open thread – May 31, 2024

It’s the Friday open thread!

The comment section on this post is open for discussion with other readers on any work-related questions that you want to talk about (that includes school). If you want an answer from me, emailing me is still your best bet*, but this is a chance to take your questions to other readers.

* If you submitted a question to me recently, please do not repost it here, as it may be in my queue to answer.

{ 937 comments… read them below }

  1. Nonprofit Switch*

    For those of you who have moved from a corporate job to a nonprofit which takes US government funding:

    What are the biggest differences?

    Was there anything you had to unlearn or learn?

    I’m thinking about a change in careers, and I’m interviewing with a small community nonprofit. It’s an entirely new industry for me, though the function/work is the same as what I was doing before (analytics, data visualization), so I’m not worried about that. I just want to be prepared for different culture, rules, or expectations.

    1. Katrine Fonsmark*

      Having gone the other direction (well, sort of – I worked in nonprofits my whole career and now work in the association space, technically a nonprofit still but functions much more like corporate) – expect less pay but typically better benefits, especially around time off. I worked in several different types of nonprofits (arts/education/religious) and I found them all to be disorganized in their own way. Very little in the way of professional development or a clear career path. I was ok with that for the most part, but it shocks me how different my career could have been elsewhere. It was very much just about keeping our heads above water and “the mission” whatever that was. That’s not to say it was all bad obviously – there were things I loved about it. My coworkers were (mostly) awesome and passionate, and there was usually a good amount of flexibility (this was pre-covid when flexibility wasn’t the sort of given that it is now) which helped make up for the things they couldn’t/wouldn’t change.

    2. Shoes*

      My experience is non-profits have a “everyone does whatever needs to done” mentality where as the private sector has more (better?) defined duties.

      “everyone does whatever needs to done” is often non-technical and unglamorous – sometimes people have a problem with that.

      1. HonorBox*

        Agree with this completely. One person may be expected to wear multiple hats at times. That can make things fun for sure, as it allows you to step out from your normal everyday duties, but it may be grating at times because you may need to step in and help when you have other things on your plate that you’d rather be doing, or that still need to get done.

      2. hi there*

        YES. The flip side is that if you’re drowning in work, a good nonprofit will apply this “everyone pitches in” to your benefit. It can be much more democratic and team-oriented, if unglamorous. (My CV = ~7yrs nonprofit after ~12yrs for-profit/corporate.)

    3. Ashley*

      Does the non-profit work with volunteers? If so expect nights and weekends to accommodate volunteer schedules.

      1. Snoozing not schmoozing*

        If the job is Volunteer Cokrdinator, perhaps. The places I worked had volunteers, and that did not affect overall staff scheduling. If anything, it relieved it.

    4. yeep*

      The rules for spending federal money, depending on the agency, are often much more restrictive than in a private business and documentation of spending is very important. Culture for a nonprofit is as varied as among corporations – some are well structured and some are a real shit show.

      1. Observer*

        Yes to both of these points!

        Also, conflict of interest – and the appearance thereof – tends to be taken very seriously.

      2. MsM*

        Yep. Depending on the funding source, expect a lot of time devoted to tracking metrics and spending, meetings and calls to check progress on the metrics and spending, writing and/or editing reports on the metrics and spending…We’ve got one government funder who’s no more onerous than any other institutional donor, and one that just constantly wants things.

      3. anonprofit*

        Yes, one thing I was going to note is that even if you’re salaried you may have to track your time anyway.

    5. HonorBox*

      One thing that I can’t speak to fully, because I don’t know your current workplace… but I’ll go ahead and make an assumption.

      The size of your workplace may be the largest difference. If you work in a larger office, there may be more of a siloed approach. You may not interact with others who aren’t on your team or directly in your area as much. At a smaller nonprofit, expect that you’re going to be walking into a workplace where people are more involved with one another. That’s true because work probably crosses over departments more and you’re going to hear stuff about/from your coworkers that may be different. That’s not to say that you’re going to be inundated with gossip. But rather, if another person is out for a period of time, or is going through something, you may have to pitch in to help with aspects of their role that are outside of your area.

    6. Yes And*

      If they take certain amounts of federal funding, you can expect some documentation requirements that feel very micromanagement-y. Those don’t come from your organization, they come from federal audit requirements.

      Beyond that, some of the culture advice on this thread is spot-on for a small community nonprofit like you’re applying for, but there are larger, more corporate-designed nonprofits where they may not be true.

      1. hi there*

        YES, this! Our nonprofit has typically had no-strings funding and just this year received some restricted funding and the documentation requirements have been a learning curve. The manager’s not trying to be a jerk; they’re trying to make sure the org can keep receiving the money in the future.

    7. Ama*

      I have not worked in the corporate world but I have worked in nonprofits for 20 years and seen a lot of people make that switch. In general my colleagues who have switched tend to struggle a bit with the lower budgets (particularly around organizing meetings and travel — which is not always just to save costs, nonprofits have to be mindful that they don’t put on such lavish events that donors start to question whether their donations are being put to effective use). I have had some who also struggled with the fact that everyone at my current employer is expected to do quite a bit of their own admin (their own copying/filing/expense reports, etc.) regardless of whether they are entry level or C-level, which is a little different at every nonprofit, but most do have less admin support than the corporate world even at the executive level.

      And as others have mentioned here, when federal funding is involved there are some very specific rules and regulations and documentation that has to be filed by certain deadlines. Also projects can sometimes have to be put on hold if there’s a delay in the government agency approving funding (if there’s a government shutdown at the wrong time it can really screw things up) or canceled entirely if the agency’s budget gets slashed and they can’t fund a project at the expected level. So you have to be comfortable with a certain level of year to year uncertainty and be able to adapt and pivot if something changes. Some orgs are better at this than others.

      1. Stopped Using My Name*

        “…nonprofits have to be mindful that they don’t put on such lavish events that donors start to question whether their donations are being put to effective use)…” This is especially bothersome when people questioning do not know how much things actually cost. Donors can think things just “feel” expensive, with no evidence to back it up. So things have to appear not poor, but definitely not luxurious.

        I am still with a non-profit but that is grating.

        1. Observer*

          That’s true. And management needs to be mindful of that and not let it influence decision making. But it also does make sense to be mindful of what really is important and what’s not.

        2. Ama*

          Oh yeah, I hate it — there are certain hotels/venues we’re not allowed to book staff/events at even if they offer us an amazing price that’s well within our budget because there’s too much of a public perception that it’s very expensive. I do think our CEO is overly sensitive on this point (she started her career as a government aide so she has had the “don’t look like we’re wasting money on nonessentials” idea really ingrained in her), but this is the reality we deal with.

        3. I Super Believe In You, Tad Cooper*

          Seconding this—also, if your nonprofit does any major donor fundraising, expect odd strategies for exploiting Donor Logic. At a (very large, very well funded) org I worked at, the President would go to donor events or give talks while wearing shoes with holes in them, to make the donors feel greater urgency to fund the cause.

          Bizarre? Yes. Effective? …also yes.

        4. Project Maniac-ger*

          Oh yes. The same day I had a complaint for using print invitations and postage (instead of emailing an invite) a colleague got a complaint that the wine was too cheap.

      1. Snoozing not schmoozing*

        Really? I worked at two different not-for-profits, one large and one small, and that was not the case. And at the larger ones, the vice-presidents made coffee for the staff.

        1. Tippy*

          It might be the government funding aspect. We weren’t allowed to use government funds on stuff like this.

          1. Jaydee*

            It really depends. The nonprofit I worked at that received both federal and state funding provided coffee and tea. Now, it’s possible those had to be purchased with other funds. The provision of coffee and tea was in the collective bargaining agreement. We’re not talking fancy coffee and tea. A box of Lipton’s tea bags of questionable age and a can of Folger’s coffee grounds. But they provided coffee and tea.

    8. Excel Gardener*

      I worked for a quasi-independent government agency, which in many ways was similar to a non-profit, and now work in the private sector.

      A lot of the differences come down to budgetary constraints. Getting new or replacement peripherals for WFH was much more of a process, and generally they weren’t as nice as the ones I’ve gotten in the private sector. Also there are fewer little perks and gifts: no in-office gym, less swag, no free tea/coffee/seltzer/soda, etc.

      I’ve also found the bureaucracy and red tape is different. Big companies can be very bureaucratic in certain ways, but when push came to shove the red tape could be cut through more often and more easily, whereas in my public job there really was no way around it.

    9. Person from the Resume*

      I work for the federal government, not a non-profit, but some things that Alison says seems like good management – company pays for the Christmas party, snacks in the break room, monthly birthday cakes, farewell lunches cannot be paid for “by the taxpayers” so it’s either the manager, pass an envelope, or don’t have them. Don’t expect many perks that may be great QOL and morale improvers because the taxpayers/government or donors don’t want their money wasted (their interpretation) on that.

    10. Refugee from corporations*

      My last job before I retired many years ago was ata not-for-profit.

      Among the differences between it and my previous jobs at for-profit corporations were:
      Deadlines did not seem to exist. Managers wanted things done “right” as opposed to “
      right NOW!”

      Also that everyone – else – on staff was extremely smart and competent. I guess they hired me because I was charming and would actually talk with our users. Being in Chicagoland it also probably didn’t hurt that “I knew someone”.

    11. another fed*

      I would say some of these non-profit differences also vary by type of non-profit and regional differences, and the mix of funding sources. Federal reporting requirements vary widely, and change, but I’ve seen private donors ask for wild amounts of information as well. In higher ed and libraries, there tends to be some swag and morale events, but those tend to be paid by auxiliary orgs or management. If you’re coming from a highly regulated private job, it will likely be an easy transition though you will be doing more of your own admin work on a consistent basis, no matter your seniority.

    12. Buffy*

      I worked for a private but partially tax-funded nonprofit, so we didn’t have a lot of officially mandated restrictions on what we could do but there was always an awareness about appearing to be a good steward of public funds. Outside of the sales team, expensing alcohol (even a drink with dinner on a work trip) was 100% forbidden & in general there was a very close watch on any expenses or reimbursements. We did have coffee provided but no sodas/snacks/anything. I’m not sure if this would be relevant for your situation, but there was always a major PR and advocacy focus since during budget seasons politicians would frequently say “well why don’t we take the tax money we give [nonprofit] and use that instead.” Related to that, they were especially strict about employees voicing any Opinions outside the party line either on social media or in public because there could be (and sometimes were) articles about it if the wrong person said something.

      1. RedinSC*

        I’m in a fully tax funded position, there is no coffee unless you bring it yourself.

    13. Hydrangea*

      I worked for one that was founded by a wealthy do-gooder. They “went by their gut” which meant hiring their favorite waitress, Starbucks barista, etc. and a few random people who they thought fit the culture. (I.e., they were gorgeous.) While the OG staff were all well meaning, the lack of professional experience was painfully palpable by the time I and a few others onboarded into a hot mess of an organization. BUT – the donors loved them. And my corporate ways did not fly there. What I saw as a simple request (this project has this deadline so please review it by this date) they saw as me telling them what to do. Feelings mattered more than outcomes or deliverables. People would beg to work there, get hired, and turn out to have savior syndrome and/or emotional issues, which would spill over into grandiose or hostile social media posts.

      I thought it was just them… But after I left, I began writing grants for other non-profits. While they are more professional, I have run into a lot of nepotism, feelings over facts, savior syndrome, and high levels of drama. I can’t see myself going full-time at a non-profit again. That said – some non-profits DO offer an incredible opportunity for effecting real change and elevating your professional visibility. So I can see why someone else would opt for that path.

    14. RedinSC*

      The change of pace may really affect you. Federal (or any government funding) demands an amazing amount of paperwork, documentation, proof, etc. Things will not move quickly. You will feel like you are going from running to hitting a brick wall, and that wall will be ANNOYING because if you could just do this one thing it would be all ok, BUT government contract doesn’t allow that one thing.

      I went from Tech Startup to state funded position, and the brick wall is real.

      1. TheBunny*

        I also went from a tech start up to a non profit that’s partly state and partly donor funded…and I haven’t really noticed a difference.

        Either the start up was unconventional or the non profit is well run. Not sure which, but I’ll take it.

        Oh and we have coffee and tea via a Keurig.

    15. Nonprofit admin*

      One thing I haven’t really seen mentioned yet is that in addition to more rules around documentation on purchasing, there’s also constraints around non-project staff time. It’s hard to fund things like admin work, learning new skills, team-building, internal DEI work, collaboration, community outreach, and project development. If your position is grant-funded, you may have limits on the time you can spend on things like that (per week, month, year, etc.) It’s been a source of difficulty in my organization because those things are very important, but not a lot of grants exist to fund them.

  2. Flor*

    My boss has asked us to have cameras on as default in meetings, so people can see that we’re “listening and engaged”. Problem is, I’m autistic and I find it nigh-impossible to listen on a call with my camera on (the exception is 1:1 calls where I’m a very active participant in the conversation), particularly as many of these meetings are the sort where I don’t actually contribute or contribute very little.

    I often need to be doing something with my hands, like sewing or knitting, in order to be able to pay attention, but more than that, if I’m on camera I start paying attention to Looking Engaged, which means I am not paying attention to what’s actually happening on the call. Sometimes, as well, I start stimming in painful ways (like digging my nails into my skin) when I’m trying to enforce focus.

    And it is, frankly, EXHAUSTING to spend half an hour or an hour at a time focusing on masking; I’m absolutely awful at masking normally, but when I’m on camera it’s like a switch flips in my brain and suddenly that’s all I can think about. It throws off my productivity for the rest of the day.

    TL;DR: How do I tell my boss that I’m autistic and it’s actively detrimental (for both my productivity and my personal wellbeing) to have my camera on on video calls without telling her I’m autistic?

    1. CommanderBanana*

      Is it seeing your own camera view that causes this? I remember reading somewhere that being able to see your own video feed in meetings does something to us brain-wise that isn’t good. Would turning off your self-view so you can’t see yourself help?

      1. ecnaseener*

        It’s not really about self view, it’s about knowing there’s a close-up of your face being looked at.

          1. ecnaseener*

            What makes you say that? I certainly look at my colleagues’ faces on video calls, it’d be pretty surprising if no one ever looked at mine.

      2. Charlotte Lucas*

        I’ve read a bit about this. It’s not just seeing yourself but also that looking that closely into other people’s faces is very intimate and uncomfortable if you don’t have a close relationship with them.

        I’m not ND (that I know of), but I also dislike the “cameras on no matter what” philosophy. It’s pointless once you have more than about 5 people in a meeting, and it causes connectivity problems once you get enough cameras on.

        Also, I don’t hide my view due to fear that I’ll forget that people can see me chew or blow my nose, etc. I have Seen Things that I don’t want to subject others to.

        1. LCH*

          also not ND, but i hate using a camera. i look dreadful on video most of the time. having to do the amount of set up, etc. for things like interviews is one thing, but every day meetings is too much.

          if you can’t talk your boss into not using the camera, can you have it on but still knit or whatever? i was recently at a conference where a participant was knitting in the audience of presentation sessions and it was fine. it’s quiet, not distracting. i mean.. i guess the boss sounds like someone who doesn’t understand that doodling or whatever is a form of concentration.

      3. Flor*

        Honestly, it’s worse if I can’t see myself, because then I still know I’m being observed and have to be careful to look interested when if I’m actually listening I tend to look distracted (sometimes extremely so, like if I’m sewing or knitting to pay attention). With the camera on I at least know if I’m drifting too far from an acceptable Listening Face.

    2. DisneyChannelThis*

      Option 1 – “Network issues”, too slow for videos in large meetings, offer to contribute via chat or just emoticon reactions periodically instead.

      Option 2 – Turn on video but turn off self view so you can’t see yourself. (Doesn’t solve the need to stim but does stop you from judging yourself for a normal amount of fidgets.

      Option 3 – Turn on video, but angle it up weird, like a laptop that you are using with a fixed camera point so only the top of your head is visible (forehead up). Now you can stim/knit/whatever but are clearly still engaged on the call not wandering around your apartment.

      1. DisneyChannelThis*

        Option 4 Bonus – Take a photo of yourself listening politely, set that as your zoom profile pic (wear a sweater you keep at desk or a generic color), then turn camera off. If you want to be even sneakier set it as your zoom background and turn video on then stay off camera.

        1. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

          This is going to look weird, and I’d rather just have an obvious zoom profile picture than trying to make it look like you have your camera on. People will think your video has frozen up, and the first time you ask a question you’ll give yourself away.

        2. DCLimey*

          I use OBS to feed a five minute loop of myself looking engaged into my camera, for those long large meetings.

          I’ve recorded a bunch of them wearing different shirts, so I match if I have to switch back to live view to engage.

          Tons of tutorials online on how to do this!

      2. Dancing Otter*

        Option 3 happens so often without specific intent that nobody is likely to comment. Even if they do, you can adjust the angle enough to show just your eyes, perhaps – looking down rather than straight at the camera is certainly normal, and no one can see that you’re actually looking at your needles or whatever.

        I also agree with those who recommend turning off self view

      3. Lurker*

        Option 3 would be incredibly distracting to me as another participant in the meeting. I also think it looks unprofessional — like you can’t figure out how to center your camera even though it’s been ~ 4 years since video meetings became ubiquitous.

        1. A Girl Named Fred*

          Meanwhile, I’ve always read this as exactly what folks are recommending it for – sticking to the letter of the law while staying comfortable and able to pay attention. I’ve known plenty of IT folks who did it and got away with it, and every time I saw the very tippy-top of their head in view it made me smile.

          Not to say that either your opinion or mine is the “right” one, just sharing that there will be people on both sides so Flor could give it a try if they think it’d be helpful.

          1. Observer*

            Meanwhile, I’ve always read this as exactly what folks are recommending it for – sticking to the letter of the law while staying comfortable and able to pay attention.

            Malicious compliance is fun to read about. But it can make you look really bad. I’d only do it as a last resort.

          2. Katestrafalaria*

            If you’re in the US, you can file for an ADA accommodation to be off camera to help with your ability to pay attention to the meeting. I know there’s still a lot of stigma around being ND but if you feel like you can advocate safely for yourself, you could go through an accommodations process.
            Alternately, claiming tech issues works for me when I don’t want to be on camera, but I only have to be on camera 2-3 times a week.

        2. WorkerDrone*

          I agree about Option 3 – someone with a weirdly angled camera at the beginning of It All (pandemic, more wfh, etc) was a little amusing and understandable – we were all getting used to a new way of meeting. But someone with a weirdly angled camera now just looks like someone inept enough not to be able to figure out how to use Zoom (or whatever platform) after years of it being a fairly normal way to meet.

          I also have to think that Option 3 will just get OP talked to by the boss asking them to adjust their camera; in which case, it probably wouldn’t be effective anyways.

          1. TitusAndromedon*

            we had someone working at our company who was constantly on camera with their forehead very prominently in the frame. it was very obviously not like anyone else’s image, and it caused lots of speculation as to whether they were doing something else during the meeting or somehow oblivious to the way everyone else was situated on camera. I highly recommend not doing this.

      4. Flor*

        I have done Option 1 sometimes (and yesterday, not two hours before this announcement, I contributed to a meeting by *asking a question* about the content, which you’d think would show I was listening!), but I don’t think I can do it 5+ times a week for meetings without it getting suspicious.

      5. I Have RBF*

        Option 1 is actually common where I work, especially for large meetings. Because of this, we have a “cameras off” culture unless it’s a really big meeting with the top brass, and even then we’ll be “cameras on” until the presentation starts, then go “cameras off” to save bandwidth for the presenters. Part of our problem is that meetings often have to go through the VPN, and that makes video very laggy the more people that have their cameras on.

