment is in moderation so I won’t repost, but in case it doesn’t show up, Google HBS and “Crossover Into Business.” It’s a Harvard Business School exec Ed program for exactly this audience.

        I’ve also noticed that a lot of former athletes go into relationship management roles, especially in finance and similar fields.

    6. Le le lemon*

      I’m around a number of Olympians who also have healthy careers during or post their athletic careers. The name recognition and sporting accolades generally do good things for a candidate. Typically, sports aren’t siloed either, which means the the network of people who would be willing to help you or connect you with someone is bigger than you think.
      – Get some experience in the desired sector. It may be volunteering; working a project; being an ambassador; doing a short-course/certificate/extra learning; go to a conference or industry day. Then you’ve got some fodder for your CL.
      – Utilise that network. I’ve found bigger companies were happy to take on elite athletes in roles…sometimes the role was a bit superfluous…but it’s good image for them and a foot in the door for you. If you were NCAA then there’s potential to connect with alumni/donors and leverage that.
      – Don’t get in your own way. It’s normal to want a career outside of sport when you’re done. You just need one opportunity – do it for a while, lay a foundation – and then in due course, find the next one.

  16. Awkwardness*

    Carefully listen to the arguments of the co-worker.
    How long have they been there, how much insight did they have into the workload of the co-worker and respective breaking points?
    They might be frustrated and unhelpful, or there might be a reason why boss is discussing this with you (and not work co-worker). It’s difficult to tell from the outside.

  17. Aggretsuko*

    I just wanted to say that I started my new job on Monday and I’m really happy. I’m WANTED here! My boss thinks I’m great! I had a one-on-one and it wasn’t all about how bad I am! I’m watching training videos a lot, and this boss actually PLANS AHEAD (old job flew by the seat of their pants). I’m truly delighted and relieved.

    Figuring out insurance is hard, though. I admit I stayed at the old one for the insurance, and I’m losing my good dental (apparently the options you get the first two years are just plain bad and dentists will ONLY take Delta Dental, I’m debating paying my own) and I need to switch HMOs to keep my therapist. That part is nervewracking. If anyone has any thoughts on getting their own insurance (supplemental) through CoveredCA, I’d appreciate it. They have like seven options and I’m confused as to which to get.

    1. Generic Name*

      Congrats! I’m so glad you are out of that toxic hellhole. It might take a while to decompress and unpack your past work experience. It sounds like they really mistreated you and it did a number on your psyche.

    2. RagingADHD*

      Oh, I’m happy to hear that. I’ve been thinking of you and hoping things would get better.

    3. MJ*

      Does your new job offer an EAP? They might be able to review the different options and help you narrow down what would work best for you.

    4. NotSoRecentlyRetired*

      Look very carefully at the plans with Delta Dental. I accidently signed up for a policy which only covered the standard stuff (dental visits 2x/yr, regular cleaning, fillings), but doesn’t cover periodontal cleanings, crowns, root canals, and implants. After having an alternate dental plan for a year (and skipping the dentist altogether) my first visit was not good as I learned that they wouldn’t perform a regular cleaning because I’d been on periodontal for several years AND the tooth that had been bothering me already had root canal/crown so it needed an implant! The price is the DD negotiated rate, so not full cost, but still nobody wants to start the year with dental bills expected to be $5000 for the year.

      This is on top of unexpected cancer surgery last year with 25 radiation treatments this year, so max out-of-pocket of over $6000 on medical two consecutive years.
      I’m waiting for Medicare to kick in when I turn 65. ;)

    5. allathian*

      I’m really glad that you seem to have landed in such a great place. Good luck with all the insurance stuff!

  18. Not dead*

    I reentered the workforce after a 10 year gap due to family issues with no references or degree. I was lucky enough to be hired to run the online sales for a small business (they didn’t even look at my resume!) I’m even luckier that I really enjoy online sales – at its best it’s like one of my time management games but in real life! My youngest is about to graduate high school and I’m thinking of working on some educational certificates or other resources so when I look for another job I have something to put on my resume since I still won’t have references. (Such a small business everyone is basically management). I have been there two years and while I do love the actual work the pay is only ok and the benefits are terrible. I’m also approaching 50 and am hearing comments about how I’m not really up to the new technical stuff but the new hire can do it since she’s part of that generation. She’s great it’s not her but I can see issues ahead. I’ve paid off my student loans so I’d really rather not take out more to go to the community college. Are there any low cost educational options that would matter on a resume? I’m really open to anything it doesn’t need to be sales. I’m also happy to just acquire more skills even if it doesn’t matter for resumes!

    1. Not dead*

      Oops was trying to write a user name and then it just posted. Not dead I suppose is as good as anything else with the added benefit of being true!

    2. nearly*

      From the sounds of it, community college evening courses, while still working in the day sounds right – no loans. I’d give it a bit more thought though: “anything” is not helpful. Would accounting interest you? I mean, I’ve known people in their 50’s to go to law school (though that involved loans).

      1. Not dead*

        That’s true. I was thinking about accounting. I always felt like it wasn’t for me but I never thought sales were and I both like selling things and also am good at it. There’s a lot of job openings that ask for accounting experience. Thank you for the thought! I was going to update my word / excel / PowerPoint as well. I like the writing and researching part of my job so would look into those.

        1. M2*

          This. Or you could look into temping and particularly temping where people can FT jobs.

          A close friend works at a top university and they know people who have been hired for FT work after they worked as a temp first.

          Community college/ online courses would be good. If you know someone who works in an area of interest maybe ask what courses they think would be relevant?

    3. The Real Fran Fine*

      You could do online certificate programs through places like edX and Google for free, or do paid graduate certificate programs through accredited universities/colleges. Harvard Extension, the University of Washington, etc. all have really good programs for working professionals who need to upskill in something, and the programs are relatively inexpensive.

  19. Mimmy*

    I’m working on an application for a job at a university that is in the state where my husband grew up. We don’t have concrete plans to move but we have entertained eventually moving out there, so he’s occasionally looks at houses and I keep my eyes out for jobs. (My husband actually went to this university but doesn’t have any connections).

    What would you suggest I include in my cover letter to explain that, while we don’t have concrete plans to relocate, I am willing to do so if I am selected for this position?

    1. Unijobs*

      When I was in a similar position I just said something like “I am interested in relocating to X to be closer to family.” (Or whatever reason you want to give, or no reason at all!)

      I expect other folks can weigh in on how much weight current location matters to hiring managers in general these days, but with universities I have to think that folks are so often following a spouse with a job or who is pursuing a degree that it’s common enough for folks to be moving from elsewhere that it’s not a deterrent.

    2. Spacewoman Spiff*

      I had more concrete plans to move when I was applying for jobs last summer (had just finished grad school and was moving back to my former city), but I think the same approach of just mentioning it at the end of your cover letter will be fine. I wrote something like, “Though I’m currently based in X, I plan to return to Y in June 2023.” And like Uniijobs wrote, I think this isn’t uncommon in higher ed, which is where I wound up—about half of the new hires in my department were living in other states when we applied.

    3. Dear Liza dear liza*

      In higher ed 20+ years. The strongest applications speak specifically to the job ad, and then at the very end, almost like a PS, mention a geographical connection.

  20. Potato*

    How do you all address your cover letters when you don’t have a direct contact? “Dear Hiring Manager” seems stuffy, but just “Hello” seems very abrupt. “To Whom It May Concern” seems wildly out of touch.

    This seems like such a simple problem, but I find myself genuinely agonizing over it.

    1. RMNPgirl*

      I’ve been applying a lot and I just use “Dear Hiring Manager” because that’s who I’m wanting to read my cover letter. I believe Alison has addressed this in her pieces on cover letter writing. I went through and read all of those before I started applying like crazy so I could get a good master cover letter written that I can then more quickly tailor to each job. But they all start with “Dear Hiring Manager”

    2. S*

      “Dear hiring manager,” “Dear hiring team,” or “Dear hiring committee” are all fine. “Hello” is way too informal. And you want to stay away from “To whom it may concern” because, truthfully, you know whom this letter concerns; you just don’t know that person’s name.

    3. Ms. Murchison*

      I also recommend the options S gave. Personally I lean towards “team” or “committee,” but that may be because we have the team review applicant’s letters before we interview them.

    4. Mostly Managing*

      I used Dear Hiring Manager.
      I knew who my manager would be if I got the job, but I didn’t know who would be looking at the cover letter.

    5. Filosofickle*

      I’ll be the outlier — Hello is what I use, sometimes Hello (something) Team. I don’t think it’s too informal at all! At least not for most places I would apply to, which are fairly informal and often creative or cause-based so a more human tone makes sense. I never ever use “dear”. That sounds too old fashioned and personal to me. Shrug.

  21. anon for this*

    Hi all, hoping to crowdsource suggestions, ideas, encouragement. With every fiber of my being I hate my job. It’s a private sector accounting role. It’s fully remote, in a company run by an ex-tech mogul who fancies us the next Microsoft. He’s stingy with raises, offers minimal PTO (2 weeks per year for the first decade, legal in this state), offers no sick pay because he found a loophole in state law that says if we get 2 weeks vacation, that can include sick time as needed (so don’t catch a cold as it could reduce that vacation), doesn’t pay out accrued PTO when an employee leaves (also legal in this state but is almost never done by any competitor. People here plan the exit dates very carefully & consciously.). He also deliberately understaffs as he is convinced no one is overworked or burnt out. I work 50 hours a week, often 60, and am exempt from overtime. My colleagues all worked together in person for years back before the company went remote. It’s a very tight clique. I’ve been here 5 years and can’t break into it. They’re hard to reach on phone, messaging and video conference, and uncooperative and often quite short & rude. The work never stops – accounting requests come in overnight and on weekends, as my colleagues never stop working either.