    3. Not your trauma bucket*

      If it’s an option, put something like minesweeper up on the monitor with your camera. That keeps you looking at the monitor so you’re giving “engaged” face, but also let’s you fidget/stim with the game. For me it’s critical that whatever game or puzzle I use is really mindless and repetitive so I can actually still pay attention to the meeting. Minesweeper and sudoku work best for me.

          1. GythaOgden*

            Digital jigsaws. More sedate, easier to drop when your contribution is needed and no danger of becoming too engrossed in a tricky level.

    4. ecnaseener*

      I totally feel you on being distracted by Looking Engaged! It’s way worse on a video call than in person. (FWIW I’m not autistic but am ADHD)

      Honestly, if your boss has explicitly said that she wants to be able to see you looking engaged, I’m not optimistic that she’ll be receptive to any explanation you can give. That said, if you are usually very engaged and contribute a lot to meetings, and/or you think this rule is probably about someone else on your team who often sounds like they’re not paying attention, then maybe she will be receptive. The three options I would consider in order of riskiness:

      1. Say “Knowing that the camera is on and especially knowing that I’m supposed to visibly look attentive is actually really distracting for me, I honestly think the result will be that I’m less engaged in the meeting with the camera on than off.”

      2. Say “I actually find I’m way more engaged in meetings when I’m doing something simple with my hands and not focusing on staring into the lens, so I’m happy to have my camera on but just a heads up that if I glance down a lot it doesn’t mean I’m not listening!”

      3. Say nothing about it, but just knit out of the frame of the camera. Make sure to be really engaged in the meetings. If possible, turn your lights down and/or make yourself backlit so no one can really see your face anyway. I put this at lower risk than #2 because instead of asking permission up front to knit, you’re making your boss decide whether it’s worth it to go “Flor, why aren’t you looking at the camera?” — and if she’s willing to do that even while you’re clearly contributing to meetings, she was never going to say yes to option 1 or 2 anyway.

      1. Flor*

        You know, my office lighting is crap on camera because of the shape of the room already, so I may well be able to knit off-screen.

        The one complication with contributing and being engaged is that we have regular team meetings where about 90% of the meeting is about projects I’m not involved in (it’s one of those “run through everything the team is working on” type meetings), which probably adds to the “how do I look engaged?” when I’m bored out of my skull. I do contribute a lot on calls when I have something to say/ask though!

        1. BikeWalkBarb*

          A work friend and I occasionally message each other about whether we’re knitting if we’re in the same meeting. I can knit without looking at my work very often in the project I’m working on now (linen stitch scarf, for the knitters among us) and I don’t make big gestures so it doesn’t make me jiggle on camera.

          Even if it did I don’t think I’d worry about it. I have one coworker who I think must have a treadmill desk because in some meetings she’s bobbing up and down pretty rhythmically in a way that looks like walking. No one ever says anything. I think people have gotten more comfortable with others making small adaptations for personal comfort in an unnatural communication context. It’s really not normal to see other people’s faces so close and large or to have them at different scales of distance from you depending on their set-up.

        2. Ama*

          I have been knitting off screen in work meetings for the last several years! I just have my camera angled high enough that no one can see below the top inch or so of my shoulders. I just make sure to pick a project that is simple enough I don’t have to be looking at a chart or instructions to follow along.

      2. NobodyHasTimeForThis*

        Echo the strong backlight. It is hard for me anyway because there is no way for me to not have a window in my background but if you can turn on an additional light just off camera to backlight you, your face can nearly vanish. This might relieve some anxiety.

    5. History Nerd*

      I’m ADHD and have the same camera-on requirement to deal with. My boss would most likely not be understanding if I told her it makes it hard to focus. Turning off self-view has helped me a ton. But if you think your boss might be more understanding, maybe just tell them that it makes it hard for you to concentrate and you need help figuring out alternatives (no self-disclosures needed).

    6. Anonymous Demi ISFJ*

      Have you been explicitly told you can’t knit or sew in these meetings? If not, do it anyway. Look at the screen every couple of stitches so you are still connected. If anyone fusses at you, tell them it helps you focus to be doing something with your hands.

      BTW, Alison has definitely covered “can I craft in meetings” before – you might check the archive!

      1. Flor*

        I haven’t been told I can’t, but from the comments on some of those questions before I seem to recall it can be divisive so I do feel a bit uncomfortable just rocking up to a meeting with my fabric in hand. I wonder if there’s a way to angle my camera so people can’t see my hands, and it might just look like I’m taking notes or something.

        1. Tio*

          I would go for the angle. I do know its divisive, but if I can’t see it, I can’t care about it. My hands are almost never in my meeting calls, so it should be pretty easy to angle the camera that kind of way without it being obvious. That’s what I’d go with

        2. Washi*

          I wouldn’t do it in person, but I’ve absolutely knitted on camera before without it being visible. You can’t get away with being as far from the camera, but if it’s pointed at your shoulders and head and are able to keep your eyes up a lot of the time, it’s not obvious at all I think.

          1. Flor*

            That’s true! I might have to experiment a little to get the angle right, but it’s not as though people see my desk surface as it is on calls.

            1. NobodyHasTimeForThis*

              If you can’t with your laptop camera, look at getting a USB camera. That is what I use and you can be much more specific

          2. kt*

            I knit while I’m on camera but the knitting is not all the time. I am good at knitting “in my lap” and I keep my camera neck-up. I have also breastfed with a quiet & placid baby in this way. The only caveat: you must be *really sure* that the camera is not catching below your shoulders. I did a test not just with Teams but with the camera/photo app on the laptop, etc, because some of the video conferencing softwares crop what you see of yourself differently depending on the window, so it could be that what you see is not what someone else sees.

            Certain types of sewing also work, as does doodling, as does painting one’s nails. I know I sound really inattentive but I have got to do something with my hands and it cannot be language-related (taking notes, for instance) if I need to participate actively in the meeting. At several workplaces I knit in person as well. In my new workplace I have very very few inperson-only meetings, and am able to make a fair number of the in-person ones walking meetings or meetings at a whiteboard.

        3. Higher Ed Cube Farmer*

          This is my recommendation. Angle your camera so it captures only your face and upper shoulders. Go ahead and craft; no one can tell that you are not taking notes or something else that meets their definition of “engaged.” As much as you can, substitute actual attention (even for the boring/irrelevant parts) for performing a Looking Engaged Face. There is so much variability among even NT people in what engagement looks like, it’s very hard to continuously monitor – for you (that’s why it takes so much effort) or for them (they are unlikely to notice your deviation unless it’s quite obtrusive).

          signed, an ND person who has camera-on meetings at least weekly and got acclimated.

        4. miss_chevious*

          I have my camera angled sort of high up, like shoulders and above, so it’s not a weird or unusual angle, but you definitely can’t see my hands or desk. I don’t knit, but I often do other things during meetings (doodling, etc.), and no one has ever indicated they’ve noticed. Make sure you’re participating when appropriate, and look up periodically, and nod along when you agree, and you should be good.

        5. DrSalty*

          The way my camera is set up normally you can only see the tops of my shoulders. I could easily knit without it being on camera, and my camera’s not at a crazy angle. I think this is worth trying to make it work!

        6. Mad Harry Crewe*

          My camera doesn’t catch my knitting unless I’m pulling out a long length of yarn. With better yarn management, it wouldn’t be visible at all. And if I hit a tricky spot I’m going to need to pay attention to, I usually put it down until the meeting’s over.

        7. I Have RBF*

          Yeah, even when I have my camera on I never have it show much below my shoulders.

    7. Jerry*

      Ask for a reasonable accommodation under the ADA and/or your state’s version of the ADA.

      1. Flor*

        I’d rather not disclose and go through HR if I can avoid it because being known as autistic at work can have professional repercussions.

    8. Charlotte Lucas*

      Plan to “be eating” in most meetings. That is a common exception for our policy. Nobody wants a closeup of a coworker going to town on a burrito.

    9. Artemesia*

      Why don’t you try it with your personal view turned off so it is more like being in the room i.e. you can’t see yourself.

    10. Observer*

      How do I tell my boss that I’m autistic and it’s actively detrimental (for both my productivity and my personal wellbeing) to have my camera on on video calls without telling her I’m autistic?

      “Trying to *look* engaged is distracting for some people and can make it harder to actually engage. And if someone needs to speak, sometimes it can make that harder as well.”

      If boss pushes, you can say “I’m someone who gets distracted from actually engaging with what is being said if I need to *present* my appearance a certain way.”

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

      I bet you are not the only one. I wonder, could you and maybe others push back and explain that this actually causes problems. Many times people find it distracting to see the videos of others. I know I often focus too much on the vidoes and not what is being said.

      It can also cause issues with internet speed.

      1. Flor*

        Yeah, I mean, let’s be real, any time a cat walks across someone’s desk I am only paying attention to KITTYYYYY.

        I’m trying to think who else tends to have their video off and can maybe talk to them and see if they also want to push back.

    12. Eliz*

      I can understand your concern about revealing your autism. But I personally think the alternatives that have been suggested to you in the comments (knitting anyway, “network issues,” etc) will be much more detrimental to your career. It’s always better to be up front about your needs. And you don’t even need to specifically say autism – just that you have a medical condition that can make you look disengaged on camera even though you are fully paying attention. You would then ask for permission to keep your camera off so it’s not distracting. A good employer will help you with legitimate options.

      1. Observer*

        I don’t think you even need to mention medical issues. A lot of perfectly neuro-typical would also find this annoying. It’s not just having the camera on, it’s needing to “look engaged”. If I’m trying to concentrate on something that actually *needs* engagement, the last thing I want is to worry about my appearance. And it’s one thing to just make sure that I’m presentable over- all, which is one-and-done at the beginning of the meeting, and a totally different thing to self-monitor my ongoing appearance.

        I would point out that needing to “show” that I am listening and engaged is a distraction from *actually* listening and thinking about whatever is going on.

    13. Justin*

      Well. I have ADHD and have similar issues, though not quite the same. I disclosed and told them I often don’t look at the camera on calls and they were fine with that. So if they’re supportive you can do that.

      If not, at my last, less-supportive job, I just acted like I had work to do and was typing (but was messing around).

      1. Justin*

        To be clear I told them during my interviews as I wasn’t taking another job where I had to mask. And yes, I’m a man (re: privilege) but I’m also Black, so it was a risk, but I lucked out.

    14. Joelle*

      As a fellow Autistic person I am going to suggest something that seems counter-intuitive and will be very hard: don’t worry about it.

      Hahaha I know right? Easier said than done.

      People are mostly not looking at you during these calls, even your boss. And everyone has a different engaged face, even neurotypicals. I would try keeping camera on, knitting/stitching (I do embroidery on long zoom calls) and like, odds are no one is going to say anything.

      At my office we all have multiple screens (including our at-home setups) and so it’s not unusual to not be looking at the monitor with the camera, because zoom is on another monitor. As long as you respond promptly when called on/asked a question, and are on camera (so they know you are at your computer and not like, in the other room ignoring the meeting) you are probably going to be fine.

      And this is one of those things that I think many ND people (like myself) take too literally and overthink – it’s part of the “unwritten social rules” that stump many of us. It would be unusual for someone to be studying people’s faces to see if they are engaged or not — it’s more about making sure they are present, and then assuming they are reasonably engaged unless there is evidence otherwise.

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        This is a very good point. If the boss is actually staring at each face and going down an “engaged” checklist, how much attention can she possibly be paying to the meeting’s contents? That’s a whole other issue if it’s true.

        But it probably isn’t. The basic idea is just to make sure people are there and not actually in the park or folding laundry. As long as you’re on camera and not actively asleep, you should be fine.

      2. jasmine*

        yeah YMMV by office culture, but if I see someone who doesn’t look focused on zoom, I don’t assume they’re slacking off, I assume they’re maybe looking at important DM’s instead or maybe their face is just like that. it’d be weird to assume they’re daydreaming when they’re otherwise competent and nice

    15. Parenthesis Guy*

      Make sure your camera only shows your face, get a fidget toy and play with it where the camera can’t see.

    16. Bean*

      I also often do something with my hands in an on-camera environment – knitting, needlepoint, drawing. Two things that work for me:
      1) using a laptop stand so that you can really only see my head and neck – nothing below the shoulder. I have a lot of freedom to move my hands and arms around without them showing on camera.

      2) Looking up occasionally, then looking back down. Sometimes briefly playing with a pen in my fingers around my face, or reaching over to grab a notebook at the start of the meeting and passing it across the camera to make it look like taking notes. If I was notetaking, I’d mostly be looking at my notebook. And you can just explain that you retain info better if you hand write it if anyone asks.

      3) Sometimes it works better for me if I turn my camera on to greet folks, and then after the meeting gets going, turn it off. Might not be possible in your environment, but consider it. You can also fake a bathroom break occasionally and “forget” to turn your camera back on when you get back.

      I don’t know what masking on a video call looks like for you, but unless you’re making wild faces or rolling your eyes, your team is unlikely to read much into your neutral face. Lots of people on my team are focused on other monitor screens, looking down, etc, and it’s fine.

    17. Zona the Great*

      Ugh how frustrating. Bosses who say things like this don’t seem to understand that those who aren’t paying attention during Zooms are not paying attention during in-person meetings either. And for that matter, very few adults are able to pay attention for standing on-going meetings. I HATE that someone can pin my camera feed to the screen and just sit and look at me. In in-person meetings, I don’t have to worry about holding my face the right way (not having a dead face), because no one is sitting there staring at me. In in-person meetings, it is understand that if I silently stand and leave without taking my things with me, I’m likely just going to the bathroom. But in Zooms I must announce it.

      All of this was just to commiserate and hopefully show any managers reading that this is terrible policy. If you don’t believe your employee pays attention or if you feel you can’t trust her, that’s the thing you need to address. Not trying to micromanage how we do it.

      1. Reebee*

        “…very few adults are able to pay attention for standing on-going meetings.”

        How do you know this?

        1. Zona the Great*

          Oh I mean just statistically. Adults can only attend like 15 mins at a time, on average. Exact statistic unknown.

          1. GythaOgden*

            Not if the meetings themselves are active and engaging. We work in a spread out geographical area and manage quite a few properties which need us to host building user group meetings, meaning that having those meetings generally means we’re there to put our collective heads together, show what we’ve been doing all week and build a relationship with our customer base. So the meetings themselves basically have everyone talking together.

            We’ve also had presentations on essential need to know stuff and so on like health and safety, new financial/budgetary regulations and so on which are important for most people’s jobs. The engagement is there because the people present need to know this stuff to do their jobs, and having a presenter means people can ask questions.

            People at meetings are generally not just there to listen. They’re there to communicate, collaborate and share what they’ve been doing with others and our boss. One weekly meeting is presenting our compliance with maintenance SLAs to the regional head of compliance herself.

            So yeah, meetings are generally more interactive than what you’re suggesting here. They’re an obligatory part of many people’s jobs, particularly when you get above a certain level. I’m just not seeing where you can have a job so atomised that you don’t need to meet up with colleagues or clients in this manner.

    18. Snoozing not schmoozing*

      About 20 years ago, one of our staff members would knit in meetings, I think as an unofficial accommodation. Nobody thought anything of it except occasional polite interest in what he was knitting. I can’t believe it would be a problem two decades later, when everyone is more aware of individual needs, to just say “It helps me concentrate.”

    19. samwise*

      I’m not ND. And I think your boss is an ass — like, what does “look engaged” even mean in a large meeting where you’re just there to listen to people talk about projects that have nothing to do with you and for which you not only have nothing to say, it would be actively intrusive for you to say anything???

      We have a weekly meeting with about 20 of us. Almost no one, and that includes department leadership, is looking at their camera, nodding in agreement etc (all the stuff you’d do in person). No one. People are looking down or down and to the side (on their phones? taking notes? petting the cat?) or clearly looking at their keyboard or screen and are doing other work, or taking notes, or maybe shopping– I don’t know.

      The only time everyone is really looking engaged is when we do small group breakouts and have a task to actively work on or a topic to actively discuss.

      (And yes, we are encouraged altho not required to have our cameras on)

    20. learnedthehardway*

      I don’t think you need to tell your manager you’re autistic – and if their idea of being engaged means they have to see your face, well, I don’t think that they’re really all that great at understanding what engagement is.

      Personally, I minimize the screen to the smallest it can be, and then proceed to work on other things while I’m on conference calls – or surf the web. I do keep the camera on and also ensure I can see myself – otherwise, I’m quite likely to forget I’m on camera and do something like play with my hair or roll my eyes or something. I make sure that I’m facing the camera. Nobody can tell that I’m not just listening to the presentation/meeting. If anything, it looks like I am taking notes.

      Ironically, the only time I was accused of NOT paying attention was when I was actively looking at material for the meeting on my 2nd screen and taking notes there. So – totally engaged, but not facing the camera head on. The person was being totally unreasonable. To keep them happy, I moved my video to the secondary screen and my materials to my primary. Spent the rest of the meeting not looking at the meeting participants, but facing the screen.

    21. Jamjari*

      Not autistic so I can’t relate personally to that. I am someone who, depending on the size of the meeting, likes to have my camera on and see others (small meetings yes, large meetings no). I would say I’m actually the opposite – I have a harder time focusing when I can’t see people. However, I also have difficulty paying attention when other people are speaking and I’m not actively engaged in a conversation – both in person and online – so I doodle. Much easier to look like I’m taking notes when working from home. But you should see my notebook: relevant note, sketch of an alien pig, relevant note, weirdly elongated person.

      I realize doodling doesn’t work for everyone but, if your boss is insistent, is there something like that that you can do that looks like work but helps you focus on the meeting without being distracted by the fact your video is on?

    22. GythaOgden*

      Fellow autistic person here. This sucks, but it’s the price I pay for being able to work remotely in the first place which has had a way, way more positive impact on my wellbeing than when I was stuck idle behind reception. I’m often in meetings that are slightly beyond my pay-grade but I’m there because I need to be able to pick up stuff about the job and handle any admin that results from people’s compliance levels. Contributing is also something I do from time to time with presentations and thus being seen to be paying attention is crucial for me to be able to command an audience later on. I feel that my experience of working environments has been a lot more collective than most people’s here because I’ve historically been at a lower level and thus more subject to rules like having to negotiate time off to make sure there’s coverage and so on. So maybe I’m more used to sacrificing some of my personal comfort for the greater good, but it’s a trade-off like a lot of things in the workplace which aren’t always going to be comfortable or accommodated.

      I keep my hands busy below the camera level. The other day I mapped out the geographical area on paper so I got a rough idea of where we all are. It wasn’t an official thing I was supposed to do, but not being a driver I don’t often know where places are in relation to one another, so it helps to have an understanding of the layout of our team (it’s also helped me find shortcuts to amusement parks in the past — knowing that one particular town is only a bus ride away helps cut out a few legs of a train journey and save money and energy for enjoying the day out). I’m the admin so I can /semi/- tune out from these meetings (as long as I understand what’s going on roughly the specifics aren’t important), but my boss is ex-Forces and told us of a time when, on training manoeuvres, she was a radio operator and neglected to listen to the chatter in general, only listening out for when her team was mentioned specifically — and thus led that team straight into newly-captured ‘enemy’ territory. She’s therefore acutely aware that we need to attend these meetings so we’re aware of certain issues, can make contributions to them with suggestions etc and that the team gets together as a collective to share information and assistance. The exception is people who are having to listen in on the road, as some teams are more mobile than others, but otherwise cameras are on because it beats having to travel to a central location twice a week for some direct, collaborative face time.