    But – while the raise was stingy, the pay is sort of decent, and I live in an extremely high cost of living area. I’m also over the age of 40, and while that puts me technically in a protected class, it doesn’t protect my role which could be replaced by a foreign remote worker (like our call center now) or worse, AI. I do love working at home in PJs, and saving money on gas and saving commute time, which has always felt like a waste of moments of my life. I’m worried about being paid well enough to save for the age when I am too old, too sick or too discriminated against to be hired, as opting for just actual retirement is just not in the cards financially.

    So my question to you – is this a toxic job that I am trying to spin positively? Are there alternatives that would be happier & pay as well? Am I missing something? Is this the typical work life you all experience? I’m miserable about so much of it, but am too tired from the endless onslaught to step back and evaluate. I will appreciate any thoughts.

    1. WellRed*

      If you have accounting experience I think you can get a much better role elsewhere with paid time off and a boss who doesn’t hate his employees? You are trying to convince yourself that working in pajamas makes up for all this. Does it, though?

    2. Mostly Managing*

      You sound miserable, but employed.

      I started a new job 3 months ago, am 49.
      My husband started a new job a couple of years ago at 47.

      Why don’t you put feelers out, see what’s out there, maybe apply to a few things. You don’t have to take a different job just because you’re offered it, but getting a sense of what the market is like might help you decide whether to stay put or make a move.

      1. anon for this*

        Holy moley – another revelation. It never occurred to me that I could turn down a job that I was offered. I’ve always assumed you only job search when you’re serious about it, and you accept what you’re given. Another myth busted! I’m writing this one down. Thank you for that!

        1. ThatGirl*

          It’s always true, but especially when you’re currently employed – you can be picky, you don’t have to take a job just because it’s being offered. You can wait for the right fit.

        2. David*

          Good thing you posted here! :-)

          The idea that you can decline a job offer seems like something the vast majority of people would know, so since you didn’t know that, I wonder if there may be other significant gaps in your job-searching knowledge? And filling those gaps might help you feel more confident about embarking on a new job search? (Reading AAM helped me a lot with that sort of thing)

    3. TPS reporter*

      the very low PTO and hours are not normal, especially if you’re not getting paid an exorbitant amount. meet with a financial advisor to see how much you need to make and save to reach your goals, then apply for jobs in that range.

      accounting translates across pretty much all fields and lots of companies are saving money by having back office does of roles be fully remote. also if you can think about living in a lower cost area so you can broaden your salary range.

      being over 40 to me as a hiring manager is ideal. I want people who have longevity, I’ve gone through too many younger team members who move jobs every few years

    4. M2*

      This is not normal. You’re an accountant, must be plenty of good jobs out there! Put feelers out and see what happens.

      If you live in a HCOL area are you able to move to a LCOL area or do you own your home so when you retire that can help with retirement? Would you be okay with hybrid roles if you were paid more?

      I have always worked for a company that offers PtO and sick leave. Where I work now someone has been out on FMLA (not pregnancy related) for 6 months. They used up their sick leave but organization pays up to 75-80% if your salary (up to a certain # ) for up to 6 months you’re out on sick leave. Everyone had picked up the work of this person and helping out. My sibling works somewhere where you are allowed to bank up to a year of sick leave that you can use anytime.

      I would start looking and if you’re worried about age just change up yo ur resume. A friend didn’t put her graduation dates on her resume and took anything off that was longer than 12 years ago.

      Good luck!

      1. anon for this*

        Hello, friends! Thank you all. No, PJs are not worth the daily misery – you are right, and seeing it written that way really crystallizes it for me. I need to find the energy after 10-11 hour days to stay at my computer and job search. Finding that energy is tough.

        I like the idea of a financial review – thanks! I can’t afford to hire an advisor, but I do budgets & projection planning in my work, so I bet I can whip up something. I don’t know why I didn’t think of doing one for myself! At my age it will probably tell me I need to make and save 150%+ of my salary to have enough…..LOL. All the more reason to look for a better role. As it stands now, retirement is not an option. Period. I need to work until I can no longer find an employer who wants me.

        Also, thanks, but I am well north of 49. While I have always worked in accounting roles (payables, receivables, light general ledger accounting mostly) I am not an accountant. I don’t even have a degree. I am certainly careful to edit my resume to look fresh and young, though. That works until we meet in person, although I can usually fast talk my way into new jobs.

        And thanks, but owning a home? I wish! I rent, and that is taking an ever-larger bite out of my wages each year. I would have to move very far away to find a lower COL area. The closest one also comes with lower corresponding salaries. Maybe I am just tired and pessimistic, but it looks like a pinch, no matter what. And I have a life and friends here who really matter to me. Being alone in a cheaper place would not feel like a win.

        Thank you all for the food for thought. I want to put this holiday off work to good use, so I will browse the job listings and work on my resume.

        1. M2*

          Thanks for the response. You sound like you have a lot of great skills and I hope you find something with better pay and benefits. Cast a wide net and can you ask friends and family or your network if they know if anything? They might also know if places with upward mobility as well.

          Do you live alone? Could you maybe find a roommate to save some money if you need?

          It’s great you have close friends where you live, that is really important.

          I think the people who recommend quiet quitting made valid points too. Look at private sector, public sector, government (offers a pension after so many years), and higher education. More and more places don’t require a degree. A friend was looking who did not have a degree and was laid off from tech and more higher education places will say degree or relieve at experience which I think is great! Higher education also sometimes will cover costs of tuition for classes or certificates. This may also help you update it advance and make more $ in the future while also not having to pay the full sun if tuition.

            1. anon for this*

              Hey M2, thanks!! Yeah, I have been planting the idea seed for a little while now with all my friends in the hope that someone will know someone. And just looking now I see that many business are listing jobs that require a degree and/OR experience. Hadn’t noticed that before! Woohoo!! This may not be as hard as I thought.

    5. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

      Ugh get out! That sounds way too miserable to spend your life trying to reframe. Don’t waste your lipstick on this turd, to mangle metaphors.

      You have the luxury of seeking employment while currently employed, so you can take your time and make sure any new job is a good fit for you.

      1. anon for this*

        Hey FVM! Quite the mental picture – thank you for the chuckle! Yes, eeeeuuu, and you’re right.

        Also, thanks for reminding me that job searching while employed is a luxury. I appreciate that! Being grateful that I can take my time may help add energy, and may also give me a bit of quiet pleasure during a dreadful work day, knowing that I am quietly building an escape route.

    6. Juneybug*

      This is one of those situations where your boss sucks and is never gonna change.

      Since you can’t take time off to re-group, I would start quiet quitting (doing the minimum of your job and no longer putting in extra time or effort than absolutely necessary). Look around for duties you are doing but no-one seems to notice or cares. See if you don’t complete a minor item, would anyone notice? Stop answering emails so quickly. Do not answer phone calls or emails after work hours. Don’t volunteer for extra-tasks. Gradually reduce your work hours. Take your breaks. Use your lunch time to nap, take a walk, or dream about your future job.

      Start figuring out your exit strategy. To answer your question if you have spin your toxic job as a positive thing is yes. The only redeeming thing about your job is working from home. There are other jobs that allow you to work from home.

      Start looking at job postings. Compare your pay to similar jobs. Where should your pay be at? What parts of a job description interests you? What duties would you rather not have? What on-line (free) courses could you take to update your skills? What benefits do you want or need? Update your resume.

      Start applying for jobs, even the ones not in your field. Accounting could become budget analyst. Or doing payroll. Or helping non-profits with grants.

      I hope your next job pays more money than you could ever image while it’s fulfilling work!

      1. anon for this*

        Oh, thank you! This is the clarity I need. I am seeing through my denial thanks to your comments.

        Quiet quitting is definitely something to look into. The thing is, though, that the role doesn’t have a lot of fluff to it, and I sure don’t add any. I work the hours I do just to barely stay on top of the onslaught. It should be a 2-person job. The role and its responsibilities are baked in, though – there are no optional items that I could refuse to volunteer for. The role just comes with them, and they are all essential and time-sensitive. If I reduce the number of hours worked, I fall even further behind and I suffer for it because everything I do directly impacts all business cash flow. Then again, since that would also affect everyone else, maybe that would shine a light on this ridiculous role? Or cause me to lose my job? I’m tired enough that I don’t even care if it does. I will look with fresh eyes at my work this week to see what I can scale back on. As it is, I should be signed in and working right now to stay out in front of the volume, and it’s a national holiday.

        BUT! You said, “What parts of a job description interests you? What duties would you rather not have?” Ok – serious eye-opener. I had never considered that I should find any parts of a job especially interesting, or that I could rule out jobs that have duties I hate. OK, then! Who knew??? Seriously. I think I have really lost sight of what a decent job should feel like.

        1. goddessoftransitory*

          If your duties are all that’s keeping this company going cash-flow wise you are in very powerful position that needs backup, and if not, they are wearing you down for no good reason.

          After all, what happens when you are out for your PTO? Does the whole place shut down? Who steps in? What “time sensitive” stuff apparently can wait a week or two if your boss is too cheap to hire a temp or backup?

          1. anon for this*

            Yes & no – they can always argue that they just need to find a faster person in this role. Honestly, I am blazing fast, which points to the need for another person to share this role. Anyone would be worn down by it.

            When I am out for half a day for an appt, work sits until I come back, and the pile keeps growing. When I am out for more than a day or two, my boss does my essential duties (and grumbles dramatically about them), and leaves me a massive pile of unaddressed issues to catch up on (to be fair, she’s got her own work to do as well). I don’t want to take time off because I pay for it when I do. But honestly, with all the ideas and support from everyone here today, I can see it differently now, as a short-term problem I am going to solve slowly and carefully.

        2. WoodswomanWrites*

          Like you, I’m in a high cost of living area and a renter. I’m not in accounting, but I’m in a specialized field and was hired for a new job in my 60s, and it’s great. As mentioned, many employers are recognizing experience as valuable without a formal degree.

          When you’re treated as crappy as you’ve been, it’s easy to think that’s all there is. When I was in a job that was a poor fit, I found that just looking at what was out there shifted my perspective. And that was before I even applied.

          Networking with people you know can really make a difference. Putting the word out that you’re looking can be helpful. For example, I applied for a job through the usual anonymous channels, but through connections was able to have my name highlighted to the hiring manager.

          Here’s hoping you get out sooner rather than later. Good luck!

          1. anon for this*

            Thanks, that is hugely encouraging. I am already surprised just from my first quick browse today of available roles. I’m going to use what I am learning here today to examine those listings more critically, search more broadly for related categories that might offer roles I’ve never really thought about and be empowered by the variety current choices. Networking is definitely also the way to go, which is fine – I am very good at that. My overall take on everyone’s thoughts here is that it’s not as futile as I thought, but definitely needs to be done quietly and cautiously, with consideration for the overall economy, etc.

            I am so happy for you that your new role is great. I’ve seen your posts here before and always appreciate your insights!

    7. Busy Middle Manager*

      Counter opinion, while I want to agree with the others. I’m still seeing people way overestimate how good white collar hiring is the past 9 or so months

      Redo resume, start applying, but have low expectations. Set a reasonable personal deadline to get out so you have a light at the end of the tunnel, such as September 2025 or something.

      Why I say “Counter opinion” is, surely most people notice the almost freeze in decent paying white collar hiring this year? I don’t see why people think Accounting is immune? There are some tasks that have fallen into Accounting at all of my jobs that could be divvied up between other analytical type people or lower paid bookkeepers as a short term fix.

      That’s why IMO I’d mentally frame this as surviving a potential recession period (I watch all of the The Federal Reserve speeches and they’ve basically said without directly saying it in one quote, that they will not lower interest rates unless something breaks or unemployment goes up, because that’s the traditional tool to lower demand due, which is how they tame inflation. And business aren’t used to operating with current high costs on top of “high” interest rates), rather than a “living my best life” period.

      PTO sucks, go into the red if you have to, to send a message to MGT. I mean, I use 2 weeks some years just to take off for doctor/dentist/car repair/home repairs, etc. If I didn’t get 4 weeks, I’d be pretending to work so I could have 3-4 hour blocks of times to do the aformentioned things. How do employers not realize that’s what actually happens?

      1. anon for this*

        Hey BMM, thank you so much for this! As a numbers person, I keep an do eye on the Fed and the news. I do see that it’s very much an employer’s market right now, and could turn sour anytime. I want to hedge against that, but not by working like a rented mule, as I am today. I like your suggested long-game approach as it’s more like being a scientist/detective, using the search to gauge the market and gather intel. If I give myself a GFTO date as you suggest, that takes immediate pressure off, and gives me time to do this right. Great idea! I clearly also need more time to learn more – good heavens! I’ve been an AAM reader for over a decade, and am dazzled at how in one day all my AAM friends here have busted some of my oldest assumptions. Great! Now I have something to work with.

        Thanks too for the PTO comments. Most of my teammates are roughly my age and have been with the company a very long time. They get more PTO than I do – each one is privately awarded extra at their Year 10 annual review. The rest are very young career-trackers who believe they have to work our punishing hours to get ahead.

        Incredibly, turnover is pretty low. They all drank the KoolAid and I stayed with my iced tea. And anyway, we’re online, available and under surveillance in our remote system all day long. No one can sneak offline to get to the dentist. We just use a half-day of PTO and keep typing away. No one takes real vacations because their 2-week allotment whittles down fast after a couple of sick days here and there and annual doc/dentist appointments. It’s terribly strange. There’s a lot of grumbling if anyone has to cover for anyone for even a short amount of time. One part hazing, one part guilt trip. At least being remote I don’t have to hang out with these people.

        My first thought is to coordinate my departure to match my PTO earnings. If I use all of my PTO by the end of the year and quit during the holidays, I’d be square with them financially, and I would have used my hard-earned benefit, dang it. I will give that some thought.

      2. Double A*

        If unemployment goes up, that will be a worse time to job search even if interest rates go down. Because by definition there will be more supply of labor and less demand from employers.

        1. anon for this*

          Oh, I know. But as my relentlessly optimistic pal always says when circling a busy parking lot for a space, “All you need is one.” There may be greater competition for the available jobs, sure. I will bide my time and just keep applying. There will be that one job out there, and maybe I can pull this off.

    8. goddessoftransitory*

      Yes, yes, yes, and I can’t say for sure, but it sure isn’t mine.

      I get that commuting and such feels like a waste, but look how much of your life is being wasted here! You are deliberately being wildly overworked and underpaid by a nasty manchild who has manipulated legalities to keep you down, and his buddies are his toadies.

      He doesn’t care about you and he never will. He doesn’t “believe” in burnout because he isn’t the one being worn to a shadow–that’s what he’s got everyone else for. Once your body really can’t take any more and drops, he’ll step over you without a second thought.

      This toxicity has you thinking nothing can change and all jobs are like this one. I assure you, this is NOT the case. I work in a very HCOL area in what’s considered a “dead end” job and not only do my husband and I live just fine, we have fantastic insurance and generous PTO that rolls over and gets paid out if we ever quit. If a food service place can do that, this Microsoft wannabe certainly can, and plenty of places that aren’t hellmouths do as well.

      1. anon for this*

        Wow – thank you so much for this! I think that really helps me see that the question I’ve been stuck on hasn’t really been about the logistics of finding a new job, but about definitively confirming whether my current job truly is toxic or not. I think you and everyone here agree – we have a bingo! It’s funny how when you are immersed in it, it’s hard to tell.

        A warm and huge THANK YOU!!!! to you and everyone here. I think I have reached some real conclusions today and am ready to start making some changes. AAM Friends, you are deeply kind and good people. I appreciate you all, and Alison, I am so grateful to you too for making this forum possible.

    9. spcepickle*

      I love my job – So I am a kind of crazy minority. But I am also here to say it can be done, jobs can be rewarding, pay fairly, and promote balance. My last vacation went a day over because of a major flight melt down – I jumped onto a meeting (I was stuck in an airport why not) – my boss gently scolded me because it was fine that my vacation went a day long and why was I adding work stress to personal stress and I could flex that day or use sick time (we have separate buckets and anything unplanned gets to fall into the sick bucket). Just to illustrate that those work places exist.

      I know that my finance people are given raises, have WAY more PTO, and all telework. It is hella stressful to job hunt, but it seems like it would be very very worth it. I highly recommend looking at government jobs. In most cases the work / life is better, they are better at hiring experienced workers, you get way more PTO, and many government positions are still remote. I work for Washington State and we have people working for us all over the country (and even a few international). If you came to work with us you could easily get 20 years in and retire with a nice pension (because we still have one of those at it kicks really nicely at 65).

      The hardest part about government jobs is finding them, because it seems like every city, county, and state only posts on their website – but I think it is worth it. I would start local and work my way out.

      1. anon for this*

        Thanks for this! I’m on the east coast, but maybe my state does the same! You have me excited to look.

    10. Alex*

      I’m over 40 and just pivoted to a new field. It can definitely be done!

      It doesn’t sound like there’s anything particularly great about this job–it has a halfway decent salary and you can work remotely. OK. Great. But that could be true at a lot of other jobs too! And it doesn’t even sound like your work is so super niche that the options would be that limited.

      Remember that it never hurts to look and see what is out there. Apply to some places. See what happens.

    11. Former Employee*

      Look for a place where management doesn’t make you feel as if you are working for Scrooge and Marley after the passing of Mr. Marley!

      Since you are an older worker, you need to maximize your earnings as much as possible going forward to boost your Social Security benefit.

      I am guessing that there is no 401(k) where you work now. That would also be helpful, especially if the employer matches some portion of your contribution.

      There is something to be said for being able to work from home in terms of cost savings as well as less risk of catching anything, especially from coworkers who have little petri dishes at home.

      Best of luck.

  22. Margaret Cavendish*

    What are some key differences between working in government, and working in the private sector? I’ve worked in the public sector my entire career, 20+ years, and I have an interview coming up with a pension fund.

    Is there anything I should know about working in the public sector vs private sector, in general? And any questions I should ask in the interview to find out what’s specific to their organization?

    1. CorporateLifeIsDifferent*

      the rules and cultural expectations will vary a lot more from company to company. so will things like role names, seniority level meaning, etc.

      there is often, but not always, less HR oversight which is both a good and a bad thing.

      I’m sure there are lots of other cultural differences but I’m blanking.