      Ultimately, yeah, it’s hard but it’s understandable that other people want to have some face time. My particular team are spread out and when we come together on Teams, we need to be there to share compliance figures, weekly activities etc. I quite often present. My boss is someone who manages by being able to tell from body language who is ok and who isn’t; thus to facilitate this with a team spread out across a couple of counties, camera on is necessary.

      Unfortunately there’s no good solution here other than asking for an accommodation or sucking it up. Sometimes we do have to mask — I’ve never been good at it and it has held me back in general, but I work in a very supportive environment. There are probably others for whom this is uncomfortable in other ways — don’t think you’re not the only one with such issues. (I know one other of my colleagues is neurodivergent, but he’s also the guy who leads the meeting in my boss’s absence and who is essentially first among equals of the tier of managers directly below my boss. So he has no choice but to perform in those meetings and we do sometimes notice him getting anxious or frustrated because, yeah, it’s really hard being on whatever your rank on the team.)

      Getting better at it is probably key if you want to move up and if these meetings are attended by people outside your team who might be talent-spotting. I get it can be a struggle and exhausting, but again, for me, it’s all a series of trade-offs in the way I make my way upwards to where these meetings become more important and more engaging for me, and being the person who isn’t on camera when everyone else is could stand out in a negative way to others.

      I’m sorry you’re experiencing this. For me, a lack of ability to mask held me back big time. It’s only now when I have a much more stimulating job that I realise how much I’ve missed out on. With my own autism as well, I’ve noticed that although I’m a quick learner with various tools, carving new paths in my brain to cope with stuff like this isn’t as easy as it looks for other people. But sometimes we will have to endure discomfort for the sake of the team, and if it helps to know that others on the team also may be struggling with it, it can help relieve some of the pressure because you know you’re not alone.

  3. Bad ideas*

    I am working in a satellite office with a new general manager. Our leadership team is also new due to a recent acquisition. My gm has been pushing to promote a team member to take over her former position. All evidence points to this being a really bad idea. There’s a mountain of it. But the gm doesn’t want to hear it. I don’t know if she doesn’t understand or if she just wants to promote this person to serve her own interests. Senior leadership is against this promotion. Can you tell me who is likely to win this argument? The gm or the senior leadership?

    1. Millie*

      It depends on your office’s dynamics, but anything could happen. In my office, senior leadership’s word is final, because… they’re senior leadership. Your GM may be able to convince senior leadership of any benefit to her team member’s promotion, but she may not.

      1. Tio*

        Yeah it’s probably going to depend on how convincing a case the GM can make vs. how much of a pushover senior leadership is.

        If you are very, very invested in avoiding this you could request a private meeting with one or two of the senior leadership team, and lay out your concerns, but this is VERY sensitive to your office dynamics on whether they would 1. listen 2. not let the GM know you talked to them, so if you’re unsure of either of those points, I would probably not use this option.

      2. Donn*

        For what my input’s worth, a past employer had the reverse situation with an acquisition rather than an employee.

        They acquired a firm in a new geographic market, which became their branch office there. It didn’t work out and they eventually closed it.

        I had moved on before then, but learned after the closure that several executives had told the management the acquisition was a bad move in the first place. Management didn’t listen.

  4. Seeking Transition*

    I’ve been working in higher education, at the same job, for the past 10+ years. It’s a good job. I like what I do; I like my colleagues. I like most of my students. I have good benefits, and I make a decent salary. I feel like in general I’m very lucky and have most of what I want in a job, but (there’s always a but), there are some downsides. It’s public higher ed, and our budget continues to be slashed with no end in sight. I do great at working from home, but they are getting more and more stingy with allowing it. Administration wants online classes, but wants staff on campus in case someone wanders in. And I have a long commute. I would love to move closer to the campus, but I couldn’t afford it, and it would mean creating an even longer commute for my partner.

    I have to work ideally at least five more years for this institution. Promotion is unlikely, given the budget, so I’m going to be about as far as I will go here, but there are some longevity benefits coming to me that I want to get if at all possible.

    I figured in the meantime, it is time to plan for a potential career change and make myself into a more attractive candidate for when I can make a transition. Ed Tech (and related sorts of tech positions) seems a good fit for me, and I anticipate there may be more virtual college roles in the future, plus other things I might not have yet considered.

    What are some specific or general things you would recommend to help with planning a career transition that is five years out?

    1. Bunny Girl*

      See if there’s anything you can take on at your current job that will give you hands on experience with what you’d like to transition in to. Certifications and related experience is great, but if you can show that you’ve picked something up and worked on it yourself, that’s even better.

      1. Ama*

        I actually did this when I worked in academic administration — I really wanted to move into more editing/desktop publishing work (I was in general admin/department secretary roles), so when the one person in my department who knew how to use InDesign quit, I jumped at the chance to volunteer to take over our grad school newsletter production, and was able to expand that to making advertising for our public lectures series, conferences the faculty organized, writing a “guide to the city” that was posted on our intranet for new faculty and grad students, etc. A little over two years in to that work I was able to get a job at a nonprofit that was 50% writing and editing their newsletter and web content.

        The good thing about academia’s chronic understaffing is that the senior leadership is almost always happy to give junior staff any tasks they volunteer for that would otherwise not get done or would have to be contracted out.

    2. Millie*

      Seconding Bunny Girl’s comment about hands-on experience in the areas you like. You can also see if your institution offers tuition assistance, and if you’re able, take some classes in ed tech or related areas if they have them. Ed Tech is focused on portfolios and experience, so if you aren’t taking classes (or even if you are), you could do some self-guided projects. I found that E-Learning Heroes has a lot of challenges/prompts – things like “create something with tabs” and you can fill in your own content to pretend as if you’re creating something for your industry.

      My higher ed experience is less than yours (coming on about 6 years now), but I had very similar feelings to you. I actually considered Ed Tech but when I enrolled in a certificate program my university offers (and paid for with employee education program), I decided it wasn’t for me. Ultimately I moved into research administration. My university is very research-focused, so the difference has been HUGE between student life & research. I enjoy it a lot and it actually fits my personality better (less direct people involvement lol).

    3. Mimmy*

      Because of this trend, I too have been rethinking my career direction (was originally looking for a student-facing role). I’m not entirely sure what Ed Tech involves, but I’ve been trying out different free courses to increase my technical skills. The platform I’m really liking is LinkedIn Learning (through my local library). So I’d suggest looking for free or low-cost courses related to the skills you’re looking to build. There are quite a few online platforms besides LI but given the budget cuts at your university, it’s unlikely that they will pay for training. It can’t hurt to ask though.

      I agree with Bunny Girl above – getting hands-on experience is important and something I’m hoping to gain myself related to my own goals.

    4. DannyG*

      When I was teaching at a state university one of the best perks was free or reduced tuition. Take advantage if that’s an option to upgrade skills/qualifications. Meetings are another academic endeavor. Many people don’t like them, but if you don’t mind and the school will pay for it’s a great opportunity to network.

    5. Belle of the Midwest*

      I’d encourage you to ask this same question (you can even use this exact wording since there are no identifying descriptions in your post) at the Expatriates of Student Affairs group on Facebook (you can post there anonymously plus it’s a private group) or in the Reddit subreddit . I think there’s a Linked In group as well but it’s probably not going to be anonymous.

      You are also getting good advice here. One of the benefits of working in this field is the tuition benefit or maybe your school has a Linked In Learning set up where you can take their courses for free. Check with your HRA for any benefits like that and take advantage.

      1. samwise*

        Caveat about the Expatriates of Student Affairs group: there is a huge amount of griping (understandable, lots of folks have crappy jobs, but it can sometimes feel extremely negative); there’s a fair amount of magical thinking about jobs/employers outside of higher ed and, thus, lately, a huge amount of shock about getting laid off; and, to my mind, a lot of poor advice… The advice on this blog is way better.

        YMMV, give it a try

    6. JelloStapler*

      Just commiserating with the idea that they always want staff to drive in and sit in a room IN case someone MIGHT come by.

      1. anonymous here*

        Even when there’s a deadly pandemic, no vaccines… Why yes, I’m still bitter.

      2. Alternative Person*

        These days I wouldn’t mind a rotating schedule to cover the off chance, but expecting everyone in is ridiculous.

    7. another fed*

      You should also look at professional association work, depending on what you’re doing, they love folks from higher ed to coordinate projects, research, events, and provide everything from career advising to consulting services to their members. This sector was highly remote before the pandemic, even more so now. You can start now by networking with and learning about whatever professional organization serve your current work, but lots of orgs will see your work as valuable, even if you’re not an SME in their niche area – they don’t need you to be!

  5. Bunny Girl*

    What are the optics of leaving work early to go get a tattoo? I realize that this probably widely depends on offices and jobs, but I’d like to hear from other people.

    Info – My tattoo artist is difficult to get into and in another city. It’s easier for me to go weekday afternoons and I normally have to schedule a few months out. Like any other appointment, I make sure I have as much wrapped up as possible. I normally just stick with “I have an appointment this afternoon so I’ll be leaving at this time.”

    But today suddenly I’m getting a lot of requests for things to get done, and I’ve just been saying “I have an appointment and will be leaving at 11:00.” But it feels weird for some reason?

    1. CommanderBanana*

      What’s wrong with just saying I have an appointment and will be leaving at 11:00? It’s the same as any other appointment.

      1. Bunny Girl*

        Totally true! I guess I just feel strange because it’s not a “medical” appointment. I feel the same if I have to leave early to get my hair done or something similar.

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          An appointment is an appointment. Many places have the same work hours as an office, and that’s understood by reasonable people.

        2. itdependsagain*

          is yours an office where taking the afternoon off to get your hair done is acceptable? If it is, then the fact that it’s a tattoo not a haircut doesn’t make a difference, you’re fine.
          In my office it would absolutely not be ok to take an afternoon off for a hair cut, or a tattoo. You’d be expected to take half a day’s leave. Not because tattoos are stigmatised or seen as a negative in themselves, but because that’s what PTO is for. We wouldn’t be able to take time off to do something just because it’s a more convenient time of day. So it really depends on your office set-up.

          1. I Have RBF*

            Even if they took a half day PTO it should be fine. Hell, if their mechanic is only open bankers hours, they’d have to have an appointment to get an oil change or tune-up.

    2. HonorBox*

      I don’t think it is weird, as long as it is similar to how you and others handle other types of appointments.

      Also, are you taking PTO or just leaving for an appointment like you might for a dentist appointment when you’re more likely coming back? If you’re taking PTO, then worry even less.

      1. Bunny Girl*

        My job is salaried and my hours are flexible so as long as I get my work done I can come and go as I please. It just feels weird because I have more work to be done and I’m still leaving I guess?

        1. DrSalty*

          You’re going to make that work up though, right? If you really want, could you use PTO to take a half day? That’s probably what I would do, and then it’s like a nice treat for me and I don’t have to worry about work at all.

          I’m in the same boat as you, I wouldn’t think twice about stepping out for a doctor’s appointment but I feel guilty doing it for like a hair appointment. I’d just use PTO.

          1. Bunny Girl*

            I don’t technically have PTO. I’m a graduate research assistant. There’s an expectation for me to get my work done but I set my own hours. I came in early this morning to try to get everything I had planned done but then just had a bunch of outside people requesting things from me that I’m not able to complete.

            1. Double A*

              Nah, if you don’t have PTO because you have totally flexible hours I wouldn’t feel weird about this at all. I mean how do other people handle appointments?

            2. yeep*

              I don’t think our PI would ever ask the GRAs what their appointment is for. And he certainly wouldn’t care if it was a for a tattoo even if they told him. One of our undergrads (we ask undergrads to try to keep a normal schedule but they also can work whenever) will tell everyone he sees that he has an appointment for a new tattoo and no one cares, we only roll our eyes because he won’t shut up about it.

              1. yeep*

                Not to say that you would annoy people by telling them about it. I am pro-tattoo and pro-you getting this tattoo and not feeling weird about it. This particular guy is just real extra about everything ;)

            3. higheredrefugee*

              Eh, they waited until a Friday to ask, as summer is starting, it can wait until next week.

            4. DrSalty*

              Oh you’re a grad student? Just go get your tattoo no guilt. That’s the least you deserve!!!

              1. anxiousGrad*

                Ha this was exactly what I needed to hear today, thank you! I’m also in grad school and I felt like crap today so I only went to the lab for 2.5 hours. I’ve been feeling guilty all day even though I finished everything that needed to be done.

            5. anon41*

              This would be a no/no. My partner works in higher ed and if stuff needs to get done on a Friday then it needs to get done. Can you bring your computer with you and do work while you are getting your tattoo?

              My partner offers flex time to the team, but it is for medical appointments/picking up kids or family members/ emergencies/ if slow and you worked late another time. If you’re asked to complete work on a Friday and leave at 11 and can’t get the work done by 3/4 so others can get it in time that would be a big deal where my partner works. I would say if you can do it while getting the tattoo or come back into the office if possible by 3 so people can get the work by 4. Sending things to people at or after 5 on a Friday that they have to then do something with is not really fair.

              If it was a slow day it probably wouldn’t have mattered, but my partner had similar situations when important work needed to be in before 3/4 on Friday so others could finish up and certain people just left. They didnt understand (or didn’t care) that it would hold up the process and causing my partner to have to do a lot of extra work even though they were already working 60+ hours that week. I think only you know if it will this hold up work for others? What did you manager say when you asked to leave early at 11? You asked earlier in the week, right?

              1. NobodyHasTimeForThis*

                Nope, I work in higher ed. A grad student who does not have PTO and who historically has time flexibility does not have to change their plans if people wait until the last minute to request things on a Friday afternoon.

            6. NobodyHasTimeForThis*

              If you do not have a set schedule normally and do not get PTO, then go.

    3. DisneyChannelThis*

      PTO is yours to use! Don’t feel guilty. A mental health day is just as valuable as a sick with stomach bug day. You earned your compensation, PTO is part of that. Go get that tattoo!

    4. Salsa Your Face*

      If you’re using PTO for the partial day, then it’s none of anyone’s business what you’re doing with that time. If you’re concerned about the optics of leaving early, would you be able to just take the entire day off?

      1. Bunny Girl*

        So I don’t technically have PTO. I’m a graduate research assistant so I basically just make sure my work gets done. I think I’d fall under a salaried position? I get paid the same amount no matter how much I work, but I make my own hours as long as the work gets done.

        1. BrandNewBandName*

          “You have an appointment. You’ll be back at ___ time.”

          I understand the urge to explain. It took me over 3 months before I could stop overexplaining the type of appointments I had scheduled to my boss and listing the reason on the shared company schedule.)

          Why you have an appointment is not relevant. When you’ll be back and/or what to do in your absence is what coworkers need to know.

    5. Tio*

      It’s mostly internal. If you have the time off, you have it off. I don’t know that, if asked, I would say what it’s for (although hopefully not many people ask) but that depends on the workplace. My current place is fine with tattoos, so I would have no judgement if I told them where I was going; we have senior leaders with visible or semi-visible tattoos, and no one cares. But I have definitely worked at places where I would never tell them where I was going, and deliberately got my tattoo in a place where no one would see it unless I went out of my way to show them.

    6. Gyne*

      I think it’s totally fine. You have a pre-scheduled appointment, you paid a deposit you would lose if you no show, and your artist depends on people keeping appointments for their livelihood. I think as long as you’re clear about your hard stop time (and it sounds like you are), you’re good to go.

    7. Dust Bunny*

      Just don’t say it’s for a tattoo?

      It’s completely normal to leave work early for all kinds of things where I am–kid event; pick up dog from groomer; run an errand before the shop closes. I mean, people don’t do it constantly because we’re at least somewhat coverage-dependent, but as long as it’s not overused nobody cares. We probably wouldn’t care if it was for a tattoo, either, but if you think your workplace will, just say you have something you have to do that’s schedule-dependent and leave it at that.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        For the record: We use PTO in four hour/half-day increments, so if I were leaving, say, an hour early, I’d just plan to tweak my hours (I’m hourly) the rest of the week to make up the time. Handle that part by whatever means make sense at your workplace.

        1. House On The Rock*

          My work also requests that we take PTO in day or half day blocks and anything we make up as needed. We are all salaried exempt.

          I will leave early/start late when I have to for any appointment, whether it’s doctor for me, vet for my cats, to get my hair cut, or even an “appointment” for a walk with my spouse on a nice day. I encourage my staff to do the same.

          If you normalize that (and, of course, really do make up the time/work) you should be fine. I also think no one would look twice at your saying something like “I need to leave at 11 for an appointment but I’ll take a look as soon as I’m back online” (or whatever timing makes sense).

        2. Dust Bunny*

          Alternatively, I’d take the whole afternoon off, get a nice lunch, go to the bookstore, etc.

    8. WantonSeedStitch*

      When I have to leave as early as 11 for something that’s not medical-related and I’m going to be gone for the rest of the day, I take a half day of vacation time. I don’t worry about it. I wouldn’t really feel comfortable taking half a day off work for a non-medical reason without taking vacation time unless I intended to make up that time. But “I have an appointment and will be leaving at 11” is a perfectly valid way to address things.

    9. CzechMate*

      My workplace has generous yet limited vacation time and unlimited sick time. If I found out that a colleague was using some of their unlimited sick time for an optional cosmetic procedure, I may raise my eyebrows, but if they’re otherwise a good and reliable employee I’d not worry about it.

      If you’re worried about the optics of it, you could use vacation time as opposed to sick time if you have that option at your workplace. Otherwise, eh.

    10. OtterB*

      A phrase I use sometimes is that I have an appointment “that would be hard to reschedule.” I see that as a way of being semi-apologetic that you would be more accommodating if you could easily postpone your appointment a day or two, but it’s not possible.

      1. Rain*

        I got excused from jury duty this way!

        It was day two and we’d all just been sitting in the room waiting to be called and I had a hair appointment that had taken 3 months to get.

        I figured it couldn’t hurt to ask so I asked the clerk if I could leave at 2:00.

        I was honest about what I was going to do and she immediately excused me.

    11. Bast*

      If you’re using PTO for this, it’s YOUR PTO to take for what you want. You could be taking the afternoon off to sit at home, eat ice cream and watch a Kardashians marathon, and as long as your PTO is approved in whatever way your company does, it really isn’t anyone’s business.

    12. Cat Lady in the Mountains*

      I think it’s fine, unless the things to get done are time-sensitive and truly important. Even in that case, I don’t think you’re obligated to cancel your tattoo appointment, but you may need to find a way to get the things done anyway (like working after the tattoo is done or something).

      If someone on my team did this and had to pick up some semi-urgent, non-mission-critical tasks on Monday, I would not bat an eyelash.

      If someone missed an urgent call with the CEO about how to implement a massive budget cut that requires a decision today to get a tattoo, when they are using flex time for it, I would question their judgement.

      Those are obviously extremes but you get the idea; my perspective is “flex time” means “you’ll exercise responsible judgement about when life takes priority (which is legit most of the time!) vs. the exceptions when work really needs to take priority.”

    13. Sassy SAAS*

      I feel you! I recently traveled out of state for a tattoo artist who is tough to book with. For all my managers, I don’t give a reason outside of “an appointment”. They don’t need to know what the appointment is for. For my coworkers I like, I might tell them the actual reason.

      But it only FEELS weird to us because we know that tattoo appointments aren’t the same urgency as a doctor appointment. When it comes to time off though, it’s all the same, and you don’t have to give a more specific reason! (I know you mentioned it’s not actually PTO, but same thought applies!)