    2. I didn't say banana*

      Things in the private sector generally move faster, including things like hiring and making changes, and you might be expected to work faster too.

    3. Six Feldspar*

      I’m finding that the public sector can’t compete with the private sector on salaries, so there are more benefits/leave/etc

  23. Bendis*

    My very competent direct report had to deal with an incredibly rude, demanding stakeholder while I was off for two weeks. Eventually, the report got so frustrated with the stakeholder that they started responding to all communication in fluent German. (The stakeholder has poor written communication skills and aggressively capitalizes nouns at random.) I personally find this hilarious but I’ve been informed I need to write up my report for their unprofessional escalation.

    I’m not looking for advice or anything. This just sucks.

    1. BikeWalkBarb*

      Yes it does.

      It’s reminding me of a frequent-flyer emailer who used to write to me with long, confrontational questions to which I replied politely with detailed information, which they then responded to with lots of rebuttals, annotations, and what-abouting all changed to red ink. It was like being in school except that I actually had given correct answers.

      On the plus side if you ever have anyone contact you in German you know you have someone prepared to respond.

    2. RussianInTexas*

      As a person who deals with customers – lol. And so tempting.
      I do understand why it’s inappropriate, but still, lol.

  24. handfulofbees*

    For whatever reason I always get this insane urge in June to completely redo my life. Quit my job and run off and do something completely different. Anyone else get this? And how can I turn these urges into something useful and productive?

    1. BikeWalkBarb*

      I want to start new things in September, which I think of as Back to School Syndrome even though I’m decades past getting new pencils and notebooks in fall.

      Can you take on the research project of what the new thing might actually be? Would that be something you’d enjoy? Because if so, and if it points to real opportunities, then yes it’s useful and productive and next June you’re ready to go.

      Otherwise I’d let go of the idea that energy aimed at change has to be either useful or productive. Let it be energizing, enjoy it, and call that enough. Can you start a garden, even if it’s in containers? (Or start growing something new to you if you already garden) Learn to play the ukulele? Take an improv class through your local parks and rec department? Sign up for cooking classes in some new cuisine that means getting new spices and interesting ingredients and making your kitchen smell delicious? Set out to walk or bike every street in your neighborhood or town? Something that gives you the feeling you’re getting out of the rut.

      1. handfulofbees*

        Haha I think for me it’s the ol summer vacation mentality. Which is funny, because when I was working in an office over summer I was thinking ‘Why am I not outside…’ and now I work outside and I still feel like I’m not appreciating summer hard enough.

        Those are super good ideas. Often I just throw myself into something hard and fast and then burn out on it. Small goal setting would probably help a lot.

    2. Mostly Managing*

      For me, that’s February.
      Every year in Feb, I want to run away to an island and live on a beach, or buy a cabin in the woods, or renovate the kitchen, or…..

      My husband has made a rule that we are not allowed to make any major decisions in February. It has probably saved our marriage several times.
      And if in March the vacation/renovation/whatever is still appealing, we can do it then!

  25. Sharpie*

    I start a new short-term contract job on Tuesday. What are good questions to ask during the orientation – or to make sure I know the answers to, at least?

    1. Cherrywood*

      Good question, and not easy to answer since each place is different.

      I try to understand who the stakeholders and dept interfaces of your own work and dept are. Knowing these makes it easier for you to figure things out on your own, so you don’t need to constsntly run to your new boss to ask.

      In the first week, install software, set up printers, learn how to order stuff and contact Help Desk, get boss/colleagues’ phone numbers so you can let them know if e.g. you’ll be late, and other info that it might seem out of touch to ask about when you’ve been there longer.
      Bookmark everything so you don’t need to ask for help a second time.

      Good luck at your new job!

    2. Cacofonix*

      I always ask or look for an org chart and request a short walk through of it. It’s invaluable to learn how the company is structured and who is who at least at a high level. Also to learn about lines of business relevant to your work.

  26. BikeWalkBarb*

    What has made a training or presentation memorable for you (in a good way)? What happened that made you actually take back and apply something you learned instead of just thinking in the moment that it was interesting or a good idea and never doing anything with it after you left?

    In my work I have to give a fair number of presentations, speeches, and workshops. I’m an energetic speaker and I prepare. I have a one-hour workshop coming up that I’m structuring to be some me talking on concepts (for some it’s likely a reminder framed in–I’m hoping–new ways), some individual reflection, some discussion/workshopping a scenario question at their tables. Roughly 100 participants from a mix of professions and not all of them will be comfortable with the topic, while others will wish the uncomfortable ones would move along faster.

    A couple of things I’m doing:

    – I’m providing advance readings they can choose from and they’ll be asked to bring an “aha” or insight from that with them, which they’ll then apply in reflection and scenario work. They’ll have the entire reading list with links for later reference.

    – During the workshop they’ll have postcards they can write to themselves with something they want to be reminded of later. The organizers will take these and mail them out at some random date in the not too distant future. (Like the FutureMe website, but handwriting things makes them stick in your brain better.)

    – Applying approaches from Liberating Structures to the extent I can; I can’t control room layout to shake things up.

    Always hoping to learn new awesome ways to help the learning last.

    1. EmF*


      “In customer service, try to avoid surprises” is one thing.
      “Here are a couple of stories about times the customer didn’t know what to expect and it backfired terribly, and how I now make sure that the customer knows what to expect” works much better. Even better if people in the group have a story.

      We are very much homo narrans.

      1. BikeWalkBarb*

        Love “homo narrans”. Storytelling comes naturally and I have a few–need to make time for them to have theirs too.

      2. PMaster*

        I agree! You can show me a hundred slides of what I am *supposed* to do, but what I really remember is “what NOT to do” – so the stories about failures, accidents, problems, etc.

    2. Victoria*

      Use this structure: Anchor, Add, Apply, Away.

      Anchor: As you’ve noted, some people are going to come in already knowing some of what you’re there to teach them. And all adults bring relevant knowledge and experience to pretty much every topic. Start by “anchoring” them in what they already know. (Example, for a training on giving a presentation: “Think of a time you learned something that you were able to apply to your work. How did you learn that? How did you apply it back at your job? Take two or three minutes to jot down some memories, then pair up with someone sitting next to you and talk about your experiences. Were there any commonalities? Do you learn in difference ways?”)

      Add: Add one or two skills or pieces of knowledge that are the crux of your presentation. This is when you are lecturing/showing a PowerPoint/etc. (Sticking with the “how to give a presentation” example: Teach this structure!)

      Apply: Give participants a chance to apply what you’ve just taught. It sounds like you’re planning on this with the scenario work you’re including. (Presentation example: “In groups of three, review the slide deck from [some presentation that doesn’t follow this structure] and talk through how you’d revamp it to be more engaging.”)

      Away: Offer a way for folks to immediately apply what they’ve learned to their real jobs. (Our example: “Think about the next presentation you’re going to have to make for work. Take five minutes to jot down some notes about how you can apply this structure to that presentation.”)

      One other suggestion: Because people learn differently, whenever you’re asking people to reflect or complete a task during the workshop, give time for personal reflection, then paired or small group discussion, then large group integration. (“Take five minutes to write down your ideas, then answer the questions on the handout in conversation with someone at your table, then we’ll ask each group to share one idea or insight with everyone.”)

      1. BikeWalkBarb*

        Love this structure, especially as someone who’s always aligned with alliteration. Thanks!

        The Away is great because I’m midday in a day when they’re supposed to end up with goal-setting. I’m giving them some framing and have a form on SMARTIE goals (from The Management Center) they can work with.

        Your last paragraph describes the 1-2-4-All format that’s one of the Liberating Structures approaches. In larger groups I sometimes hesitate to use the “all” because someone will tell us everything they talked about instead of the one or two things you’re hoping for, then the next person thinks that’s what they’re supposed to do and the time plan just went sideways unless I can reel them back in. But I have 1.25 hours and I’m aiming to be done in an hour so I have some slack. As the last presentation before lunch I’m not leaving anyone feeling cheated if I wrap early!

        Someone opened a speech years ago with words I carry with me (with caveats that not everyone can follow all these): Stand up to be seen. Speak up to be heard. Sit down to be appreciated.

    3. spcepickle*

      Is there anyway you can add a hands on component. The best training I have ever been to was about the placement to the buttons you push to cross the road as a pedestrain. We had a brief class room presentation and then we went out and measured several near the building, discussed why they did not meet current code and where we would put them. 100% memorable in a great way. Not a very applicable to many situations but amazing.

      Also everyone always says – tell them what you are going to tell them (ie give them agenda) tell it to them, then tell them what you told them. I HATE it, the worst trainings are those where the presenter repeats themselves. I am stuck in a room till you are done – move along please.

      1. BikeWalkBarb*

        I work in active transportation so I love that this is an example from my world. As close as I can get to hands-on is having them work on a scenario individually and then as a group.

        Funny that you hate the standard structure; I actually don’t have it built into this. I have some repetition of reminders and I’m adding a closing slide with takeaways but I don’t give it all away in the beginning. Instead I’m opening by telling them what to expect in general terms–flow of the session, taking breaks, moving around if you need to, expect to do some reflection and small-group work. Context, not content.

  27. Surrogate Tongue Pop*

    My team, myself and a bunch of others in our org and across the company, got let go last week. I’m…not totally mad, the company is a bit fly-by-seat-of-pants mode pretty much 24/7. I’ll find something else, even though we’re all tech and we know how this job market is at present. My question is, is the following “normal”?: I’ve been laid off before from tech companies and never, until now, have been in receipt of a document to sign that has everyone’s ages and functional role on it that was let go. And the ages and functional role of everyone not let go. It’s so odd to me.

    1. ThatGirl*

      I’ve seen that once, not at a tech co – it’s to document that there was no age discrimination.

      1. Surrogate Tongue Pop*

        I figured as much, but in all the companies (bigger than this one) that have done layoffs over my 30 year career, I’d just never seen it before laid out in 2 tables of ages/roles! I guess my (now former) team can ow see how old I am.

    2. Generalist*

      This is very common at companies over a certain size. I think it might be required by the WARN Act or similar laws intended to protect workers from ageism. The severance agreement should also specify how long you have to review it before deciding whether to sign. I believe if you’re over 40, they have to give you a longer review period so you can consult a lawyer.

    3. CompiledButNotDistributed*

      the companies are required to compile these lists. they are not required to share them with either retained or laid off employees (and usually don’t). There are some states where sharing it could actually get you into trouble with the privacy rules if someone felt like complaining.

      FWIW, I’ve been laid off 8 times and been given this list once (from the largest company which sent it as part of a larger packet of documents, most of which I wasn’t supposed to see).

    4. Anonymous Demi ISFJ*

      That was part of the paperwork when my partner got laid off from a retail job in 2020. We just used it to figure out who else had been laid off and who was staying on…

  28. Anon for this one*

    I’m applying for jobs in tech. My current company isn’t giving the breadth of experience I want so I’ve started a number of personal projects over the last 2-3 years to make up for the “missing” experience. They are developed enough that they are a potential product (rather than just a portfolio piece) with an actual new idea that fills a gap in the market. How van I use this experience in interviews/applications without compromising my IP? because I won’t put the source code out into the world for employers to see and potentially rip off. So for all they know, the project could be fictitious and entirely unimplemented. I cannot “officially” start a company for the product, because of my current employer’s policy on moonlighting (ie not allowed).

    1. WhoOwnsTheCode*

      That’s your choice, but it’s going to have limited usefulness if you don’t share some code samples. You don’t have to put the full source on GitHib or similar, but you said the whole point of the project was to enhance your employability and that means sharing the skills you learned in a concrete way.

      This is particularly important if the code you write for actual employers is proprietary and thus not shareable. I know tons of people who do stuff on GitHub solely to have shareable code samples because their employers don’t.

      That said, are you sure your employer doesn’t legitimately own the code? If they don’t allow moonlighting they may very well have IP rules that mean any code you write while employed by them is owned by them. This is pretty common, and something I’ve had changed in various employment agreements and employee handbooks before I’d sign them.

      Good luck!

  29. Finn (any pronouns)*

    My coworker/boss (the org chart is complicated, technically she’s not my boss but relationshipwise she mostly is) just told me she’s looking for a new job/expects to be gone by september latest. Work has been messy the past few months due to leadership changes, she was at least at times a problematic boss (advertising for her religion, sharing way more than she should with me and I guess also with others, utterly unhelpful with work problems to the point of telling me to just try when I told her I’m lacking the education for a task she gave me)… Really, I’d be glad to see her leave.
    Would it be bad of me to let my teammates know it might happen, especially since I’m working in a school-adjacent field and typically decisions about whether to stay for the next year are made around this time or in the next month or so?

    1. M2*

      I don’t think you should be telling anyone. They told you in confidence and might not leave! I have been applying and looking for jobs for a year now. I like my role but want a larger portfolio and more strategy less of the minutia. I have applied for only roles I would actually leave and have had two finals interviews which I didn’t get and one which I decided to take myself out of the interview process because it didn’t seem like the right fit.

      I have a friend who was laid off more than a year ago. They still have not found a new job and they have applied for a ton and have used their network.

      This is to say, you never know when someone might leave. Also, what if this person doesn’t get renewed or gets let go because someone thinks they are leaving?

      Would you want someone to do this to you?

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        I agree. Don’t take these metaphorical fries off your coworker’s plate, LW. Too messy and really not your business, even though she tried to make it be so by telling you in the first place.

    2. Cacofonix*

      Absolutely not. Anything you say is just unsubstantiated gossip, unless she gave you specific permission (and even then no, because she could change her mind) or she changes your work tasks in a way that requires that you collaborate with others to prepare for her departure.

      It’s not your story to tell, no matter how much you think your teammates might like to hear it. If it will impact them a lot, you can encourage her to share it with them directly.

    3. RagingADHD*

      If you mean you’d try to influence your coworkers to stay in the hopes she would be gone, that’s not a good idea for you to share or for them to listen to you. It’s much too tenuous. If they give up another opportunity and she winds up staying, they will be worse off than before.

    4. Oldie*

      I wouldn’t tell anyone. It’s the type of thing where if she wants other people to know, she should tell them herself. It’s possible that it just slipped and she didn’t actually intend to start telling people about this. (Though you say one of the problems with her is oversharing, so maybe she doesn’t know to keep things like this to herself. I wouldn’t make it more of a problem and essentially gossip to other people about it though.)

  30. EssentiallyEssential*

    So I’m in the office today because….why not kick-off a big stinkin’ new software on Memorial Day?

    Anyways, I do have a question. One of the main point persons for this project is my former direct supervisor, but he has not been my supervisor for over a year. Since he’s been gone, responsibilities have been shifted around. One of my main duties with this go-live is making sure a particular software is completely clean of transactions. In update emails, Former Supervisor is thanking someone else who held that responsibility before me. I’m a bit miffed because she didn’t help in getting that clean at all, and I put in a lot of hourd. Nobody’s corrected him yet, but I feel weird in doing so. Do I correct him?

    1. Rebecca*

      “Hi Supervisor!

      Thanks for all the recognition on cleaning the transactions up in the software! I took that responsibility over from Lucinda last July, and it’s nice to see that our* work has been noticed.”

      *you could say “my,” but I think it is gracious to acknowledge that your predecessor also contributed.

    2. Busy Middle Manager*

      Correct him, I am a BA on two softwares though no “tech” because I’m not that technical. If someone is thanking someone for something, email the sender privately. Say FYI I did it. TBH the other coworker should correct him come Tuesday!

      If your boss thinks it’s weird at all, frame it as “I just wanted to be sure you knew who did what around here!”

    3. NotInPublic*

      If you do, only do it privately. It would be better to ask someone else to do it if you have someone you trust to ask.

      1. EssentiallyEssential*

        Oh, absolutely. I was not going to put him on a “Reply-All” blast.

  31. Mostly Managing*

    New job, new industry.

    What does “dress professionally” mean for a daytime event in academia???
    I’m staff, not faculty.
    There will be students present – and probably their parents – as it’s an open house for prospective students.

    Jeans? Chinos? Denim skirt? T-shirt and cardigan ok, or do I need buttons?

    Most days in the office I wear black jeans and a sweater/nice t-shirt. But is that “professional”?

    1. Rara Avis*

      Everyone involved in an open house at my school dresses up — their nicest teacher dress, skirt and blouse, slacks and a shirt and tie for male-presenting humans.

    2. academic fashion*

      I’m faculty, but based on your description of the event/people who will be there, I’d go with chinos. You could get away w/ a fitted, plain color tee (black, blue, or white) and a cardigan; otherwise I’d go with something that has buttons.

      That said, scale up if you’re at a highly selective private university; scale down if you’re at a non-flagship public or a community college. I wear nice jeans, a black tee, and a blazer or cardigan to teach in.

    3. But what to call me?*

      If they specified that you should dress professionally I would not go with jeans. I don’t know enough clothing terminology to be able to describe it, but at the university events I’ve been to some kind of nice pants or skirt that isn’t denim along with a nice blouse seems to be pretty typical. You might be able to get away with black jeans, depending on what your employer and the parents think counts as business casual, but I’d err on the side of caution at that kind of event and take it a step up from jeans. A nice sweater would probably be fine, or a blousy t-shirt. Nothing as formal as a suit, though.

    4. Nocturna*

      I work in academia. I would say slacks or a nice skirt (not denim or cotton) with a blouse, or a professional dress. Add a cardigan or blazer if you need more warmth. Think business casual if you’re familiar with that.

      Also, if your boss also attends and isn’t new, I would ask them for guidance. You could ask if your normal wear is appropriate or if you need to adjust to something more formal.

    5. Keep it Simple*

      NO jeans. You are not a student. Nice pants, a good shirt/blouse, and a blazer/jacket/fancy cardigan-type thing. Scarves are nice if you have the knack. Nice flats or short boots (heels aren’t necessary) but no sneakers.

      1. amoeba*

        Eh. I’d say black or dark blue jeans, not faded, not baggy, with a nice dressy shirt/blouse/knit pullover/cardigan and nice shoes, would definitely work in most places I’ve worked in. That’s basically my male co-workers’ business casual uniform!
        Wouldn’t combine jeans and t-shirt though, dress up either part – so if you wear nice slacks, a solid-coloured t-shirt would be fine, a black jeans with a nice blouse/shirt as well.

    6. Shirley Keeldar*

      Just chiming in to say “Do I need buttons?” is very funny to me and such an apt way to describe that subtle shift between “nice V-neck T-shirt” and “dressy blouse.” Love it!

    7. Alex*

      I’d think it means to step it up from your regular dress, if they called it out specifically. I would definitely skip anything denim and wear a nice blouse/cardigan etc. And no sneakers.