    14. Rain*

      I manage two teams of approximately 10 people each and I can tell you from my point of view, I would not care even a little bit.

      Well. I might be mad if you didn’t show me a picture of it after, but that’s the only reaction I would have.

    15. Lab PI*

      I run a medium-large lab, and this would not bother me in the slightest if my RA was otherwise responsive, reliable, and getting stuff done. The only time these kinds of things have become an issue is if it becomes a pattern (i.e. “I am never available on Thursday afternoons”) that results in other people having to pick up work. I hope you get a fantastic tattoo. Is it related to your discipline?

  6. Fatima*

    My workplace recently instituted a new HR platform. Part of the process of getting this up and running was to have every employee complete their demographic information (sex, gender identity, race, etc). We use this information to help form affinity groups (should people choose to join) as well as just better inform our diversity efforts at the company.

    One person, who I will call Bill, is, as far as everyone knows, white. He has never talked about his race. I’ve seen pictures of his family – they are white. However, he has marked himself as African American in our new system.

    I’m not white, but I’m not black. I’ve talked to one of the few black employees we have at the company, and she said she doesn’t think Bill is black either.

    I’m stuck here. I’m in charge of reviewing any changes to demographic data, so this is just sitting in my inbox waiting for my approval. I don’t want to let him list himself as black when by all accounts he isn’t. He would get access to resources and groups meant for African American employees. I also understand that race is a social construct, and complicated. Am I really allowed to tell someone they aren’t black if that’s what they say they are?

    Any ideas of how to handle this?

    1. Jamie Starr*

      I don’t understand why you wouldn’t just take him at his word? I have to be honest, the fact he’s never overtly mentioned his race and that his family is white (or looks white…to you) really means nothing. (Maybe he didn’t mention it because he thought people would judge him…like you are.) Have you heard of passing? I think it’s inappropriate that you discussed this with other employees (who presumably weren’t privy to the original information), and I think it’s inappropriate that you’re questioning his answer just because how he looks doesn’t match what you think African-American looks like.

      My ex was often mistaken for white and/or light skinned Latino but they were/identified as African American.

      1. Mad Harry Crewe*

        Yeah, much like when someone asks for really unusual pronouns – just take ’em at their word.

        If he made a mistake, then he will either discover the error when he starts getting unexpected emails or (more likely) he’ll ignore the emails because they don’t actually pertain to him and he thinks everybody’s getting them.

        If he’s trying to get a rise or make a point, you’re not giving him the opening to do whatever nonsense he was planning to do next.

        And if he does identify as African American, then you are doing 100% the right thing and not asking him to defend his identity.

        Approve it and move on. This isn’t your business and you shouldn’t have spread it around.

        1. Blue Pen*

          I totally agree. If it turns out it was a mistake and he’s invited to these affinity groups or gains access to inappropriate resources, trust that he’ll self-report the mistake and address it then.

          This is just not at all your job or responsibility. Accept that others’ surveys contain errors or maybe some element of inaccurate representation and move on.

        2. goddessoftransitory*

          I agree. Taking him at his word is the right move no matter what his motivation.

          If he’s legit, you are doing the right thing. If he’s trying some “woke” nonsense, ignoring him is the fastest and most effective way to shut it down.

    2. ApplesNOranges*

      Why do you have to approve his data? I mean that is a bucket full of potential issues if you ask me. Is there anyone else that you’re going to question about their data? Does anyone else need to ‘prove’ they are what they self-identified as? It’s a bit creepy that you discussed this with another person. Are they in the same group as you (I’m assuming HR). That could be an issue on the privacy front if that person doesn’t have reason to know the contents of his file.

      Just approve it and go on with your life. I can’t really understand how this would be a big deal. If he gets access to groups that another race wouldn’t have access to I’m assuming he’ll just not participate. But surely these groups aren’t secret so everyone knows they exist.

      In all likelihood he’ll have checked the wrong box and will be confused why he is suddenly getting emails or invites to participate in these groups.

    3. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      Unless you’re also tightly scrutinizing sex, gender identity, and all other demographics for accuracy, I’d say that you should just trust what people put down as being true. Challenging one individual about their race is just NOT diversity effort friendly.

      If you’re worried that one response will throw off your data in a meaningful and actionable way, then I’d encourage you to think about how other of these demographic categories could actually be even more off, as time goes by, as they could change.

      Please don’t gatekeep anyone’s demographics. But if you want to offer people a chance to review their responses on an annual basis, I suppose you could do that.

    4. Cordelia*

      I’m stuck on the fact that you are looking at this data in this way at all. I assumed data like this was collected anonymously, and affinity groups and diversity efforts based on the stats – e.g. 50% white, 10% gay, etc. Are you policing the gender identity or sexuality people have chosen as well? Are you going to ask a gay member of staff if they think X is really gay?
      You shouldn’t be able to match responses to particular individuals, and you definitely shouldn’t be discussing their responses with other people.

    5. Sneaky Squirrel*

      Unless Bill has proven to be problematic about this in the past, it’s not your business to tell Bill what his race needs to be and Bill shouldn’t have to prove he’s African American enough for the company. If this means that Bill is the whitiest white employee getting access to resources and groups intended for African American employees, so be it. If he starts to be a problem, you should address it only then.

      If the affinity group is being offered resources that other employees of another race are not afforded, that could be a form of discrimination in itself. Your company should examine how the affinity groups are run if they require employees to self-disclose in order to be eligible for access to resources. Additionally, I can only speak for the US, but self disclosure should be on a voluntary basis only.

    6. Wow...I am Black*

      The comments here are…Wow!

      Trust Bill to be best narrator of his racial identity. Not you nor the Black person you spoke to about it. All African Americans are not confidants to other African Americans and cannot always identify other African Americans.

      If Bill’s gets access to resources and groups meant for African American employees and you didn’t prevent it by doing what exactly…then what? In the meanwhile, you’ve discussed this matter with at least one person at your workplace who isn’t Bill on the basis of race. That’s a NO!

      I see comments about passing, Black members of people’s families, discussions on South Africa?!

      Since you’ve offered no solution move forward, let me offer mine. Again, take Bill at his word and move on. The odds are someone criticizing you for not knowing if Bill is Black are very small, and if someone does, you’ll survive. I see where you mentioned being afraid he might be offended and complain. Since you’re concerned about that take that gut feeling as sign to not ask Bill anything else.

      I have edited and deleted so much of this comment and am leaving this little bit here. I can’t believe it…

    7. EEO Counselor*

      I agree with Wow…I am Black*. I so am horrified by both the OP and many of the commentors that I almost can’t even articulate all of the problems with this, and I’m deeply saddened that there are so many people that think it is okay to question this employee.

      First of all, I work as an EEO Counselor for the federal government and discussing the results of these surveys with other employees is a fireable offense. Full stop. Not only is this discriminatory (toward both the employee who filled out the survey as well as the other Black employee they talked to!), but it is a clear data privacy violation. Employers may collect demographic information but they must keep it confidential. The thought that someone who works in HR doesn’t understand that it is both ethically and legally forbidden to discuss this information with random employees illustrates how poorly trained so many HR employees around the country are. The casual way that the OP mentions that she talked to another employee without seeming to understand why that’s a problem is shocking.

      As others have mentioned, it is incredibly racist to ask another Black person just because they happen to be Black. WOW. How on earth would another Black person know what the ethnic background of the other employee was? I’m side-eyeing that employee as well – there has historically been discrimination sometimes from some Blacks to others because they don’t consider them to be “Black enough.” The OP said she’s seen pictures of his family and “they are white.” They LOOK white to the OP. And many people with disabilities look healthy. And many people who are not heterosexual “look” the same as people who are heterosexual. And there are trans people. And many mental health conditions are not visible to those who interact with the person.

      The OP is worried that he would be offended if they asked him and that he would complain. He should complain if asked! Because it is offensive!

      The OP wrote “I’m in charge of reviewing any changes to demographic data, so this is just sitting in my inbox waiting for my approval.” WTF? They have to APPROVE it?? So, if I change my information from heterosexual to bi, that will be sitting in someone’s inbox waiting for their approval??? Someone else here mentioned that they were told they don’t “look Mexican” because they speak Spanish. If someone checks off if they have a disability, is this OP going to ask them to document that? They have to approve that they have a disability? Do they have document that they have anxiety? Are autistic? If they check off that they are Jewish, is the OP going to ask them if they’re sure because their last name doesn’t “seem Jewish?” These items are NO ONE’S BUSINESS. The data collection process, including collection, storage, aggregation, and use, is confidential, and any entity collecting it must have data privacy protocols in place. The OP is clearly violating data privacy laws.

      And the OP is concerned that the employee would get access to resources and groups meant for African American employees? What are these resources? Are they paying for someone to go to college or buying them a house? Does the OP not understand that it is illegal to treat employees differently on the basis of race? And worst-case scenario that some of the commentors here are catastrophizing about – say he checked it off because he believes he needs to push back against “woke culture” and wants to infiltrate an affinity group to cause turmoil. If that happened, most likely it would get sorted out once he got into the group. The small possibility that something like that could happen is not worth the risk of asking him if he is sure he is really Black.

      I’m shocked by how many of the commentators here are saying it is okay to follow up with him to ask him about it. And recommending that the OP tell their manager. And coming up with disingenuous scenarios such as asking everyone to verify their information. This is a group that is normally so empathetic toward those have disabilities, those with mental health issues, women in general, women who are pregnant, trans people. But apparently that empathy doesn’t extend to different races. I see all kinds of terrible discrimination in my job, but would have never expected to see so much support for overt racism from the commentary of this column.

  7. Excel Gardener*

    I read an interesting article the other day in the WSJ about how hiring managers are increasingly filling roles via referrals and their networks because online job postings are flooded with more and more applicants, many of which are partly or fully AI generated. The claim of the article was that networking is more important than ever because employers are simply getting too many online applicants to have any hope of sorting through them all.

    I’m curious is this matches anyone’s experience on hiring side, or if this is being overstated.

    (Link in a reply so this comment isn’t sent into moderation)

    1. Elle*

      I don’t know if that’s anything new. Referrals for new hires are always welcome and my work gives a bonus to staff who refer a potential employee and they get hired. I agree that sites like Indeed seem to be filled with questionable resumes and we get flooded with them when a job opens.

    2. TX_Trucker*

      My company has very few remote positions. Those vacancies are always flooded with barely qualified candidates. We no longer post those vacancies in Indeed, LinkedIn, or other general job boards because it was impossible to sort through the applications. A referral would help in those cases for us. For in-person “office” positions we look at all the applications. Same for our trades positions.

    3. EMP*

      We do sort through online applications even though most of them are not qualified (it has nothing to do with AI generated or not – though that may have lowered the barrier to applying for jobs you’re not qualified for). I think networking has always been important though, because hiring is expensive and a new employee is a risk, and having someone you’re familiar with essentially be a positive reference for a candidate is a huge plus.

    4. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

      They use AI to evaluate resumes, they should expect candidates to use AI to generate them.

    5. Jan Levinson Gould*

      It seems like there needs to be a change with online applications – the status quo is not working. I often see desirable roles on LinkedIn with 100+ applicants within a few hours of being posted. How many of those 100 are truly qualified? It’s too easy to scattershot apply for dozens of jobs. To beat out the AI apply bots, there might need to be some type of Q&A when applying, although the AI bots will just evolve to answer those questions. As an aside, NPR recently had a segment about the AI application bots. I didn’t even know it was a thing until recently. And with most things AI these days, it was far from perfect.

      I currently don’t have any openings in my group, but of the 10 or so people I’ve hired in the past 6 years, only one came from applying online (surprisingly there were only 4 applicants – this was 2022). All others were internal transfers or referrals from trusted colleagues. If I were to get an opening, I already know I will bring in someone that was laid off by the company from another group at the beginning of the year and is still available since they are enjoying some time off and severance. I found my role current role through a connection.

      I tested the waters a few months ago. Applied for 10-15 jobs including ones I felt well-qualified for but would not have considered for reasons such as salary that wouldn’t be an improvement or frightening Glassdoor reviews. I just wanted to see if I’d get any bites. Nada. Became quite clear networking is king.

      1. Qwerty*

        Never trust the number of applicants shown on job postings. It just counts how many people clicked the apply link, which is a common thing to do when you are still researching the job.

          1. BubbleTea*

            Even then. I advertised a role on LinkedIn and Indeed. It said very clearly in the advert that applications were by completing an application form. I sent the form to everyone who clicked Apply Now. 1 in 5 actually completed and returned the form. One person messaged me back to say “I have already applied to this role”. No, my dude, you clicked a button. That does not an application make.

            Anyway, Indeed and LinkedIn had no way of knowing that 4/5ths of the applications weren’t actually valid.

    6. Falling Diphthong*

      Why are the applications AI generated?
      a) Someone wants to mess with a company (or all companies) and sets up a program to spam them with AI applications.
      b) There’s a legitimate human applicant, but they are having AI generate a “tailored” resume to every position and it’s doing the “Here are a bunch of words from my sampling of resumes” thing.

      Is it that AI has exponentially increased the people in (b)?

      1. Ann O'Nemity*

        C) There is a legitimate human applicant that is paying a third-party service to spam AI-generated resumes and applications to tens of thousands of positions regardless of qualifications.

        1. Long Long Nooo iiii tiicce*

          Well that’s also not true. I read a great article about someone who paid to have their resume written as apart of investigative journalism. These services are billing themselves as applying to hudreds of remote roles that meet your specific skills and are a good fit for you.

          In reality the AI service applied to seemingly randomn roles and generated completely made up credentials for jobs. IMO the person who paid for AI assistance is a victim here too.

          I think everyone misunderstands what ChatGPT can do in part because tech insanely oversold it’s capabilities.

      2. Three AI Prompts in a Trenchcoat*

        I just saw an Instagram post explaining how to do b). I had no idea. It was like… so you just… create a fake resume based on the job ad? How on earth does that get you a job? What happens if you actually get an interview and they’re asking about jobs you didn’t have, because the AI generated them?

    7. Qwerty*

      I feel like articles are always trying to push people to network rather than apply. Saying that the jobs exist but are just “secret” / unposted, or that AI is filtering out all the candidates, or that hiring manager really love when you send them a one line LinkedIn message instead of applying to their site. It’s like how there are tons of articles about the one diet secret that will make you healthy.

      As a hiring manager, my recruiter looks at every single application and clears out the queue daily. Our problem is 95% of applicants are unqualified.

      What I don’t see anyone talking about is how hard it is for applicants to *find* roles they are qualified for. LinkedIn showed me 2k results last time I searched and almost all of them were pure remote or the JD listed a different state despite my search filters being clearly set to In Office and within X miles of my city.

      Referrals are a bit preferred at my company right now, but that is due to a couple of mishires who were awful to work with but interviewed really well.

      1. Annie*

        On the point of difficulty finding out what you’re actually qualified for, sometimes it’s a case of “you don’t know what you don’t know”.

        Say I got laid off from my llama grooming job after a few years. I check for llama groomer openings elsewhere, and no luck. I try a more general search, and see openings for something that sounds similar enough to llama grooming, say alpaca herding, and I apply. Trouble is, alpaca herding is a distinct skillset from llama grooming, and it may not be obvious to an outsider how applicable my llama grooming experience will be to alpaca herding.

        Maybe the answer is to have the job sites put in “hard stops” that block some clearly unqualified candidates from applying in the first place?

        1. Jan Levinson Gould*

          Agreed re: “hard stops” that applicants have to confirm. There could be a notification that the applicant will not be considered for future opportunities if they did not answer the question truthfully. For example, job asks if the applicant has worked with a very specific llama grooming software product for at least three years. The applicant says “yes” in the questionnaire, but when the resume is reviewed, there is no evidence they ever used the software.

          I did apply for one role that had a few hard stop questions. It was iffy if I really had the qualifications for one of the ‘must haves’, but I figured there was no harm since I kinda sorta had that experience several years ago. Although those questions came up after I submitted my resume and spent the time to craft a cover letter, so I was already invested. If there were a penalty for not answering the question truthfully (such as being disqualified for future consideration), I probably would not have applied.

          Just one thought to eliminate the onslaught of unqualified candidates thinking there’s nothing to lose by just applying.

          1. I Have RBF*

            I hate it when their questions have no relation to the JD. Makes me feel like I’ve wasted my time on a bait and switch.

        2. Long Long Nooo iiii tiicce*

          I agree with hard stops. As an applicant I appreciate them. I was about to apply to a role I met all required and 9/10 preferred skills for but when I hit apply I got questions asking about skills not even in the JD that I didn’t have as well as many from the “preferred” side so I backed out. I was grateful to save time tailoring a resume honestly.

          Personally a stop gap I would have in place is a prompt that asks you to enter the email that MUST match the resume email exactly or your application will be automatically rejected.

          I’d then email the applicant email a list of no more then 10 yes no questions and I would automatically have a response like – since you only answer 7/10 the way we preferred it’s unlikely you will move forward. You can now apply through this link:

          And I’d have that link be the only way you can apply.

          AI won’t be able to send apps (aside from nefarious bots) because presumably the applicants actual email is included by the AI bot for the 3rd party stuff. I also imagine most bits will be tripped up by the questionnaire.

          1. Jan Levinson Gould*

            Excellent thoughts! Particularly if the questionnaire is before submitting the resume and cover letter to avoid the applicant spending time tailoring in case they don’t meet the qualifications.

    8. Aitch Arr*

      If anything, my employer is pulling away from referrals and hiring within a manager’s network. That can lead to affinity bias.

    9. Axolotl*

      Honest question, what are we supposed to do about it, then? This sort of rings true to me, as people I know who are hiring have told me about getting 500+ applicants for a role. In most cases, 450 of those are unqualified, but it’s still a huge time-suck for them to sort through it all.

      I’m searching like mad after having been laid off in the spring, and it’s frustrating as hell. I get the point of networking, but I don’t quite understand how it will open up those roles for me. Like, if someone I know happens to be hiring for a role I could align with, and I reached out to her on LinkedIn to let her know I was in the market, she might think to reach out to me. But if the role isn’t posted, I can’t know it exists, so how can I attempt to GET these roles?

      I think I’m stuck doing what I’ve been doing, which is applying through the normal channels and hope I stand out in the sea of meh.

      1. Ama*

        My (nonprofit) employer requests people submit their application materials directly by email (even on our Indeed posting) and we’re not seeing these kinds of numbers or as many AI generated applications (we do still get some unqualified applicants but a lot of that is a misunderstanding about what the role is or people who think being super devoted to a nonprofit’s mission will supersede the fact that they have no relevant experience for a role that requires specific expertise) . It seems like even just having to take five minutes to open an email app, attach a resume and cover letter and send it weeds out a lot of the problems that happen when people can just hit an “apply now” button and auto send their materials.

        So if you see an employer that requests applications be submitted that way you likely aren’t going to be competing with a flood of applications.

      2. jasmine*

        YMMV by industry but if you have experience, then one thing a colleague mentioned to me that she did was just message people at companies she wanted to work for like “I was a llama groomer for Llamas Inc. I’m currently looking for llama grooming positions and am really interested in [your company] because [insert interesting thing here]”

        Mind you, in her case Llamas Inc was a company with a reputation in the llama grooming space, but oftentimes people are really happy to help. This is harder for entry level positions but if you have experience in the field, then maybe it’s good for others to know you’re in the market. Whether they have an open position isn’t a guarantee but would it hurt either way?

    10. TheMoreThingsChange*

      It’s always been a mix of a wide variety of methods. Anyone who limits to just one (be it networking, online postings, recruiters, or something else) is doing themselves a disservice.