  32. Typing All The Time*

    Hi everyone. Just need your advice and encouragement about switching from full-time general freelance writing (articles on travel, books, culinary interests and soft news reporting) back to a staff related editorial/marketing writing position. My last staff position was in late 2010 amid the Great Recession and then I would go on interviews as one of 50 to 200 candidates.
    In 2013, I decided to focus more so on freelance (with some retail done in between) because my chances of landing paid work was greater. I also gave up on thinking I could find a permanent position.
    Now over 10 years later, and as the freelance writing field has changed tremendously, I’m trying to readjust my resume and approach applying for mid-level (associate) roles again. Any advice is recommended.

    1. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

      I wonder if the ‘how to find a job’ page, specifically with all the funky cover letter advice, would be helpful for you right now. I see a snappy cover letter in your future :)

  33. Interview question*

    I am currently job searching and I have been doing well for first round interviews (on Zoom) but have gotten very few second round interviews (these would usually be in person). So I think my cover letter and resume are OK but any ideas how I can get better at the interview part? I have practiced interview questions and role-played with a friend but I’m still missing something. This is for fairly senior positions in my industry, but a fairly straightforward next step up (think associate director to director for example).

    1. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

      Try role playing except reverse the positions – you be the interviewer. Alison recommended that here before.

  34. Campbell Murphy*

    Has anyone had a conversation with a current employer about moving from a W2 position to a 1099? I’m about to get an offer for a new position that I need to take for a specific personal reason, but I am confident in my ability to do what needs to be done for my current job in the evenings and weekends. I was initially hired FT for a project that my company no longer has a contract for, and while what I do is necessary, it’s the type of work that is often done on a contract basis to save money. My boss himself prefers to hire contract workers, so it’s not out of the realm of possibility that he would be ok with this; I’m just curious if others have had this conversation how it’s gone.

    1. CostAndHeadcount*

      In my experience contracting is usually more expensive for a company so I’ve never encountered one willing to do it long term.

      I have found many companies will give you the flexibility you’re talking about in terms of even you work as an employee if that’s your main concern.

      If you do ask about switching, one area that might cause some pushback is loss of headcount; if you resign the boss may have less ability to replace you with a new employee (or even new contractor) in the future. That might be a good reason for boss to say no.

      Good luck!

    2. Texan In Exile*

      When I quit my job, my boss asked if I would stay on as a contractor for the transition. I was making $69K a year and HR suggested an hourly rate of $32 an hour.

      I laughed and said no.

      I then talked to co-workers who were current or previous contractors (this company does a lot of temp to perm) to learn their pay.

      My co-workers were making over $100K a year. One friend had started at $60/hour. (This was through a staffing agency so she wasn’t paying the full SS/Medicare.)

      I ended up at $60, as well, which still wasn’t enough for the crap I was dealing with but was enough to keep me part time for another month or two.

    3. Ginger Cat Lady*

      If you do this, please, please look up the tax implications and charge a 1099 rate to cover that. Also charge enough so you can buy any equipment/laptop/software you’ll need, since as a contractor you cover that yourself. The company cannot provide those things for contractors under IRS rules.

      1. CompanyEquipment*

        Not true, and many company policies require that contractors only use company provided equipmrnt.

  35. Oldie*

    My coworker keeps making age-related comments that bother me. Is she being weird, or am I too sensitive?

    My coworker, Sarah, is 30 and I’m 35. Shortly after I started in this job, she asked me how old I was. A little while after that, I asked her a question, prefacing it with, “John said you’ve been with the company for about 10 or 15 years, and should know the answer to this.” Sarah was totally aghast, and went on and on with, “OMG, I’ve only been working for Teapots Inc. for 10 years! I started part time in high school. If I’d been here 15 years, I’d be 35 years old! God, I’d be so old! That would be horrible! Don’t make me think about that.” I didn’t say anything, but it obviously didn’t make me feel great.

    Since then, it seems like Sarah makes comments to me using “People my age” or “People from my generation” whenever she can. It’s especially weird when she uses it to respond to something I just said about myself. Like, if I mention a TV show I liked as a kid, she’ll say “Everyone from my generation loved that show.” Or when I said I hate talking on the phone, she said “People my age only texted while growing up so we all hate talking on the phone.”

    I don’t know how to explain why, but I find these comments really irritating and strange. We’re from the same generation and mostly grew up with the same experiences. I guess the comments are reminders that she thinks I’m horribly old? Or it’s like she’s excluding me from my own generation? I stopped eating lunch with her so I don’t hear these comments much anymore, but it’s still annoying when it comes up at other times.

    Does anyone know anyone else who does this? Is it as weird as I think it is?

    1. RagingADHD*

      It’s very wierd, and it sounds like she’s having an identity crisis about turning 30.

      You can just say, “we’re the same generation, you know.”

    2. Happy meal with extra happy*

      It sounds like she has some major internal issues related to age that she’ll hopefully figure out one day. If I worked with someone like that, I wouldn’t find it insulting, just annoying as all get out, with a dash of pity/sympathy. I’m about your age, and I have a coworker (same level as me) who’s Sarah’s age, and I honestly forget sometimes about the age difference because it literally doesn’t matter and doesn’t come up.

      1. Oldie*

        I actually don’t know how old most of my coworkers are and it’s not something I’d ever ask because, like you said, it doesn’t matter. It was weird that Sarah wanted to know my age to begin with.

    3. Zona the Great*

      These comments are super strange! But I think they show she has some very weird hang ups about her age. I honestly think the best “revenge” is saying nothing and trying to be more bemused by her antics than anything. When she’s is 35 (next week because that is how it will feel to her) she’ll realize 35 is basically the same thing as 30 and she can recall acting like an idiot 5 years ago. I remember being 24 and hearing that my colleagues were 35 and I thought, “But you look so young!”. I of course didn’t say this but now I look back and laugh because 35 and 24 basically look the same on most people.

      1. Oldie*

        Maybe Sarah has completely forgotten that I’m “old” because I still look young for my age somehow even though I have wrinkles? (I went to the public library the other day to get non-fiction books and adult fiction books. It was raining and the person checking me out asked one of my parents had given me a ride, because she didn’t want me to get soaked walking home.)

    4. Cacofonix*

      It’s weird, unprofessional, and I’d hate it too. Sounds very immature which is surprising at 30. Tell her it’s weird; call her out every time. “You make a lot of comments about age at work, which I find odd. Why?” Then repeat in different ways and ignore/pointed stare. “Oh, how weird you’re so focused on age.” “You seem really anxious about aging, but we have people of different ages working here. You might want to consider how that reflects on you.” or just “why say that at work?” There is always a protracted silence with a raised eyebrow.
      Just make it unpleasant for her to make those comments.

      1. Observer*

        Tell her it’s weird; call her out every time.

        Why? That’s a serious question. What exactly is going to be accomplished?

        I doubt that she’ll stop. And even if she does, I doubt that it’s going to change anything fundamental.

        People do a lot of weird stuff. I think it’s a waste of energy and mental resources to get bent out of shape and try to stop it.

        1. SofiaDeo*

          If people at work are doing things that are making one uncomfortable, especially when it’s something Not Related To Work At All, why not try to politely stop it? Especially when it’s not easy to ignore. A hair twirl? Easy to ignore. Harping on the same conversational topic constantly, from Day 1 (how old are you?) is something I’d try to redirect/ask about.

          1. Observer*

            What @Cacofonix is suggesting is a lot of effort and a bit of drama. I’m not against calling it out, if you think it might be effective. But calling it out every time? That’s a lot. And if it doesn’t work the first time, I don’t think that calling it out each time is going to work – and it’s going to make the LW look over the top, too.

    5. Qwerty*

      Try to let it go and don’t let her pull you into her age related freakout.

      Most of my friends got really weird about age when they turned 30 or 31. They are no longer in their 20’s to be classified as “young” but don’t feel like they have their lives together enough to be in their thirties.

      Add to this that it seems like every article online over emphasizes age and generation. The headlines are full of “how to talk to X generation” and tons of stereotyping so it sounds like she’s read far too many of those

      1. Oldie*

        I’ve seen those generation articles too! I’ve also read articles about younger people not having a lot of basic computer skills. Never really thought about it until Sarah complained about not knowing how to use Excel because her generation wasn’t taught it in school. I’m glad people from my generation know how use Google and YouTube to learn new skills, because otherwise I wouldn’t know how to use Excel to do most of my job either. :P

    6. Myrin*

      That’s so strange because yeah, you’re basically “the same age” in “adult-ese”. She sounds super immature and you definitely shouldn’t let it deter you (although I totally understand being frustrated and annoyed!). And I’ve also found that once you’ve reached a certain number of years with a company, five years on either side don’t really matter either in the grand schemes of things.
      (Also, provided you are in the US – I’m not so I might be missing something – something doesn’t fit here anyway because wouldn’t she already have finished high school at 20, when she started working at Teapots Inc.?)

      1. Oldie*

        I’m in the US. I hadn’t really thought about it, but you’re right that something doesn’t add up. She told me she started working at Teapots Inc. in high school, so she has to have been working there for more than 10 years. Maybe she doesn’t count the years it was only part-time/minimum wage work? I don’t want to ask, lol.

        1. Oldie*

          (When she asked me how old I was, I said, “I’m 35, why, how old are you?” because I wasn’t sure how else to respond. She said she’s 30, so that’s how I know she’s supposed to be 30.)

        2. Myrin*

          Maybe she doesn’t count the years it was only part-time/minimum wage work?

          But surely not when she references her part-time work in the literal next sentence and even kind of uses it as “proof” for her age. Something ~mysterious~ is going on here. I’m joking, of course, but I’m now also amusing myself thinking she’s actually either much younger, much older, or has worked with Teapots Inc. for much longer or shorter than she’s telling everyone. And now she’s being strange towards you because you’re on the verge of putting all the pieces together and she’s trying to throw you off!
          (Again and just to be clear, I’m not overly serious with this but honestly, it would explain every part of the whole weirdness.)

          1. Oldie*

            People her age just aren’t good at math. (Just joking.)

            But, yeah, I feel like I don’t know how old she really is now!

      2. Irish Teacher.*

        Yeah, I read back over that a couple of times, trying to make sense of it.

    7. Ginger Cat Lady*

      I’d start saying things like:
      “why are you so hung up on your age?”
      “It’s weird that you keep talking about your age.”
      “What does your age have to do with it?”
      (Always make it about HER age, not yours.)

    8. Busy Middle Manager*

      I used to have this in the opposite direction. I always found it odd, I was around 35, someone I worked with who was barely 25 kept saying we’re the same generation and making comments insinuating I was 5 or so years younger than I was, which at the time bothered me because every year of work experience counted at that place, and I did not want to “lose” any of those years!

      I knew he did it on purpose because everyone there was very smart and knew how to code and memorized a lot of information, knowing how quick he picked up other tidbits of information, there is no way he kept forgetting us having the “my age is actually higher, I’ve been doing this for a decade” conversation after the first time.

      Now on the flip side, I’m technically late X but feel like a border child, If someone says I am late X or geriatric millennial or xennial, same thing to me. Two coworkers, born ’88 and ’93 were talking about the generational gap they had. The older one said the 93-er had more GenZ tendencies. I honest to God have no clue what he was talking about (at the time a few years ago, basically only very entry level Z was working so I didn’t even want to get into pretending they had a work style yet!). They both seemed very similar to me! I just found it funny because they were desperate to draw a distinction between each other, when IMO they should have been trying harder to get along!

      OMG I just realized this is (probably) your age and the coworkers age. Do people born in 93/94 really thing 89/88 babies are a completely different generation? Maybe!

      1. Irish Teacher.*

        I think if it was a few years ago, it might make sense. While 30 and 35 strike me as basically the same age, say 27 and 22 are very different life stages, one is barely out of college, whereas the other is approaching 30, possibly thinking of mortgages, marriage, children, etc.

        I’m early 40s and I’d usually find that I’d have a fair bit in common with people in their late 20s but little with people in their early 20s. I’d kinda consider anybody from late 20s to early 50s to be more or less my generation.

        Though I guess it is also possible there are some big differences in experience between those born in the late ’80s and the mid 90s. I know there are between me and people only a few years younger.

        While I would consider people in their 30s to be similar to me in maturity, career stage, life stage, etc, I would have very different childhood memories to those under 35. I grew up in a country with 20% unemployment and a constant stream of emigration. They grew up in one of the richest countries in the world. I didn’t have a mobile phone or the internet until I was at college. They grew up with those things as normal. I grew up with two TV channels, both Irish. They grew up with dozens and TV shows from the UK and probably America. I grew up in a country where divorce was illegal and weekly Mass attendance was over 80% of the population. They grew up in a society becoming secular. My sister is only four years younger than I am but she stared at me like I was talking about the 1950s when she was a teen and I told her that when I was 14 or 15, my friends and I were absolutely terrifying each other with “imagine if you found out your parents…weren’t married when you were born” and “imagine if you found out they were married…only six months before you were born.” I was freaked out enough to go home and check my parents marriage cert! By the time my sister reached the end of her teens, one of her classmates got pregnant and brought her baby into school to show them (I have no doubt girls my age got pregnant in their teens too, but it certainly wasn’t something they’d have wanted their classmates to know about).

        So sometimes a very short period of time can still bring about big changes. Not that that would justify Oldie’s coworker. I don’t go around telling people five years younger than me that they are so young and probably don’t remember a time before divorce was legal. If it came up, I might comment, “yeah, I was 14 or 15 before it was legalised. Weird how much things changed in those few years, isn’t it?” or something like that, but I wouldn’t keep talking about “my generation,” as if they were separate.

    9. Spacewoman Spiff*

      Haha, I also find this pretty weird. I have a coworker who’s always referencing how old he is and saying things like, “Well, MY generation…”, as if we are different generations. I’m actually a year or two older than him and have found no solution other than to close my ears or point out that I do get his cultural reference because, literally, we grew up at the same time. He tends to reference his agedness when surrounded by people 2-3 years older, so, who knows what’s going on.

    10. WellRed*

      I think you are both being weird! Why did you make the original comment about her tenure (and therefore age) to begin with? FYI, I’m 54. Wait till you really have to deal with age related shit.

      1. Observer*

        Why did you make the original comment about her tenure (and therefore age) to begin with?

        It wasn’t about age – the number of years someone works at a company doesn’t necessarily say that much about someone’s age. And jumping from tenure to age is seriously weird. On the other hand, explaining that “Coworker thought you might know the answer because you should have a fair amount of institutional knowledge” is a reasonable explanation of why you are asking someone a company specific question.

      2. Oldie*

        I was just repeating what John had said to give context on why I was asking her that specific question. I wasn’t thinking about her age, just that she had a lot of institutional knowledge. I didn’t realize she’d take it as an insult.

    11. goddessoftransitory*

      It’s very weird. Even if you were twenty years her senior it would be rude and inappropriate but this is a 5 year difference at best.

    12. Double A*

      This sounds really annoying, and this is coming from someone who is kind of into generational markers (not in an “I am/you are so old” way but I just think it’s interesting how certain cultural experiences at certain ages are formative.)

      This is definitely not about her thinking you’re super old and is something to do with her. Or I mean if she does think you’re super old that is… really weird.

    13. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

      She’s being weird. Is she supervising anyone? If you’re peers it’s just weird but if she supervises anyone over 40 this weird focus on age could easily tip into age discrimination.

      1. Slightly Less Evil Bunny*


        To anyone saying that calling her out on it isn’t worth the time/effort, or actually makes the OP look like the weird one… what if coworker was 36 and OP was 41? It’s a behavior that could become a problem for the coworker if she ever acts that way around someone older.

    14. Sharpie*

      That is weird. Five years in your thirties really isn’t a huge deal, and I’d say that. “I’m only five years older than you, that makes us the same generation.”

    15. allathian*

      She’s being weird. Sounds like she’s having an existential crisis now that she can’t credibly call herself a young adult anymore, regardless of the life stage she’s reached.

      I’m 5 years older than my husband but when we met he was more established in his career than I was in mine. We’re the same generation and it’s only when we discuss our teens that I consciously realize that my husband had barely started in middle school when I graduated high school (I’m in Finland and we start school the year we’re 7 and it’s 6 years of elementary school followed by 3 years of middle school and 3 years of high school).

      You stopped going to lunch with her, and I suspect that avoiding her as much as you can without being overtly hostile is the way to go here.

    16. yeep*

      oooh I had a direct report do this. She kept referring to “her generation” when she was less than five years younger than me (and I look young and am often mistaken for an undergrad or younger!). To be fair, we were at different stages in life – by the time she started working for me (I was 29) I had three kids and was an associate director and she was a newlywed, had finished her masters and had a one year of work experience. But it was very odd to always have to remind her that we were actually the same generation and my experience growing up wasn’t wholly different than hers.

  36. I edit everything*

    On Thursday, late in the day, I got an email about scheduling a second-round interview for this coming Thursday. I replied immediately, though by then it was after 5:00 p.m. I still haven’t gotten a reply with a firm time (I said I was largely available but gave preferences). How long do I wait until following up? End of day Tomorrow? Until Wednesday? That seems like it’s cutting things close, but the long weekend is kind of condensing things.

    If I do end up having to send something, I’ll take some phrasing suggestions.

    I’ve gone back and checked that my reply is in my sent mail like three times since Friday. I do not like suspense.

    1. Oldie*

      I hate suspense too. I’d wait until tomorrow after lunch to give them a chance to catch up on e-mail in the morning incase they took Friday off. You could say something like, “I hope you enjoyed the long holiday weekend! I just wanted to follow up with you on the interview time because my schedule is starting to fill up for this Thursday.”

      1. The Real Fran Fine*

        This is the right approach. Many people took Friday off (myself and a couple of coworkers included) to have a four day Memorial Day weekend. Assuming OP’s in the US and so is the company she applied for, it’s possible that’s why there’s been no reply as of yet.

  37. Texan In Exile*

    Does anyone has expertise in using photographs of people in a publication when you don’t have a signed release? (In the US.)

    I was volunteering at a high school on a project. I suggested that the leader of the project take some photos of the students who were over 18 to use in our group’s newsletter.

    “And of course get their permission,” I said.

    She told me that she did some research and that people in public spaces do not legally have an expectation of privacy and we can use their photos without asking.

    I said that even if it’s OK legally, it’s not where I want to be morally; that I wouldn’t be so sure that a public school counts as a “public space;” and that our group probably did not want to be a test case for, “But a public school is a public space so of course we can publish these photos!”

    (We did compromise and she took some photos of the backs of the students’ heads while they did the activity. Nobody is identifiable.)