      For those complaining about the number of applications and the number who are unqualified, that’s also not new. It does tend to be cyclical based on the economy and job market. If there’s a glut on remote job applications, that’s a demand signal. If there’s a glut on all online applications, that’s a different demand signal. If you don’t want to sort through applications, use a recruiter. None of this is new (I walked into interviews in the 90s where I was told >1000 people applied for the open posituon).

      1. Jan Levinson Gould*

        Agreed to mix up job search methods. Would be interesting if Allison were to put up a poll to see how reader’s current jobs were obtained.

        I was surprised when my group posted a fully remote role with potential travel in the hot job market of 2022 and there were only 4 applicants. One fully qualified (he got the job), one internal quasi-qualified but he got something else and two unqualified. Granted it’s a niche field, but I would expect considerably more applicants in today’s competitive job market plus remote roles are becoming scarcer. Currently demand is clearly outstripping supply for remote roles.

    11. Long Long Nooo iiii tiicce*

      Analyst here, yeah I’m hearing that for remote roles specifically we are getting flooded with literally thousands of applicants where 200 apps pass the HR screen.

      While I know for a fact there are AI resume tools out therr, I also think employers often post incorrect JDs.

      I love my company but I have had the following experiences:
      JD said PhD required they actually hire BS all the time.
      JD said BS +8 or MS +3 and they actually only hire PhDs.
      Met all requirements and preferred requirements. Turns out a skill not on the JD was important and they hired for that over the skills in their posting.

      I only know this definitely happened because I’ve leveraged my internal network to speak with the hiring managers but I am sure it’s happening at other companies.

      1. Ama*

        When I worked at a university our HR required all of the job descriptions be standardized to certain job titles. At a university the main problem with that is an Admin Assistant in a science based department (particularly if a lab is involved) is going to need different experience and do different tasks than an Admin Assistant in one of the general administration departments (Bursar’s office, Admissions, etc.), which is in turn different from the Fine Arts department Admin Assistants. But it took so long to get HR to approve any adjustment to a job description that people would just post the standard ones and then explain in the interview what the job actually entailed. But of course that meant a lot of people applied to jobs they weren’t suited for (especially since our application system allowed you to auto apply to all Admin Assistant jobs open at once).

        A lot of employers make this way harder on themselves than they need to.

  8. Rainy Friday*

    Asking for good thoughts for a friend who has a job offer in hand and has to decide over the weekend. The offer is…OK…salary not the best and no negotiation. Job sounds interesting, people seem nice. Problem – still in the running for another job (interesting work, nice people, different focus, and more money.) ARGH. Friend has been out of work for six months. And maybe some good stories about how that turned out for someone who took the first offer because they didn’t hear back from #2 in time and it turned out OK.

    1. Procrastinator*

      It doesn’t have to be an either / or proposition.

      Friend can take the first job and stay in the running for the second one. If the second one comes through later, then friend can decide what to do then, which at that point would be “a good problem to have”!

      1. Procrastinator*

        Sorry, reread the post and see I answered a question that wasn’t asked.

        Sending good thoughts!

    2. woops*

      take the ok job, then if the better one comes through quit and take it. I know, i know, this sucks for the first job. but this is a life impacting decision. it’s ridiculous to take bread out of the mouths of your children because it might upset a company you wont be working for any more. i’ve had this done to me by prospective employees and i hate it and it’s a huge hassle (especially when they accept an offer then get a counter and flake). but that’s just something we have to deal with. would you really expect a person to risk having no job (when out of work for 6 months) on a chance the right one may come? or stay in a job when a better one becomes available just because they just started? that’s unreasonable. it sucks for the company paying less – but if it happens enough, maybe it’ll encourage them to pay more? problem solved.

      1. Rainy Friday*

        Let’s just say that in this situation it would get around and not look good if they did that.

        1. woops*

          i’d still do it for a better opportunity. this is real life – the income of your family and your quality of life at work. you have to do what’s best for your family. any reasonable person that questions it will understand that point of view. the only reason i wouldn’t do it is if i it were a very small industry and i was very confident it would prevent future opportunities.

    3. Rara Avis*

      We had a new person start and then the job offer she wanted more came through and she left after a month. It was a bummer, but no one is angry about her doing what is better for her.

    4. ecnaseener*

      “Still in the running” as in an offer could be imminent? Email/call the hiring manager right now and tell them you have another offer on the off chance they can get their offer ready.

      Or “still in the running” as in early stages, could be several weeks or even months before an offer materializes? Take the first job and hope that an offer for the second one comes late enough that it won’t tank your reputation to leave.

      Ultimately unless your friend is really financially secure and okay with staying unemployed for the foreseeable future, I think they have to take the first job if it doesn’t truly suck.

    5. Bast*

      I’m sure many people have stories about feeling confident about how an interview went and then not getting it. Maybe they went with someone else. Maybe they decided to roll without the position. Who knows. Not sure how confident your friend is, but regardless, if they cannot afford to continue to be out of a job, I’d take Door #1. Door #2 may not open for whatever reason, and then they are back to the drawing board. An OK salary is better than no salary unless you have the means (A trust fund, a high earning spouse, etc) to have no salary for an extended period of time.

      1. Glazed Donut*

        Yea, this is my current situation. I have an offer (& contract waiting to be signed) for a meh position that even my would-be supervisors say I’m overqualified for. It pays fine but not great. I had a final interview this week for another position (more desirable pay and challenging work but considerable drive into office). I plan on signing the contract for #1 and waiting to see what happens with #2, as they said they’d get back to me in the coming weekS. plural. The only catch is the contract has a clause where if I leave before a year, I have to pay $5k. If I get the other job, I’ll be paid well enough that it won’t matter.

        I’ve done interviews before where I did very well, but someone else edged me out for no fault of my own (the other person had done an internship at the org so they knew more people, had a side conversation with someone and hit it off, etc). The most qualified person on paper doesn’t always get the job- sometimes it’s the more social person, or the one with a little background in X, or whatever.

    6. Axolotl*

      I will give an example of one where I didn’t take Job 1 and I regret it! I was in the process for a job that wasn’t ideal – it was a contract position with a low salary, a hellish commute, and 2 days/week required onsite. I decided that I could accept low pay, the instability of a contract position, OR an awful commute, but I couldn’t handle all three, and I didn’t want to accept the job just to quit a few weeks later if any other opportunities panned out. I was in the later stages of interviewing for two other positions so I decided to take the gamble that they would work out. They didn’t. For one job, I was missing a key piece of experience that the hiring team ended up deciding was a requirement, and for the other, I was straight-up ghosted after a full-day panel interview. So even though the other job wasn’t ideal for a number of reasons, I do wish I’d taken it.

  9. FSU*

    Has anyone worked as a writer for StoryTerrace? Do you have any feedback you can offer on the experience? Thanks!

  10. Pink Shoe Laces*

    Does anyone have a technical job (I work on the technical/data side of paid marketing) where it requires basic direction and buy-in from management, but management doesn’t ever want to make decisions? I’m getting so exhausted and need to find ways to cope, because it’s driving me crazy.

    Luckily my immediate boss is pretty great and we are always on the same page, but his boss (the department head) and his boss’s boss (CMO) are kind of terrible. My boss and I have offered and recommended countless suggestions and recommendations that would improve the program, but the other two usually blow off our recommendations and just use buzzwords. My boss has even asked about recommendations with his boss separately, but his boss gives him vague non-answers and is zero help. But this man is also micromanage-y at the same time with our team, meaning instead of going to my boss with stuff, he’ll go to both of us.

    Even with their non-help, our program is very high profile, so we’re having to go to several meetings weekly where they ask the same exact questions every time but either don’t understand or aren’t listening (probably both lol).

    I’ve accepted this is just how the company is – people passing around the buck, refusing to make decisions, deflecting blame, no accountability, sexism…But then it’s hard because it all feels like it’s being put on us, when our management is failing to do their basic jobs or even listen to us. I’m getting so exhausted from having to repeat myself multiple times a week. It’s like they ask why our program isn’t as good as it could be, but ignore our recommendations or requests for guidance and explanations on why it’s not good, then ask again why it’s not as good as it could be.

    1. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

      Ugh sorry to hear that. I wonder if you could take a tone of “you know how you said x is not as good as it could be? I’d like to roll out recommendations x y and z to address those areas and make it so that result X is in place. May I have your approval?”

    2. hi there*

      I think I’d start documenting the timelines and referencing them in nudges (“we spoke about this on May 3rd, and are waiting on the green light”). Maybe also think about how you’re presenting the options to them – all verbal? via email? Maybe a visual menu is needed to illustrate options.

      1. Pink Shoe Laces*

        We tried many ways of communicating with them (verbal, slack, email, power points, charts graphs, etc.). They will not make decisions

        1. hi there*

          Ugh! All you can do is document the timelines and their non-decisions, then. Eventually you’ll have so much data that you can make THAT into a graphic the next time someone asks “why isn’t it better?” I bet there’s a financial cost you could attach to the delays, too. Gamify the tedium of waiting for permission. It’s not your fault and you don’t have to fix it!

    3. Beth*

      Yikes, sorry you’re going through this!

      The closest I’ve been to it was a job where I was able to do some managing upwards — once an idea had been proposed, scoped out, discussed, the savings in time/money/materials laid out, etc., options for providers discussed, research into providers reported on, final short list of providers made (all of which I woudl do from my side), I could sometimes nudge it around into a position of “So, we’re ready to start setting this up next week, unless you want to schedule it for later in the month.” That made it more effort for the boss to say “No, we aren’t doing it at all” – and if they didn’t say anything, it finally happened. Basically, moving the path of least resistance to where we got the thing we needed and the decision that the boss failed to make was set up to be a decision to stop.

      Another technique was seeding the idea so the boss thought he’d come up with it, which I really loathed, but was sometimes better than complete inaction.

      It was a PITA and could only be done very selectively, and I’m VERY glad not to have to do it now.

      1. Kez*

        Yeah when I deal with stakeholders like this I generally take the approach of presenting something with a proposed timeline and if no one says “don’t do that” going ahead and doing it. Especially if y’all are meeting this often, it seems like there isn’t anything to lose by cutting to the chase and explaining a plan rather than presenting options that they’ll never finish waffling over.

        If the issues are things that objectively need their approval (budgetary decisions or procedural sign-offs) then assume after the first 3 times you bring something up and they don’t say yes, that they mean no. Let go of the idea and accept that these are indirect and indecisive people, so it’s not your problem if they want to sit around waiting indefinitely.

    4. ApprovalsNeeded*

      Unfortunately every time I’ve been in this situation no amount of raising the issue, discussing it with others, or other attempts to solve it ever worked.

      In many cases it was a matter of the other folks having higher priorities but still being unwilling to let go of their right to approve/disapprove stuff before it can go live or even start to be implemented.

      My sympathies. If you find a magic solution please share it!

    5. JPalmer*

      A way you can handle this is ‘leading from the ground’

      Say we need to do A B or C. Go to management/bosses and say “We are slated to proceed with A, but other options B and C. If you wish us to alter from option A, specify it”

      This way if they drag their feet and don’t get engaged, you can state that they did not direct guidance away from A. You have the CYA when shit rolls down hill that you informed them and they did not give guidance.

      Basically default to what makes things easier, and make it easy for them to ‘accept that path of least resistance’ for when they want to pass the buck. Basically let them pass the buck but keep the receipts that they passed it.

      If they say “Why are we defaulting to A?” you can say it’s about operating efficiency, rather than idling on no decision, or about not wanting to lose engineering time waiting for guidance. Or that it makes it easier for personnel to weigh individual options against others, rather than everything against a neutral position.

  11. DisneyChannelThis*

    How do you know when it’s time to move on? I’ve only ever left jobs when they were in bad bad territory, never in the like this job isn’t awful but it isn’t great mentality.

    Part of me thinks job hunting is too much stress, especially since it might me moving cities etc. But the other part of me is looking at year 3 of 3% raise, with little room for growth and wondering if I’m doing myself a huge disservice in the long term by staying.

    Is this like a grass is always greener situation? Should I just stick it out in mediocre job until it becomes worse?

    1. WellRed*

      To clarify; the job is mediocre and you expect it to get worse, not better? I think that’s your answer.

      1. DisneyChannelThis*

        Yeah, they’re ending remote work but don’t have desk space for everyone whose brought back in person, my job responsibilities keep expanding (as some of these people quit even) but no increase in compensation, I’m not learning new things so my skills are stagnating a bit, management is upset that they got poor feedback and taking away lunch breaks to have mandatory culture building activities….

        1. radish*

          Oh my god! I would not stay, you can find a better company. At least you’d get a real lunch break!

          1. goddessoftransitory*

            I agree–this is rolling downhill and picking up speed. Messing with lunch breaks is the last damn straw (or would be for me.)

        2. Cyborg Llama Horde*

          Yeah, start looking now. Carve out two or three hours a week to look for and apply to jobs (or, if it suits your style better, take a day or two off and apply to a zillion of them). This is bad enough to leave over.

        3. The Real Fran Fine*

          It’s time to roll out now. Start looking this instant – depending on your field, your search can take awhile, so you want to get a jump start on things while you’re not yet in the BEC stage of loathing your job.

        4. Rainy*

          Man, I would be heading to my doctor like a shot for a note that I *have* to have a lunch break.

    2. Ellie C*

      Nothing wrong with starting to look. Last time it took me a year to find something worth transitioning to. It’s a bit exhausting but you are more likely to make an impulsive decision if things aren’t completely awful.

    3. A Beth*

      If I can be in a not-awful but not-great environment with the added benefit of more money I will start job searching. They say the grass is greener where you water it but I think also we have to, like, rotate pastures or whatever to find fresh new grass that maybe isn’t all trod-upon.

      I will say I kind of regretted my second-to-last move (good job with people I liked but limited growth opportunity, for more money & a new experience) but I stuck it out for a couple of years and learned from the experience and was able to leverage that into a recent move that has been good so far. I think if you are in a field and/or location where you’d be able to move on again in a couple years if needed, take a chance on something better.

      1. DisneyChannelThis*

        I really like your expansion of the metaphor, I think that’s a really good way of looking at it.

    4. Dancing Otter*

      Looking around for a new job when you don’t absolutely positively need it right now is much easier and less stressful, truly. (I’ve done it both ways.)

      You can afford to be picky, and nine percent (okay 9.27%) over three years almost certainly has left your pay under market. Plus, one needn’t be very ambitious to want to experience some growth and advancement/appreciation. So, I think it’s worth updating your resume (using all the great advice Alison has given) and sending it out into the world.

      If you can only find job postings that sound even worse than where you are, that’s useful information, too.

    5. KCD*

      My last job was just okay. It started out great, but new leadership a few years in really changed things for worse. However the commute was short and benefits package pretty good (though pay left something to be desired). Ultimately I decided to just keep my ears open for opportunities but didn’t actively job hunt. I stayed on for two more years until a job opportunity that actually excited me popped up. I made the switch 6 months ago and am so glad I did!

    6. pally*

      It doesn’t hurt to look to see what’s out there.

      If nothing else, this will add information to the equation “reasons to stay” vs. “reasons to go”.

    7. Qwerty*

      It sounds like you have only run away from bad situations. What about keeping a pulse on the job market until you find something that you want to run towards?

      I was given advice early in my career to go to at least one job interview a year, even when happy in my role. I would say I passively look at postings annually though I rarely apply. It is helpful to see what skills are in demand so I can casually learn something if I have a gap. Usually I don’t see anything worth the bother. But I have gone to an interview and walked away feeling happier about my current position.

      So poke your head around, figure out if there’s anything that excites you. There’s no pressure on yourself to stay or to go. Plus it is always a good safety net to have a resume ready to go.

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        This is SUCH a good point!

        You are allowed to go towards something better, because you want something better. There’s no points system where you have to “earn” a move through X amount of suffering or a job situation deteriorating. No one worth working for is going to give you the fisheye and demand you show your scars before “allowing” you to interview with them/hire you.

        It’s not a requirement to wait until the entire place is on fire before you move on.

    8. Beth*

      If your mediocre job is stable and has reasonable benefits, it might give you a place to work while you get additional training, certification, etc., on your own, or do something for networking, to make your next move stronger. This is what I did at one point; but I REALLY hate job-hunting, and it was easier to plan for it when I had a Master Plan leading up to it.

    9. hi there*

      If you start to think it might be time, refresh your resume and send out a few applications to positions that you’re interested in. Your response to rejections and invitations to interview will help you clarify where you might need to make changes in your current position (whether that’s leaving or altering a task or mindset).

    10. Wordybird*

      I am the primary breadwinner with a spouse who works in an industry that can’t be remote and often experiences layoffs and slowdowns so for me, I have to make $XX,000/year in order to pay our bills and have savings in-hand for when/if his industry goes through a slow period or he’s between jobs. This is my number-one criterion for whether a job is worth sticking around for and what type of future job I would apply for. Close behind is the fact that my spouse and I both have chronic medical conditions and need good employer-provided insurance. What’s your financial situation like and how choosy can you be?

      I have worked remotely for the last four years and would never willingly go back to work in an office ever so that is another huge criterion for me in job searching. Are you willing to work any kind of schedule for the right employer?

      I am at an age and at a certain place in life where being able to travel is really important to me so I won’t work anywhere with less than 4 weeks of PTO a year (although, of course, unlimited is the ultimate goal). I don’t think I would ever take more than 4 weeks of PTO a year but it’s the principle of the thing: I’m grown and handle my business so why can’t I live my life the way I want and integrate work into my life rather than my life into work? Do you like to travel/see family/have hobbies/etc. where you want or need generous downtime or are you willing to go with less PTO (in general or as a trade-off for more money or other benefits)?

      I know those are practical not-particularly-sexy things to consider but that’s how my brain works. If a job checked all those boxes, I could handle some minor annoyances and drama so long as my boss and grandboss were good at their jobs and generally supportive of me.

    11. MoMac*

      So, having been there, this is the phase before it gets so terrible that you have to leave. The water in the pan keeps getting warmer, more tasks, minimal raises, returning to the office without space, losing lunch breaks…. The water is getting warmer and warmer, and you’re not seeing it because you keep adjusting to it. But one day, it will reach boiling, and you will be too exhausted, self-critical, physically depleted, emotionally wounded, and heartsick to feel that you can put your best foot forward in the job search. So look now while you just feel worn out. The elevator stops at any floor that you want. You don’t have to go all the way to the basement. Good luck.

    12. Love me, love my cat*

      Alison has said on numerous occasions- People don’t quit jobs, they quit managers.” (Oh, if only I had taken that to heart!) The problems you’ve outlined seem to all stem from management, not from disliking the actual work, or problems with coworkers. Doesn’t sound like you see any signs of improvement any time soon. Couldn’t hurt to look around!

  12. BellaStella*

    For those job hunting good luck! I sent out 5 apps this week and got 3 rejections tho 2 were from apps from last month. And I got a really nice rejection letter from a recruiter! Added his linkedin and said to keep an eye on their site even tho I was not the choice for the role I applied to. That was super great! I am on medical leave for five days and am using the time to apply to as many jobs as I can while resting and healing a bit.

    1. The Real Fran Fine*

      It’s been nothing but rejections and crickets for me for months, so I’m glad to hear that at least someone’s getting some kind of direct feedback. I hope you find something soon.

  13. Three Eyed Minion*

    I just want to vent about my organizations monthly staff meeting. These meetings are typically 2-hour exercises in pure boredom, listening to the directors giving overly-detailed updates on projects that don’t involve the rest of the team (technically the meetings are scheduled for one hour, but they always go over). They go on so long that my legs start to cramp (awful chairs).

    What drove me nuts about this past meeting was a half hour was dedicated to our executive director showing photos from his international vacation. Yes, must be nice to have the money and time to travel the world. Thank you for rubbing our faces in it.

    1. Kay Tee*

      Any chance you can schedule a meeting right after so that you SIMPLY MUST leave at the scheduled end time?

    2. DisneyChannelThis*

      Ew gross. Can you conveniently have doctors appointments (dentist, eye, etc) all scheduled on that monthly date and skip them?

    3. Former Usher*

      I can relate. At an old job our director kicked off our department meeting by sharing details about his stay at his vacation home – on the same day they cut my pay by 30% and laid off someone else.

      1. CommanderBanana*

        Hooo boy. I remember a meeting in the first months of the COVID WFH when we were trying to figure out what we were going to do and if we’d even still have jobs and one of extremely overpaid richie rich C-suite doofuses literally signed on from his (not quite a yacht, but not quite not a yacht) boat.

        Eat the rich.

      2. Betty Spaghetti*

        At old job, our director decided to tell everyone that he’s rich. Then dispense advice about saving for our retirements. While we were discussing potential layoffs.

      3. Ally McBeal*

        Reminds me of the Stellantis exec who was tasked with negotiating with the UAW last year; I think he took the very first meeting from his vacation home in Mexico. Shawn Fain had a FIELD DAY with that one on social media and I think that out-of-touch attitude helped consolidate union support for Fain’s audacious asks.

      4. goddessoftransitory*

        It’s like Le Miz never was written or performed! I wouldn’t keep poking the bears, rich people.

    4. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

      Since you’re just venting, rather than asking for suggestions, I’ll say that sucks. All-hands meetings in person were so, so dull. Lots of doodling kept me sane.

    5. Kay*

      If you had said these were weekly I might have thought you were a client of mine. I’m frustrated on behalf of all of you.

    6. Jinni*

      Can I say I’m sorry? Maybe it’s social media that makes people tone deaf, but I was raised to not talk about these kinds of things (politics, religion, money) in public, and that still stands…

    7. Donn*

      At a past employer we got an executive director who insisted on a weekly all-hands meeting that always lasted at least an hour. We didn’t need a weekly meeting, and 30 min tops was plenty.

      He insisted I attend and answer our office phones in the meeting. Then after one call, he had the nerve to tap me on the knee and tell me to keep my voice down because it was very distracting.

  14. AnonymousOctopus*

    My job has become intolerable. I work in a high-stress customer-facing field with lots of vicarious trauma, and my company has made working conditions truly harmful for us on the front lines. Add to that horrible communication from the top down, silos, and hiring unqualified people, allowing customers to abuse employees, and policies that change from day to day. I’m one more bullshit email away from rage quitting without anything lined up, but I truly cannot do that due to health insurance reasons.

    I’m working on my exit but it’s going to be at least 6 months before I can fully leave this shitshow behind. I’m having a hard time smiling and keeping a positive attitude in front of customers. Not all the time, but more facial expression slipups than before I became burntout and angry like this. How do I survive until then? How can I care less? I’m in therapy for PTSD and we spend more time processing work stuff than I’d like, so I’m doing that already.

    Tips? Tricks? Commiseration?

    1. Robert E. O. Speedwagon*

      Commiserating. I just started a job as a paralegal for a small law firm run by a guy who runs the firm like he ran it back in probably the 70s or 80s – so crass jokes with the clients, vague tasks and ire when the vague tasks weren’t prepared to his unspecified liking, and worst of all, chain smoking in his office. Benefits are near non-existent, and I don’t even have them yet. I started here two weeks ago and I’m already trying to get out – just interviewed with a larger firm, so hopefully I’ll have somewhere to go from here, but I can’t afford to leave without something else lined up.

      1. AnonymousOctopus*

        I’ve seen your posts about this new place, I’m sorry you’re in this same boat. Fingers crossed for good news from the larger firm!

    2. Bunny Girl*

      Do you work in Vetmed by any chance? This is how I felt the last 6-ish months of my job.

      Couple of things you can do –

      1) Focus on the fact that you are working on moving out of the role. This can make a huge difference in your mindset.

      2) If you have any PTO or unpaid time you can take, take it. Even if it’s just a day here or there.

      3) Find something weekly (Taco Tuesday, Wine Wednesday, Book Club on Thursday, whatever YOU enjoy) and make that your weekly target. Having something to look forward to and focus on can make a whole world of difference. Bribe yourself. “If I don’t stab a customer today then I can go to my favorite taco place tonight!”

      1. AnonymousOctopus*

        I don’t but I’ve heard from friends that vet medicine is ROUGH, especially since covid. Hope you’ve moved onto greener pastures!

        Tried taking my PTO in both larger and smaller chunks, but it makes coming back to work harder so I’ve been saving it to cash out for a longer break between quitting and my next position. Been doing number 1 but it sometimes makes me feel worse, like more aware of the trapped feeling? But that’s something I can bring to therapy for a reframe/mental script. Thanks for mentioning it! And I haven’t formally set up a weekly “looking forward to” activity/treat, that’s a great suggestion, thank you for that.

    3. Csethiro Ceredin*

      This sounds horrible and I’m so sorry.

      I used to have clients mandated to attend a remedial program calling me and yelling about everything from the program to the law to society, despite absolutely none of it being in my control. It was rough because they had committed potentially dangerous crimes so it was hard to understand why they were angry with a third party about the consequences, and some were very ragey and aggressive. I think you have it worse because of the internal top down stuff, but one thing that helped me laugh about it afterwards rather than get upset/angry:

      If someone was really unreasonable I’d imagine David Attenborough narrating observations of their behaviour as though they were studying them as a species.
      “Contrary to his own interests, the man chooses to reject an offer of information and instead resumes his ongoing victimization rant. His behaviour is self-destructive and unlikely to endear him to the pack, but it appears that he is unable to control it.”
      “Here we see another person arguing that they deserve to be prioritized over all other clients. Is this mindset the result of genetics or socialization?

      It didn’t always work, but it game me some distance, a touch of humour, and I found myself much less shaken by difficult calls.

      1. Maria*

        I LOVE your David Attenborough scripts, and I think I’d make myself laugh inappropriately with them. So so good!

      2. Rook Thomas*

        @Csethiro Ceredin —- I think this is a fantastic way of handling things. I work with the public on a daily basis and now, will do my best “internal David Attenborough narration.” It just might be the trick with some of the people I encounter!

    4. hi there*

      My therapist has me repeating “not my circus, not my clowns.” She also showed me the rage-quitting scene from the movie Half Baked. Highly recommend (not to emulate). lol

      In your situation, to the extent possible, I’d prioritize taking every single break I’m due (start “smoking,” if necessary); escalating to a manager whenever needed; and learning scripts to repeat for customers who are trying to project their issues onto me. All these are action-item variants of “not my circus, not my clowns.”

    5. Kesnit*

      Why do you need to wait 6 months? Is it a hard requirement that you cannot avoid (like you are under contract)? Or is it something that you think you should wait out, but could leave if you really decided to?

      Last year, my employer gave retention bonuses with the understanding we stay until the end of the year. In August, I realized I could not hold out another 4 months and left in September. I had to pay back the retention bonus, but it was worth it to get away.

    6. The Real Fran Fine*

      Do you have STD and FMLA where you work? If you do, since you’re in therapy with PTSD, you may be able to take up to 12 weeks off with 60% pay. Something to think about.

      1. Jinni*

        I like this suggestion because you can keep your health insurance during FMLA leave.

  15. Kay Tee*

    Any advice for completing a self-evaluation when you feel like you’ve done a kind of mediocre job this year? No major disasters nor big wins. And struggling to think of goals for next year when my job function will pretty much be exactly the same… I’m sure I’ll figure it out, but I’m being a bit of a grouch about it!

    1. DisneyChannelThis*

      Evals are the worst! I sympathize. Are there anything you are proud of this year or things you really enjoyed doing? Highlight those. You could also go like the maintained an efficient program in XYZ route…..

      For the next year goals, are there anything you’d like to learn or develop? Like I put learn another coding language in as a goal and then got a whole project in it assigned which was a neat outcome from just daydreaming up things I’d like to learn. The other one, is look up what job title above you lists as skills, do you lack any of those? Put them as goals, then it’s an easy path to promotion too.

    2. Elle*

      You did your job. Congratulations! You don’t have to have big wins every year and a lot of jobs are not set up that way. Keep your goals the same if possible and reach out to see if you can do more.

      1. A Beth*

        Exactly! Sometimes we need the level years to be able to gear back up for big projects. I have often tried to keep 3-4 of my goals the same year to year and only add 1-2 stretch goals based on what’s been going on. Most of the time my managers haven’t needed new initiatives or growth, they’ve needed me to do the job they hired me for.

    3. Never let them see you sweat*

      I wouldn’t hint at mediocrity at all. Not knowing you or your work, it’s entirely possible you’re doing very decent work that YOU feel isn’t up to your usual standards. It’s possible your bosses think everything is just fine so don’t bring doubt into a written evaluation. I would list out a few accomplishments for the past year & focus on continued growth for the future.

    4. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

      Are you allowed to roll a goal over to the next year if you feel like you didn’t really achieve it? I feel like I’ve done really well keeping my head barely above water this last year …accomplishing unexpected projects while losing a manager last summer who still hasn’t been replaced…but I didn’t actually complete any of the goals I set before the department went sideways, so I will be rolling those goals over to the new year.

    5. A Significant Tree*

      For the eval portion there’s a lot to be said about being a utility player – if you’ve been dependable, produced reliably good work, met deadlines, been a good coworker or contributor, those things should be highlighted because they’re valuable. I’m thinking of the discussion a day or two ago about what happens when there are too many leaders and not enough do-ers. Maybe that puts you at “meets expectations” rather than exceeds, but it’s not mediocre by most accounts.

    6. House On The Rock*

      As a manager who is currently in the midst of writing evaluations for 16 staff members and reviewing their self-evals as part of the process, I really appreciate staff who are transparent about things being status quo! And that doesn’t mean you are “mediocre” it means you did your job without anything going wrong, that’s honestly great.

      If your manager is remotely with it, they know your work and are not necessarily looking for a treatise on all your strengths and weaknesses. Saying how you’ve met your current goals and mentioning a couple areas you’d like to focus on for the next year is more than enough.

      I’m only speaking for myself here and ymmv, but I dread the self evaluations where someone goes on and on to “prove” that they deserve the highest rating (especially when they clearly don’t). I love short and to the point comments that don’t make me feel like I have to respond with the same level of detail!

    7. Gaia Madre*

      If you keep a running list of your duties and responsibilities, you can quantify your work for your supervisor. Remember, they may not realize all that you do. Once you get a look at your list, you can organize it in a way that makes sense for your job. I wrote myself my own “daily sop” and used that to launch my self-evals. Good luck!

    8. Expectations*

      Even if you felt there were areas you could have done better in,that doesn’t mean you didn’t do a good job in them, perhaps even exceeding expectations. Don’t shoot yourself in the foot by being negative about something your manager may still be quite happy with.

      Call out those things you did do well. If you think below the general “meh” you can probably come up with a few.

      Let your boss assess before you shoot yourself in the foot. The best performance review I ever got was for a year I felt like I performed badly. I apparently did a lot better than expected in very bad circumstances. I got yelled at by my boss for underselling myself. Of course, the next year, when I genuinely did a much better than could possibly be expected job, I got a mediocre review because my boss hasn’t set any expectations in his mind so I couldn’t exceed them.

      The point is that it’s not up to you how you get assessed. So do the best you can to be positive with honesty, point out some genuine areas or things you can improve that hopefully won’t set off major sirens for your boss, and then see what happens.

      Good luck.

  16. Golden*

    This question is inspired by a current reality show in which participants are playing for charity, so I’m hoping to keep this thread spoiler-free for any ongoing or recent shows! I’m interested in how organizations handle this situation from a workplace standpoint.

    It seems like we have quite a few people at non-profits here, and I was wondering what, if any, impacts (good or bad) occur when a celebrity chooses to play for your organization as part of a reality TV program. Is it all good, or is can the sudden awareness be overwhelming? Is there an internal team appointed to deal with whatever network is running the show? Do organizations ever opt out of being represented on these types of shows or by a specific celebrity? Thanks for indulging my curiosity!

    1. 34 (could there be more?)*

      As long as we know that the celebrity is advocating and fundraising for us, we can do a better job managing the donations and inquiries. If it’s unknown you can imagine that we’re on the busy end of wondering what the heck is going on.

      Also if the celebrity isn’t familiar with our work, using only their words based on experience or simply knowledge, they’re likely not to speak correctly about our work, or use improper or inaccurate language. We’d prefer to have them use a guide we’ve provided and let them make it sound natural to them.

      Most non-profits aren’t big enough to have an internal team. The likely staff would be the Executive Director and a Communications person, perhaps a Board member, if there’s a relationship or need back-up. It’d be even better if a Board member with PR and/or communications was on deck to help, too. If the non-profit knows it’s much better and we’d like to assume the network would reach out to work with the non-profit to manage communications and PR.

      IF the organization is aware of the representation in media, the non-profit should have a say if that person best reflects their work and ‘approve’ of their role/advocacy. Any decent celebrity would make that happen. I imagine some non-profits have opted out, but that would have to be self-identifying; I can’t speak of any. This is like when a corporate wants to raise funds for us; with Habitat we denied anything not aligned with our ecumenical faith-based foundation. The repercussions of having a bad rep, for any activity, can be devastating AND costly. That non-profit has to run interference, spending time on PR mitigation and crisis management vs the mission or their people.

      The sudden awareness can be overwhelming and that’s why non-profits have to have internal processes to manage the influx of donations, track/manage them, acknowledge them, and then steward them for future giving. There are many opportunities in those gifts but so many non-profits aren’t equipped to manage the data, information and experience.

      Signed: 23 years in non-profit – all roles and positions.

      1. Just Here for the Cake*

        All of what “34 (could there be more?)” said! One thing I’d add is bigger non-profits that have dedicated fundraising staff (like the shop I work in) will actually court bigger donation opportunities, including celebrities playing for charity. There is a big focus on this type of relationship building for bigger gifts!

        1. MsM*

          And a lot of celebrities who care about charity will have specific advisors who are knowledgeable in the field and handle the direct interfacing with the organization.

    2. Food Banker*

      I agree, the biggest thing is going to be having a conversation first! My nonprofit is in a fortunate position to be able to decline fundraising if the celebrity could bring negative attention to us, but in general we’d want to give them a quick rundown of what we actually do, some language we like to use or avoid, and any big controversies we’re currently facing that they should be prepared for.

      For example, I work for a food bank (hence the name), and a lot of untrained people talking about food banking can be inadvertently really dehumanizing towards the people who use our services. We also got picked up by some right-wing news agencies who have been publicizing that we don’t give food to white people (obviously untrue, but people believe what they want to). Someone who’s going to be promoting our work should know about those so they know how to do it best.

      It’s also super frustrating when we get calls or emails with questions about a fundraiser we didn’t know about! I’ve gotten people calling me and asking what time an event starts or why we’re affiliating ourselves with XYZ, and had no idea what that’s about! But as long as we know about it, it’s super helpful.

      1. 34 (could there be more?)*

        I, too, work (unemployed right now) in food banking. ” and a lot of untrained people talking about food banking can be inadvertently really dehumanizing towards the people who use our services.” Sadly true.

        “It’s also super frustrating when we get calls or emails with questions about a fundraiser we didn’t know about!” totally. I worked in gift processing and acknowledgments so knowing why we’re receiving gifts was important to attribute, tracking, and revenue development.

  17. Robert E. O. Speedwagon*

    A continuation of my new job saga from a couple of weeks ago:
    – I took the job interview with the larger firm. I ended up not taking a whole sick day, but still letting my boss know I had a doctor appointment in the morning (which I did, and went to) and then just stuck around my apartment for a little bit after the appointment for the interview. I didn’t lie to them – I told them that I did just start a new position, but elements of the work environment, specifically the fact that my boss smokes, made me second guess my decision to work here and seek employment elsewhere. The interview was with the team I would ostensibly be working with, three lawyers and another paralegal, staggered into two half hours of two interviews each, one with two lawyers and one with the third lawyer and the paralegal. The paralegal told me that she’d been with the firm going on 2…3? years now (some number between 20 and 25 that I can’t recall now. I believe it was 23.) which made me feel good about applying and working with this team. I thought I had applied for their Project Finance team, but I interviewed with (and am apparently being considered for) their Housing team. All fine to me. I think it went well, I emailed immediately afterwards to thank them and the COO who scheduled it and who’s been my main point of contact. When I emailed the COO yesterday for a follow-up and to express my continued interest, she told me she would contact me once she circled back with the team, so I’m still waiting on that.

    – In the meanwhile here, my boss is still cantankerous and still smokes. He told me that he wants me to come into his office more often, but every time I do it’s not a good time for him and I’m waved off, sometimes more forcefully than others (today it was with “Goddamn it leave me alone for a bit”). I’m starting to feel some minor health things from the smoke, I think – my throat is dry and my eyes are irritated by the end of the day, in ways that I didn’t feel before working here. He also used a quite uncomfortable (though not prima facie NSFW) phrase on a call with a client: “Statistics are like ladies of the night, once you get them down you can do anything to them,” which made my skin crawl and solidified my need for another job literally anywhere else as soon as possible.

    So anyway.

    TL;DR boss still bleh, interview seemed promising.

      1. Robert E. O. Speedwagon*

        Yeah. Helps to hear it from outsiders, though, y’know what I mean? Like *I* know my boss is gross but it’s validating to tell this to strangers and have them also say “Your boss is gross.”

        1. goddessoftransitory*

          Be assured, he is gross and I would never want him between me and the door.

        2. Jaydee*

          So gross. Sadly not shocking (almost 20 years as a lawyer and I don’t find much of anything shocking anymore). But definitely gross.

    1. Stuart Foote*

      I’ve had co-workers who smoked outside and it was still pretty gross when they came back with the cigarette smoke on their clothes…I can’t imagine working with someone who smokes indoors. One whiff of smoke and my eyes are scratchy for the next few hours.

      1. NotRealAnonForThis*

        OOof. I had a boss at OldOldJob who smoked. In the office. He wasn’t the only one. This was recent enough that when smoking was outlawed in “public buildings”, he actually retained legal counsel to verify that “privately owned buildings” were not covered. (Folks, this is why my state specifically wrote a second law a few years later that said it was not legal to inflict second-hand smoke on your employees.)

        I was laid-off when my department was closed. I took my entire wardrobe to be dry cleaned, twice, then gave up and replaced most of it. It took six months of regular cleanings to get the stench out of my vehicle. I could smell normally again. I stopped getting tonsilitis every 6 weeks. I stopped needing my rescue inhaler.

        Gross doesn’t begin.

    2. Ama*

      As someone who is very sensitive to cigarette smoke (gives me an instant migraine and runny nose, on top of the itchy throat and eyes), all you would have to say to me in an interview is “I didn’t realize until my first day that my boss smokes in the office,” and I’d totally get it.

    3. Lawyer advice*

      I followed your postings a couple weeks ago. Wishing you all the luck in landing a new role. If the one you interviewed for doesn’t pan out, keep looking for other jobs. Working with a chain-smoking, mercurial, inconsistent crank is exhausting and demoralizing. Meanwhile, learn what you can about the work, procedures, and process so you leave with something, even if that thing is “how not to do something.” There are better lawyers out there than this guy.