    1. Buggalugs*

      I could be wrong but in a school is still not a public space. Think parks, sidewalks, etc are public spaces. Basically if Joe public cannot walk into your school and wander around it is not considered a public space. At least that’s how it is in Canada.

    2. Generic Name*

      Omg, can anyone just waltz into the school and stay as long as they like in the building? I presume no, therefore it’s not a public space. I feel like the staff person was engaging in a heavy dose of wishful thinking with a liberal dollop of laziness. I’m glad you pushed back. I would be upset if my child’s photo were used in marketing materials without my permission.

    3. Double A*

      Are you actually at a school? Because a lot of time parents have signed permission forms during the start of the year that give or deny permission to use their kids’ pictures for specific reasons. And I’m assuming 18 year old students have signed those forms themselves (though maybe not if they turned 18 during the year).

      Although I’m not sure how this applies as an outside organization. You could definitely ask their administration.

      1. Dancing Otter*

        Any releases they may have signed were *to the school*, not to your organization.

    4. Observer*

      1. It’s a high school and *students* are the participants. That means that FERPA almost certainly applies. Do not use ANYTHING remotely identifiable without getting permission.

      2. A public school is actually not a “public space” any more than any other business. Which is why they can (and *d0*) restrict who can come in and where people can go.

      3. Depending on who is paying for the activity, there may be an additional layer of regulation involved. Like, my organization works with public schools. And, in addition to a bunch of regulations imposed by the State in general, the particular City agency that funds our work actually forbids the use of any photos of participants – even if taken at something like a street fair- without consent of the student or guardian (if the student is under 18).

      1. allathian*

        The legislation and guidelines are similar in Finland, with the caveat that even if the guardian has given permission, the student can always refuse to give it.

    5. fhqwhgads*

      If you have not yet completely lost any trust in this group leader’s judgement, you should now.

    6. I take tea*

      I’m in Europe, the law Is probably different, but even on our public library we are not allowed to publish pictures where you can see people clearly without consent. (Crowds are ok.) Plus it’s just polite to ask.

  38. ArlynPage*

    I’ve just been invited to an all-staff mandatory meeting at the end of the day tomorrow (it’s the beginning of the day for the main office and I’m one of dozens of remote workers). It’s gotta be layoffs, right? Our company hasn’t been doing horribly, but I don’t think our revenue has been quite where it should be this past year. A bunch of the upper-level staff just traveled across the world to meet with one of our business partners who are also sort of competitors (something like–one of our minor product lines is a traditional tea kettle and one of their main product lines is an electric kettle), so it’s also possible that it’s news about our partnership. Either way, how am I supposed to work tomorrow? What do I do?

    1. Taxes Schmaxes*

      What would give you the most peace of mind? Working and pretending that the meeting is nothing that will impact you immediately? Treating it as if you were going to be laid off and starting a job search? Breathing and finding ways to ground yourself when the worry gets to be too difficult? Calling out sick until you can hear what the news was? Something else?

      I hope it’s not what you’re fearing. Good luck!

    2. Bruce*

      I hope the big day goes OK for you… The layoffs I’ve seen were not held at the end of the day, if that helps any with your stress…

  39. Six Feldspar*

    Any advice for coping with work in a stuffy office?

    My current office is nice but very still air inside. I do laps around the building a few times a day but I’m still almost gasping for fresh air. Some of this is down to a 5am wakeup that I can’t change, but I’m open to any other ideas!

      1. Six Feldspar*

        Good idea, thanks! I’ll have to find a very small one since I’m hot desking.

    1. Quandong*

      Lots of buildings have issues with lack of ventilation, especially if there hasn’t been much focus on indoor air quality as a workplace health and safety concern.

      One of my colleagues was feeling sleepy, struggling to stay alert, and getting headaches almost every day. I happen to have a carbon dioxide monitor and brought it to work for my colleague to use. It turned out that the room had a faulty vent which meant no fresh air was coming into the room even though the air conditioning unit was running! The carbon dioxide levels were dangerously high.

      By taking measurements my colleague was able to bring this to the attention of building managers and workplace health & safety officers. They investigated the ventilation and had technicians make repairs and adjustments, and now the carbon dioxide levels in that room are much lower, and not causing the same problems.

      I expect you’re not the only person struggling from the lack of fresh air at your office. Can you use workplace health & safety or building code regulations to get the ventilation checked out, including measurements for carbon dioxide when the office is in use?

      Good ventilation also helps reduce sickness, if you need to encourage people to investigate!

      1. Six Feldspar*

        Good point, I hadn’t thought of that before. The building is a weird shape and the internal sections are weird shapes, it’s definitely possible. I’ll have to investigate a carbon detector…

  40. Declined*

    How do you handle vendors who schedule meeting times on your calendar without being asked to? As in, “I wanted to set up some time to (introduce myself, talk about our offerings, see what your needs are, etc) and then just throw a random 15-30 minute Teams meeting on my calendar. Am I obligated to respond to those? I don’t want to engage, but it seems rude if I don’t. BTW, these aren’t vendors that I know – these are vendors that seemingly got my contact information either through LinkedIn or through conferences I’ve signed up for.

    1. Texan In Exile*

      Wow! That’s so presumptuous of them. How are they even seeing your calendar?

      My cousin got a phone call on her personal number from a vendor – at 4:15 a.m. That vendor is now on her “Never hire under any circumstances” list. She’s not engaging – just blocking.

      It’s not rude to ignore rudeness. You are not obliged to respond. Delete and block.

      1. OldHat*

        I think they are just throwing a time out there in hopes of getting more engagement than just asking when someone was free to chat. I’ve noticed in my office that I get more responses when I give 2-3 options rather than a blanket when are you free. It seems like people procrastinate more when trying to figure out when they are free.

  41. Ozzac*

    Hello everybody, I’m second guessing how I handled an issue with an employee.
    Monday mornings are usually pretty intense here, so I prefer if everybody is here.
    This employee is normally good and even an overachiever, so when she was 10 minutes late I called her.
    Calling her woke her up, since she was still sleeping. She was immediatly apologetic, but told me she was in a nearby city, so it would be a bit before she could arrive, and indeed she arrived an hour late on the starting time.
    She seemed genuinely sorry for that, and it’s the third time she arrived late in almost 3 years she has worked for me, so I just give her a verbal reprimand. On one hand I think that’s enough, on the other I think an hour late is a lot, so I should have been more strict.
    Am I too lax or not?

    1. Mighty K*

      I think this is fine. One hour late, once per year and otherwise a good worker? Let it go. There’s nothing to be gained from going hard on them. You’ve probably just built a whole bucket of goodwill.

      I’d say differently if it were a regular problem.

    2. River*

      In my line of work, I only raise the issue of being tardy if it becomes part of a pattern in a recent clump of time. But I have staff that are late once or twice in a month, then go many months being on time, then they are late again here and there. And they provide good work so I let it go. In my early management days, i always reacted (annoyed) internally when a staff member was late and so that took a good while for me to get over. I also tell staff to call us if they are going to be genuinely late (more than 10 minutes) so that their co-workers aren’t worrying about them. However since your employee was sleeping, there was no way she could’ve called ahead of time. My advice is unless this is part of a pattern, I would let it go. However if it’s essential she needs to be there first thing Mondays due to the line of work, then maybe mention it to her. Tardy only 3 times in 3 years?! That’s really impressive!

      1. Ozzac*

        Thank you both to you and Mighty K. I’m happy to see that my initial assesement was right.
        I’m always afraid to look/be too soft so I kept second guessing myself.
        I also consider late when it’s more than 15 minutes, since 1/2 minutes aren’t a problem obviously, and if it was a pattern I would have already addressed it.
        Honestly one of the things that convinced me of just reprimanding her was that she admitted to sleeping in. She could have easly lied to me and invented some kind of emergency.

  42. Mighty K*

    I think this is fine. One hour late, once per year and otherwise a good worker? Let it go. There’s nothing to be gained from going hard on them. You’ve probably just built a whole bucket of goodwill.

    I’d say differently if it were a regular problem.

  43. Bruce*

    #3 it sounds like your employer needs a real work flow for orders and invoices, one admin keeping a spreadsheet creates the problems you are seeing here. There are supposed to be solutions for all sizes of company… has your employer considered getting some sort of central order data-base set up?

  44. Trivia42*

    I have a lateral co-worker who doesn’t supervise staff but used to. Co-worker is notorious for being tempremental The staff know when they’re out of the office and relax into the day. Co-worker is noticably more micro-managing of staff and passive agressive when they’re under life stress and they bring the life stress to work. When they’re unable to exert control out of work they fight for control at work. How do I gently, kindly and sincerely suggest they get mental health care? Self-awareness would be a bonus.

    1. SofiaDeo*

      No, no, no, no, no! Unless *they* bring it up, and even then I’d recommend only a “You sound frustrated/stressed. have you ever thought about therapy or other stress relieving techniques? X has worked for me.” If this is the US, see about getting mass email reminders to everyone about any EAP resources you may have.

      You can address specific behaviors and actions, but that’s about it IMO. You all can comment to coworker’s supervisor if attempts to get coworker to MYOB, or do their part, of a task. So people can comment on a non supervisor attempting micromanaging, or passive-aggressive behavior, but it’s a huge overstep to say “you need to get some mental health treatment.” You can insist someone respond in a timely manner, or stop interfering in a task, or other specific behavior, but nothing along the lines of “you need to see a therapist.”

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