    4. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      Oh god, your boss is a disgusting creep.
      He physically and figuratively is a toxic stink.
      Put your job hunt into top gear.

      1. Robert E. O. Speedwagon*

        Yeah, that’s what I’m doing. I’m wondering though, for other job openings (in case the one I just interviewed with falls through), should I put this job on my resume for how short a time I’ve been here?

    5. Bast*

      You know that song 1985 by Bowling for Soup? It sounds like he’s still stuck in 1985… or earlier. I’ve worked in some pretty ugh law offices (almost like Mean Girls) but this guy crosses into a different territory than even I am used to.

      1. Robert E. O. Speedwagon*

        “Still stuck in 1985” is pretty spot on for how I would put it. He wants the other paralegal here and I to print out every email he gets so that he can physically read them and then tell us how to respond from his email account, which in light of everything else is much more tolerable but I think most indicative of how he runs the office and what he’s like as a person and lawyer.

    6. BikeWalkBarb*

      That comment absolutely *was* prima facie NSFW. Shaming sex workers and revealing that he thinks women are just objects to be used both fall into that category. (I’d also doublecheck any statistics he provides, for that matter.)

      You’re right to want out and I’m sorry you’re stuck there for a while. Good luck!

    7. Jinni*

      As a (former) practicing attorney I have to wonder HOW he gets away with smoking inside???? Does he own the building? I have a friend whose tenant just left and doing smoking remdiation is an entire (costly) thing…

      Anyway…good luck with the new job prospects!

    8. The Magician's Auntie*

      Echoing what everyone else is saying!
      Also adding: If it was me, I’d consider (??) keeping my reason-for-leaving as neutral as possible by saying that a close co-worker who shares my space smokes in the office (and has a mandate to – ie, it’s not going to change.) I’d consider not specifically mentioning my boss, because it could sounding critical of the boss? And any whiff of boss-criticism isn’t ideal for an interview, when they have so little to go on and will be mining your chat for clues about your character.
      (I’m all for appropriate criticism of a boss, but not in an interview.)
      I know, though, that there may be factors that mean it’s better to be specific that it’s your boss.

  18. Burnt out or Lazy*

    I’m starting to realize how long the after effects of burnout can be. I left my old job about a year and a half ago. It was a pretty terrible environment and I was doing the work of about 5 different people (not an exaggeration although I wish it was). I was unfortunately not able to take a long break between roles because I had to relocate and ended up having a medical emergency my last week at my former job, the recovery time from that ate up basically all of my “break” in between jobs.

    When I first started here I was excited about the role, and objectively I still am. Like the work I get to do here is better and the people are great. But my problem is that I just don’t care as much as I think I should. I’m a relatively high level manager for our branch and I can fake enthusiasm with the best of them when I need to but as soon as I get to be “off” I get very apathetic and I just don’t put in a ton of effort.

    I don’t know how my low effort really stacks up against my peers because I was going so hard for so long that taking my foot off the gas at all feels lazy, but I see others at my level struggling with their workload and working a ton of extra hours while I have a lot more time to just chill in my office. My work is getting done on time and my boss seems pleased and gives me good feedback, but there’s are almost full days where I turn up to the office and only have to put in about 3 hours of actual work. I don’t want to volunteer to take on more because I worry about getting myself back into the same situation I was in previously. I keep feeling like if I could just take a month off to get my head on straight everything would be better, but that’s not feasible for a number of reasons and to be honest I know I’m prone to general laziness so I don’t think it would actually solve the issue.

    Has anyone out there struggled with something similar? Am I crazy?

    1. Pinta*

      I honestly don’t know how helpful this is, but assuming you’re in the US, I think another way of framing this feeling is that it isn’t about any individual’s burnout or laziness, but it’s that we are becoming more and more aware of the flaws in the system — it’s not YOU. The entire set-up of modern work has continued to include the required effort from the employees, but has been eroding core outcomes for the employees. Even for those of us who are fortunate to have work that is engaging or exciting, and compensated fairly on paper, it is harder to keep up with the rate of inflation and increases in cost of living, harder to pursue things like home ownership (if that’s your jam), harder to manage expectations about being available in the digital age when emails can reach us during the evenings and weekends, and harder to feel secure about retirement or about being able to absorb an unexpected emergency.

    2. Bunny Girl*

      You don’t need to be “excited” about your job. It’s a job. You do things for them in exchange for money to live. Your boss is happy with your work. It doesn’t sound like you hate it. Don’t go above and beyond for anything unless it’s something you really, really want. It’s totally fine for your job to not be something you’re crazy passionate about, regardless of whether or not you’ve experience burnout before.

      I work in a field driven by passionate people. I have to have multiple side gigs. Get yours and enjoy your life outside of work with things you are passionate about.

    3. ferrina*

      YES! That’s my life right now. I love my job, it plays to my strengths, but there are certain days I just can’t even. My boss is very pleased with my work, and I get pretty good feedback from others (I think there’s some people that know I’m sort of stumbling through at the moment, but most are very happy).

      I had/have some heavy-duty burnout from years of burning the candle at both ends. It can take a long time to get back to feeling like yourself. And that’s not a reflection on you- some injuries just take a long time to heal. And it’s not like life comes with a pause button.

      Be good to yourself, do what you need to, and let yourself heal. If you feel like you are getting stuck or losing interest in other aspects of life, therapy or a screening for depression may be in order (apathy and exhaustion can both be symptoms of depression, even if other symptoms aren’t present). But if you are feeling otherwise okay, just be gentle to yourself and give yourself a year of recuperating.

      1. ferrina*

        Also- avoid the word “lazy”. “Lazy” is often a lie, and it’s often applied to people who are investing in their own mental health. I’m ADHD and have cPTSD, and I used to describe myself as “the most hardworking and energetic lazy person you’ve ever met.” In truth, I did things in an unconventional way and didn’t spend my energy in ways people expected. For example, rather than just running the report manually for an hour each week, I would spend 4 hours in one week figuring out how to automate the report so I could spend 15 minutes on it in the future. I was “lazy” for “playing around with my computer”– or in another word, “innovative”. People called me “lazy” as a way to try to get me to spend my energy in the way they wanted. People also liked to call me “lazy” when I was actually dealing with mental health issues- and dealing with mental health can take a lot of energy. It’s a wellness exercise. No one would call you “lazy” for going to the gym or the physical therapist, and we need to extend that same understanding for our mental health.

        er….thanks for coming to my TED talk.

        1. A Girl Named Fred*

          (applause for the TED talk)

          +1000 to all of this, I was trying to figure out how to phrase it but ferrina put it much better than I could.

        2. Higher Ed Cube Farmer*

          Cosigning ferrina.

          Paraphrasing one physical trainer closely, and a number of experts in disciplines ranging from psychology to ergonomics to child development to organizational leadership more loosely … “There is no such thing as ‘lazy’ — there is only disinterest, resistance, fatigue, or ability limitations.” ‘Lazy’ is just the word that means someone thinks you should be doing more; it doesn’t mean they’re right.

          1. Justin*

            And then even within those there’s nuances. There’s legitimate resistance, and there’s people who are super privileged and entitled and don’t want to do certain things. Unfortunately, that behavior is lumped in with neurodivergent folks not doing things the “normal” way (as ferrina explained)

          2. Cyborg Llama Horde*

            I haven’t read Devon Price’s “Laziness Does Not Exist,” but his other book that I did read was very good, and I assume that one is, too. (And if you don’t want to read a whole book, search “Devon Price Lazy NPR” and get the cliff notes NPR article, which I have read.)

        3. JelloStapler*

          I recently read “Laziness Do Not Exist” by Devon Price, Ph. D. Awesome book that addresses a lot of what you said.

        4. goddessoftransitory*

          There’s a book called “Laziness Does Not Exist” about this very issue.

    4. Not your trauma bucket*

      I’ve been there. You’re not crazy.
      It took me 18 months to really recover in a very similar situation. If it helps, everyone at my new job was perfectly content with the work I was doing. You’re learning to redefine “productive” right now. It feels like you’re slacking because it’s a reasonable effort rather than Herculean.
      Once I recovered, I quickly got back to being a superstar, only with much better boundaries. There’s hope. Be patient, and be kind to yourself.

    5. Ama*

      I will say that when I first got my workload back to a normal level after a couple years of being over capacity all the time I had a really hard time not feeling like I “wasn’t doing anything” because I actually had time to sit and think about projects before starting them, or put them aside to come back to them later instead of having to get something done every second.

      If you’ve been used to being overworked you also probably became very efficient at getting things done quickly, which is why it seems like you have so much extra time now, when you don’t have to move so fast. I also came to the realization that being really efficient at the kind of tasks that make up the bulk of my work is part of the reason *why* I wind up overworked so often so I’ve been training myself to slow down, and build in more proofreading and double checking time.

      The other realization I’ve come to that helped me: human beings are not meant to work at 100% capacity 100% of the time — down time is necessary in a job and it’s not lazy if you have a some lighter days, it means that when things get a little busier you’ll have space to accommodate that without going back into overwork mode.

      1. Burnt out or Lazy*

        I think part of my problem is that at my last job I was scheduled in meetings about 80-90% of the day. Like I would get in have half an hour to catch up on email and then be in meetings with the occasional 5-10 minute break until lunch, come back from lunch and be scheduled until the day was over. And sometimes I’d have meetings after hours or over lunch because my boss was in a different time zone.

        So I got really really used to feeling like doing my job was to be actively involved in meetings, and that the downtime in between was when I would take a moment to breathe. My new role doesn’t have me nearly as scheduled most of the time so my brain sees that as “breathing” time. It’s almost like I’m still in school and the meetings are my classes. Sometimes I have work that needs to get done in between but a lot of the time I don’t.

    6. Ellen Ripley*

      This line really stood out to me: “as soon as I get to be “off” I get very apathetic and I just don’t put in a ton of effort”.

      It reminds me of myself, recovering from major burnout. Basically what my therapist thought it was (and what felt true to me) is that my stress tolerance got all out of wack. My brain used to have a normal baseline/homeostasis. When stressful things would happen, I’d get stressed but I’d deal with them, then recover quickly and get back to my baseline of generally feeling okay.

      During and after burnout, I will have really high levels of stress (often anxiety-driven productivity, like deadlines), followed by really low levels of feeling exhausted and apathetic (where I get basically nothing done). I don’t spend much time in the healthy middle ground. It’s hard to accomplish tasks and stay focused on work in a meaningful way at both levels. So the “working a few hours and also having a lot of hours where I’m doing no work at all” is a big part of my struggle. I burned out in grad school over 2 years ago and am still recovering, it takes time so don’t feel bad!

      Funnily enough I am also considered a high performer at work. Hold onto that: even with your non traditional working style, you are doing a good job and getting good feedback, so don’t judge yourself too harshly! I totally understand the thoughts like “wasted potential”, “but I could really do much better if I could stay focused”, etc, but remember you’re doing a sufficient job as it is, anything on top is gravy

      “Being lazy” is generally enjoying the time you’re taking for yourself… do you find it fun being in your office at work and not working? (Legitimate question!) It’s easy to call ourselves lazy, but truly when you want to do the tasks and are having a hard time with that, it’s struggling, not laziness. There is some barrier in the way, not some flaw in your character.

      Also I completely understand needing time off and not being able to get it. The things I worked on with my therapist are:

      (1) Can you actually not take time off? Look at your coworkers, do they use vacation time? Are you putting up a wall for yourself because you’re afraid of asking for time off? Or feel like you don’t deserve it? Or that it’s never a good time? Some food for thought.

      (2) Even if you can’t take off the full month that you’d like to, can you take off 2 weeks? 1 week? It may not fully recharge your battery, but it will likely recharge it part way!

      (3) Look into “types of rest”. Even if we can’t get the super long break we need, we can maximize our time off by making sure we get the type of rest we are craving.

      Last suggestion is therapy, if you’re able. It’s really helpful to have someone supportive who you can talk over your feelings with! It’s okay to need help and support, you’re worthy of it!

      Anyway not sure if any of this will resonate with you, but wanted to share just in case, since I’ve had to deal with burnout as well.

      1. Burnt out or Lazy*

        I don’t particularly enjoy being in my office and not working because I feel like I could be not in my office and not working. Like I could be doing something else I enjoy with the time I’m sitting at my desk trying to come up with ways to be productive.

        The wasted potential thing speaks to me on a visceral level. I’m definitely in the “burned out former gifted kid who also happens to be an eldest daughter” bucket. So if I’m not excelling that’s not acceptable to me. I think to the outside world I probably am excelling. I’m pretty far ahead career wise from most of my friends, and that may be part of the problem because I just don’t see a path forward that doesn’t involve even more stress.

        Not being able to take the time off is not a lack of willingness at all. My company has no problem with employees using their vacation time and I’ve never left any on the table, even when I was working a high stress job. I just don’t get a lot of vacation days, and most of it is spoken for with some life/family events this year. I probably won’t get to take a whole week in a row off again until 2026.

    7. Buffy*

      I’ve been in your shoes, and for me a big part of being able to recover from burnout and fully feel comfortable in a new role (where I get paid more to do less in a way less stressful environment) was also recognizing that the situation that made me burnt out was Not Good and that this feeling different is Good, Actually. When I started my new job, I was very aware that I was putting in a lot less of my time & energy on tasks but still getting really good feedback…this felt unearned to me because I wasn’t working hard enough to deserve compliments, but I had to remind myself that the standard of “working hard enough” had made me sick and miserable and that was the whole reason I left the other place.

      I think it’s natural to seek out a break when you’ve been burned out for a long time, but also you might have to recalibrate your internal sense of what’s “lazy” if that makes sense

  19. Not Jobless (Yet)*

    I shared in another open thread that I think my boss is trying to make me quit. I’m terrified because I have some health conditions that are preventing me from getting a new job. That might be better in a few months, but then again it might get worse. Long story short, she wants to micromanage me, but she doesn’t understand my job, so that’s going about as well as you can imagine. She also doesn’t listen when I talk and she doesn’t like the work I do.

    One thing that’s really going to be a problem is that she wants me to use free software instead of using the software that’s appropriate for my job. She hasn’t taken away my software, but she’s very persistent and I’m sure it’s going to be a bigger issue soon, so I’m going to write an email to her and HR about why this is not okay.

    I’m unhappy about the whole situation because I’ve had more than my share of unreasonable bosses, this whole year has been a raging dumpster fire, and I don’t need to be dealing with a chaos demon boss and possibly being jobless on top of everything else.

    If anyone has any advice for staying calm and dealing with the situation in a mature, adult manner, please let me know.

    1. ferrina*

      I am so sorry. This is a sucky position to be in. A few thoughts, in no particular order:

      – Play to your boss’s ego. Logic will not work. Reason will not work. So help your boss feel useful. Consult your boss on low-stakes questions where she can’t screw up. Ask her for her strategy. Make it sound like she’s the mastermind and you are just executing her wishes. It sounds hokey, but I have had it work for several bad bosses. Particularly ones that had no idea what I did- I would launch technical babble at them, then turn with a wide-eyed stare and say “I’m really not sure what to do- should I do Option A or Option B?” In reality I was fine with either option. But the Boss would make the call, feel smart, and I’d thank them. It helps them feel useful *shrug* Your boss has made it clear that to her, your job is to emotionally soothe her, and your actually job is second priority. Is that right? No, but that’s irrelevant. Play by the rules you’ve been given until you can get out (and make sure that you are working toward getting out).

      – Disengage. You know you won’t be allowed to do good work, and you know that your role won’t be allowed to grow. So emotionally un-invest. The goal is to get a paycheck and survive the crazy, which you are doing! It’s a tough thing, and you deserve to feel proud of each day that you get through and each time you disengage.

      – Low key job search. Pick a couple days a week and spend just a couple hours sending out applications. Goal of 2-3 applications per week. If you get lucky, you’re getting out. If you aren’t lucky, well, it’s just a few hours per week. And a low-key search gives you time to be picky about your next job rather than taking the first thing that comes along. This is also a great way to job search when you don’t have many spoons- just a couple applications a week can be a major win, and it gives the universe the opportunity to give you something good (hopefully the universe cooperates).

      – Separate your work from other aspects of your life. Spend time doing things you love. Have a recurring event that you do. Go out with friends. Don’t talk about your job more than you need to- if someone asks, roll your eyes and say “My boss thinks she should always be top of mind, so I try to avoid thinking about her as much as possible. But can I tell you about [Movie/Book/Event]? I am dying to tell someone about it!”

      Good luck, and I hope things get better for you soon!

    2. ecnaseener*

      If you haven’t already sent that email, I would just consider whether including HR is likely to be any help — unless there’s context I’m missing (HR handles software purchasing at your workplace, the software is an accommodation for you, it’s HR-related software, etc), that strikes me as an odd thing to loop them in on. I worry you would just give your boss the impression that you’re trying to “get her in trouble,” and with no benefit to you. If you just want it documented that your boss seems to be trying to manage you out, you can always forward the email to HR without copying your boss.

      1. Tio*

        Yeahg, I might go to her boss instead of HR – HR would not be where I think this would get handled.

    3. Kay*

      I don’t say this to be harsh, but the reaction of sending an email to HR and your boss about taking your software away not being okay sounds like such a strange path (maybe there is context I’m missing) that I wonder about the rest.

      You sound like you are so far into the situation that a more reasoned approach didn’t occur to you. Taking a big step back and looking at the situation as objectively as possible might help re-center expectations or highlight a new possible path, even if that is simply – survive till I can get out.

      1. Ellen Ripley*

        I don’t think it’s too far of a step depending on the details. If boss says “we don’t need software X, you can use the free version instead” and OP is responding “no, I need software X to do my job, for these reasons…”, then boss says the same thing again multiple times, she’s making it clear that she is going to take away the necessary software, regardless of what OP says.

        I would be really concerned if that was imminent, and would escalate. Maybe to the grand boss rather than HR though.

        1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

          Yes, feels like OP is being set up to fail in their role, or underperform. That is a HR issue.

          1. Not Jobless (Yet)*

            That’s what I think is happening. She’s not doing an official PIP, but she’s “coaching” me and documenting. She is also trying to make me look bad with innocuous normal things. And of course I did make a mistake on something, so I’m sure she will use that against me. I really think she wants to replace me with one of her former staff, but for some reason she doesn’t want to fire me. She’s very stubborn, but I also am stubborn, and I have some experience dealing with irrational people at work, so we’ll see who wins.

        2. Kay*

          I’m not saying the situation isn’t concerning, I’m saying “I’m going to email HR” as an initial solution is, and it raises other concerns.

          A more level headed approach would be something like – taking it to a grandboss, or at least acknowledging HR wasn’t the first stop. Therefore, it is probably best that the OP get an another perspective – mentor, trusted colleague, grandboss – before doing anything else.

          1. Not Jobless (Yet)*

            I wanted to send this info to my HR rep because I talked to him about this situation. It’s partly documentation, and partly to keep him informed. He thought I should try using the free software (which I have, so I do know what I’m talking about).

            Unfortunately the head of this whole organization is good buddies with my boss, which is how she got the job (without even doing an interview or any kind of competitive process). I won’t get any help from that direction.

            1. Kay*

              So you tried the free software after your HR rep suggested it, or you were familiar with the software before? If you were aware of it before – what did your HR rep say when you told them you were familiar and it wouldn’t work because (x, y and z functions that are essential to your job that the free software won’t do)? On that note, what are the reasons you need the not-free software, and have you made that case to your boss? If not, I would do that, but I would also have individual conversations with your boss and your HR person. Unless HR is involved with the relationship between you and your boss, a joint email seems like an adversarial way to go about this.

              Regardless of all of the above – it sounds like you need to find a new job or transfer from under this boss. So, you can simply think of it as you getting paid to show up at a place for X rate to do whatever they ask you to, regardless of whether you might find what they are asking of you to be ridiculous.

    4. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      Don’t quit; make her fire you if she really wants you gone. At least you’d get unemployment pat and maybe even severance.
      Meanwhile, ramp up that job hunt into top gear and invest any spare energy into that – people with disabilities do get hired if they have skills in demand or even just a really good cover letter & resume. it might also help you stay calm if you can see a way out

      1. Not Jobless (Yet)*

        This is my plan–I’m hanging in there as long as I can. I probably won’t get unemployment because I live in a state that’s very ungenerous with unemployment benefits. I don’t think she’ll do anything that would be egregiously bad, so I probably won’t sue, but I haven’t ruled that out.

    5. Mid*

      For the staying calm part—never respond in the moment (if at all possible.) Always wait a while before replying/responding to something that is frustrating you. If you can, have someone whose professionalism you trust review your emails/responses before sending them. Or at least reread your own emails before sending them to your boss, to make sure your frustration isn’t showing through (much) and you’re keeping things professional. And then try to grey rock as much as possible. Depersonalize this. If Boss is doing things that make your job more difficult/impossible, document and explain that, but try to separate yourself from this job. When she makes your job impossible, then you’re getting paid to do nothing. Don’t let it feel like a personal attack (even when it is.) It’s not easy! But you can do this.

    6. Rain*

      Apologies If this has already been suggested- I didn’t have time to read all the comments. If this is something for which you can get an ADA medical accommodation, you should do so as soon as possible.

      It won’t prevent her from trying to push you out, but it will make it a lot more difficult.

  20. Her name was Lola*

    Vindication of sorts. I mean I’m still unemployed.

    Two months ago I left my beloved non-profit role due to the new Director. They’d been on staff for a few months when I left to allow them to find someone who would succeed under their poor management. If I had only waited two months! Well, that boss is leaving. They made it 6 months.

    They came with a Rolodex and exhortations of being able to raise money. They were a know-it-all all x 100. Unfortunately, they had more consult experience than W2 and were also running their own business and either employed with or consulting with a professional organization, too.

    No one listened to me. No one cared that I was experiencing what I was under their distracted and uncaring hands. No one called a meeting, or let me call one, to discuss the issues; CEO/CHR preferred them over me. ‘Give them grace. Time to settle in.’ This person wasn’t going to settle in. They never stopped looking at their phone because so many other people needed them.

    Even worse, the team member they hired is likely to leave, too. That person is too young, and inexperienced not to have a Director at their side.

    This is now the second year in a row that this organization will start a fiscal year without a full development team, including a Director.

    1. Frustrated Fundraiser*

      Are you going to apply for the director position? maybe they will listen to you now.

      1. MsM*

        Nah. At best, that’ll last until CEO gets sucked in by someone else promising miracles or a new shiny way of doing things.

        Here’s hoping you find a place with sensible people in charge of making the big decisions soon, Lola.

        1. Her name was Lola*

          Thanks. I’d be surprised that the CEO lasts much longer themselves. Before I left, we lost (2) C-suite’rs. There’s no way to start another FY behind the development 8-ball.

      2. Her name was Lola*

        I don’t want to be a Director otherwise I would have applied last year when the whole issue started (we also lost 2 other staff members at the same time).

        I’d contemplate an interim position for my role that they haven’t backfilled yet. I can pretty much do everything, within reason. I have a great relationship with accounting, who I worked with everyday. But I’d be in the power position and could dictate the terms. But I highly doubt they’d ask and I’m not suggesting.

        At this point, the CEO should be nervous about their future.

    2. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      Another example of why it’s best to just switch off caring about a single bad manager or coworker and not to quit without a new job (unless the current job is making you ill): Often that person moves on – with/without a push from above – expecially if new and a really bad fit.
      It’s a different situation to when there are multiple sources of unhappiness

      1. Tio*

        It really depends though – sometimes those people stay in those roles for ages, if senior leaders have really bought in. It can be a real dice roll on whether you’ll outlast them or not.

      2. Her name was Lola*

        I don’t care about being unemployed. Like the other poster said, you don’t know when they’ll leave – could be years of ‘switching off’ which isn’t how I want to work and engage with my co-workers. I want my boss to be more than a perfunctory being that I have to deal with. That’s not for me.

    3. M2*

      I think you need to let it go. Things happen. I think it is also a lesson in wait and see. Give someone grace (even if they are or seem unqualified for the role unless they are abusive) and wait 6 months-1 year. Because see now they are gone!

      I had a boss who came in thinking everything needed changing like a tornado. She yelled and made people cry. Many people left. I waited it out (had no other choice) and she finally got the memo and figured it out. She got better, apologized to people and was still a micromanager but not as bad as before. The powers over her did not renew her (long contract), but staying actually was better than just quitting. People who quit were all just as miserable elsewhere since they jumped so fast. Those of us who tailored our next move were much much happier.

      This is not to say to stay somewhere when the boss is abusive or rude or doing illegal activities (dont), but if they are just bad they will make their own bed. Just wait and apply for roles while you wait because maybe they will quit or be let go! Many executive roles have 6-12 month probationary period for this reason.

      1. Her name was Lola*

        oh I’m very happy right looking for something, in the comfort of my home, vs dealing with her and the general dysfunction just beyond the team. I’m on dry land.

        1. Raia*

          I’m proud of you for quitting to care for yourself when you weren’t getting support. Dry land is a lovely place to spring forward from!

  21. Is it Friday yet?*

    HSA strategies – I’ve heard here in the comments a few times that people use their health spending accounts in strategic ways. Can you share your strategy?

    On my part, I did not realize this was even a thing. I have a high deductible plan, get money from work in my account, and then use it for medical bills or expenses as soon as they crop up. When I have more saved up, I make appointments for what I’d consider more optional things.

    But now I’m curious. If you invest that money (I’m guessing the cash isn’t automatically invested?), can you readily access it for medical bills? If you don’t use it except for emergencies, I saw a few people mention saving their medical invoices for years for future needs – how does this work? And there are probably other ways to use this account I’m not even aware of.

    1. lost academic*

      What do you mean by invest? I assume you mean that the money is deposited in the HSA (and it is automatic from your paycheck/employer typically) and then it would become available. You can frontload the deposit of the money as opposed to distributing it as a small deduction throughout the year (I feel like you have the fully allocated balance available immediately but I haven’t ever been in a position to have that be a problem). It’s readily accessible for covered expenses – we usually use the FSA or HSA card the provider gives us, which in some cases you don’t need to submit a receipt to back up (e.g. specific pharmacies), and sometimes you do, but we save them just in case. There are cases where you can submit old expenses to your current HSA but there are rules, including whether or not you included it as an itemized deduction on your taxes the year it was incurred, and your HSA had to have already existed when you claim the older expense.

      You might want to consult a tax professional.

      1. Missa Brevis*

        Based on my own, once an HSA is over a certain balance, you can invest some of that money instead of just leaving it sit in the HSA. I haven’t tried it myself, though mine reminds me I have the option every time I log in to my account page.
        Not sure what you mean about saving the medical invoices, though.

        1. Is it Friday yet?*

          So I’ve received emails saying the HSA money can be used for medical expenses OR investing – I have not explored what that entails, was hoping someone here may have done that and can share how that works with being able to use the money later.

          And regarding medical receipts, someone a few weeks ago in an unrelated comment said they pay out of pocket if they can but keep the receipts, I was thinking it meant that in the future if they needed the money, they would submit for reimbursement? But what you’re saying about taxes and needing to have had the HSA that year, seems like it’d require some level of tracking for tax purposes.

          1. Hlao-roo*

            I am about to start investing some of the money in my HSA, so I can answer a few of your questions.

            My general strategy: keep the amount of my deductible in cash in my HSA, mostly for medical emergencies/unexpectedly high medical care. Invest the rest of the money with the goal to use it for medical expenses later in life/during retirement.

            Money deposited in an HSA is not automatically invested. You have to manually invest the money, and can only do that after you hit the investment threshold for the account.

            Is invested money readily available for medical bills? I’m just starting out and I plan to let my investments sit, so I don’t have experience with this one. My guess is that you would need to sell off your investments in your HSA to convert them back to cash before you could withdraw them to pay the medical bills.

            1. Is it Friday yet?*

              I like the strategy of keeping enough for your deductible in cash. Thanks for sharing!

              1. Hillary*

                My goal was to eventually have my out of pocket maximum in my HSA – it made me feel more secure to know the worst case scenario was covered.

    2. Kay*

      You can typically invest whatever money is in your HSA account – it is like the stock market/a brokerage fund. You have to decide when to make the purchases/sales, pick the funds, etc. Most give you access to analytic tools to help you make that choice. I think you are limited on what you can buy.

      The profits (and the money deposited into an HSA) are 100% tax free.

      If you need to access it, you need to be aware it is the same as needing to access money you have in the stock market. The stock price can be up, or it can be down. If you know you will need to access that money, you may want to keep some in cash, and invest the rest – or be okay with taking a loss if the market is down.

      After a certain age, that I recall being lower than other retirement limits, you can use the money in your HSA account for ANYTHING.

      So – I personally plan to simply use my HSA account as a tax free investing device since I can afford to pay for any medical bills that come up, I need the tax write off, and I can afford to hold out for any market corrections if the fund is performing at a loss.

      1. Is it Friday yet?*

        Interesting! This is the kind of info I’m interested in, thanks for sharing!

    3. HSA fan*

      I am using my HSA primarily as a retirement savings account for future medical expenses, but also paying current expenses. I also invest HSA funds.

      Investing the funds: This is usually an option once the HSA has a certain minimum balance. Investment options are typically mutual funds; the options associated with our HSAs are Vanguard mutual funds. Depending on your HSA provider, you can self-manage your investments or pay a slightly higher fee for investment assistance. To access the invested funds for medical bills, you just need to initiate a sale of investments and it takes a couple of days for the money to become available for you to use. This can all be done through your HSA online platform.

      Saving invoices: We intended from the beginning of being on a high-deductible plan and having an HSA to use these accounts as an additional way to save for retirement, specifically medical expenses in retirement. We put the max allowable into the HSAs each year and limit how much we spend on medical expenses each year, saving the rest. For expenses that exceed our self-defined limit, we just pay for them and then save the invoices for later. The reason for saving the invoices is if you want or need to access the HSA funds at a later date, you can then “reimburse” yourself years later. This maintains the federal tax advantage of having the HSA for medical expenses.

      An example of how saving invoices for medical expenses not paid by your HSA can help: My husband passed away in February and had a nice balance in his HSA. I don’t want to deal with two HSAs moving forward, so I paid all of his final medical expenses plus some of my current expenses from his HSA. I also reimbursed myself for medical equipment we had to buy last year and did not use the HSA. I was glad to have those receipts and once I am sure the final medical expenses are done, I will reimburse myself for additional older expenses and then close the account.

      1. HSA101*

        Interesting. Is this new? I haven’t had an HSA in a while, but when I did I was always told it was strictly for an approved set of medical expenses.

        1. HSA fan*

          Eligible HSA expenses may have been expanded with the Affordable Care Act, but I’m not sure.

    4. Tio*

      I didn’t invest, but one way you can use extra HSA funds in addition to regular medical items is a lot of OTC items and drugs, like painkillers, menstrual products, and even some devices. I used it to get a pulse oximeter (which was recommended by my doctor for reasons, but nothing I had a note for or anything.) If you ever buy anything from the pharmaceutical are, you can request reimbursement for a lot of it – I think Walgreens still marks commonly eligible items on the receipt. Just make sure you save the receipts!

    5. Parenthesis Guy*

      Some people use an HSA as an emergency fund. The idea is that when you rack up $2k in expenses, you don’t submit it to the HSA right away. Instead, you pay out of pocket from your emergency fund. If you get an unexpected expense, then you submit the claim, get the payment from your HSA and use that cash for the expense.

      An HSA is triple tax advantaged so people use it for investments. That means you’re not taxed on money you put in, you’re not taxed on profits for investing and you’re not taxed when you take money out.

    6. Hillary*

      The money in your HSA has to be spent on eligible expenses, but it doesn’t have to be in the year you put it in (unlike an FSA). It’s not lose it or lose it.

      Folks mentioned the tax advantages – if it’s feasible it’s good to save as much as possible pre-tax (HSA, 401k, and traditional IRA) and take advantage of your employer’s matches. You’re basically getting 20% or more free. It’s a lot like regular bank accounts – the default is a checking account, but you can also open a money market account or invest.

      My strategy (back when I worked for someone else, now I have a startup and I’m not on an eligible insurance plan) was always to max out my HSA and then 401k. Most of my HSA savings were in a money market account – I don’t like picking stocks myself.

  22. Tenterhooks*

    I received a verbal job offer yesterday around noon. Tentatively accepted but asked to see benefits, etc. Then sent an email about 90 minutes later to confirm I happily  accept. I haven’t received any response! I did mention a start date and asked if that would work for them. (We had a brief discussion about when during the call). But I don’t want to give notice until I have something in writing confirming that we’re both on the same page. 
    Should I wait until Monday if I don’t hear back? But also, why wouldn’t I hear back even a simple, great! We’ll follow up soon with the paperwork? Acknowledgement of my email alone would be great (still wouldn’t give notice, but would feel less … untethered)

    1. EngGirl*

      Wait until Monday if you don’t get anything back. It’s entirely possible that your initial response got buried in their inbox and/or that they have today off. If you don’t hear back by like 3:00 your time I think you’d be ok to send a follow up email/call and just make it about how you’d love to have the paperwork to look over during the weekend.

    2. PotatoRock*

      Yes, you should definitely wait until Monday – honestly I’d wait longer – before following up! This is 100% a situation where the time feels longer on your side than on theirs. And congratulations!

    3. Tenterhooks*

      What if they mentioned they’d like me to start sooner rather than later? The longer they wait, the more time passes for me to give notice!

      1. Beemo*

        They have to know that you need to give notice, and will either know or understand why you needed to have a new job locked in before you gave your notice. You’re completely correct that it’s the longer THEY wait–they’re the ones holding up the show, so they can deal with any delay this causes. And honestly, one weekend is not much of a delay.

        I think the person above nailed it–time feels so much more pressing to you than it does to them.

      2. Antilles*

        That sort of phrasing is typically nothing more than a very broad indication of timeline, that they’re intending to resolve this on the order of weeks rather than months.

    4. lost academic*

      The new employer understands you can’t give notice until they have everything in writing unless they’re full on bananapants.

      I’m confused by one thing you said – you tentatively accepted pending the benefits but then the email 90 minutes later was… from you, or from them? If it was from you, they probably do assume you accepted in writing because email would count for most people these days, but also – if that’s true, that’s a little dicey, because you asked to see the benefits and then didn’t wait – so that’s going to make you feel conflicted if you see a problem and you want to try and get it rectified. Biggest advice I’d give is to note that your formal acceptance is contingent upon a written offer including benefit details, and definitely do NOT give notice until you get all that. (I might politely note in your follow up, and yeah, maybe Monday morning, that you wouldn’t be able to give notice or provide a start date until you’ve had those addressed.)

      Also this is urgent for you and it’s the foremost thing on your mind, but remember that hiring managers and HR have a LOT of hats to wear and they can’t necessarily drop everything to answer your emaol. Just be a little patient here.

      1. Tenterhooks*

        They sent the benefits info over immediately after the call and spoke to the department manager. (I’m good with the benefits info, etc.) I then sent a note 90 minutes later to confirm acceptance.

        I’m not giving notice until I have a formal written confirmation.

        1. Tenterhooks*

          To clarify, the benefit info was standard, so while not explicitly written out in connection with the position, it’s unlikely to be different.

        2. ApplesNOranges*

          So you formally accepted via email and now you are waiting for a confirmation from them in writing?

          Was there an offer letter that you signed? Or was it verbal > reviewed benefits > sent email saying ‘Looks good. I’ll work for you’?

          Sorry… just trying to understand the situation

            1. Tenterhooks*

              I haven’t received an offer letter. Just responded in writing following the verbal offer.

              1. ApplesNOranges*

                Gotcha… Then I’d follow up with them about the offer letter. And yes, I too would wait until getting that to give notice.

                My company sends both the offer letter and a semi detailed breakdown of benefits including health insurance immediately after the phone call to verbally offer a position.

                1. Cyborg Llama Horde*

                  It’s also very possible that the hiring manager is the person who wants you starting ASAP, but the people who send out the offer letter and set the start date are in some completely different department. (It would be good of them to send you some sort of acknowledgement, but I’m guessing you haven’t heard back because they’re waiting on someone else.)

              2. BikeWalkBarb*

                I work for a public agency. It takes us a while to get the formal offer letter processed through HR because they have lots and lots of items to process. I send a “formal” email to follow up on verbal offer/acceptance outlining the terms of the offer with salary, start date if we’ve already established that, other specifics like where they’ll be based because we’re very telework-forward. I’ve had one candidate say they couldn’t give notice until they had the formal HR letter and I had to push to get that done more quickly than usual because I’m one of thousands of potential customers for their time.

                All of which is to say it isn’t you, it’s them, and not even necessarily the them you’re working directly with depending on organization size.

        3. allx*

          Write again, saying you want to confirm that they received your acceptance and could they send a quick note acknowledging receipt, so you can get your notice period underway.

        4. Everything Bagel*

          I know this wasn’t your question, but I wouldn’t give notice until I’ve passed all of the background checks. Seriously, weird mistakes happen and you wouldn’t want to be denied the new job because of an error in the background check. In your next conversation with your new employer you could tell them that you are not giving notice until you’ve passed everything on their side and then you would need two weeks from that date, or whatever timing works for you and your new employer.

    5. Ama*

      My guess would be that they are trying to get things set up on the internal side, maybe waiting for HR to generate the offer letter or they’re trying to figure out internally when the best start date for you would be (I know I’ve had a few times where I and my new hire were both ready for them to start asap only for IT to tell me they wouldn’t be able to have a computer ready for them for another week). If you don’t hear from them by late afternoon I think it’s fine to just reply to your initial acceptance and say “just wanted to make sure my acceptance went through,” or something like that.

      1. The Real Fran Fine*

        +1, but I would give them until Monday afternoon to respond before replying back to confirm receipt of the job acceptance.

    6. Tenterhooks*

      I texted the department manager. They were having email issues. They’ll be sending over the paperwork later today or Monday. I’m ok with waiting, just felt it was odd that there was no acknowledgment and was worried that they might ghost me.

      We’ll see what the official word is and decide from there how/when to give notice.

      Appreciate everyone’s comments!

      1. The Real Fran Fine*

        Ah, I should’ve kept reading before posting, lol. Congrats on the new job!

  23. Long Long Nooo iiii tiicce*

    My last day in my role is 4 months out (gave a long notice about not being able to move). I’ve been open that I am wanting to stay at the company and find a new role.

    Since I gave notice though my boss has been on me. He’s constantly checking in on the status of items and gets upset if they aren’t further along. The most egregious example was that he assigned something to me at 8am, called me at 8:30 to address another topic, and at 3pm when the call ended asked “where are you on [8am assignment]?” and got irritated when I told him I hadn’t started yet.

    He has also taken me off all training, asked me not to attend company events, blocked me from webinars, and even tried to crack down on me looking at internal job postings and Dr. Apps. I guess I’ll mention here that I am salaried exempt and work a ton of OT (55-60/ hrs/week) so a 2 hour training or 1 hour webinar isn’t a significant detraction from my work.

    I put my foot down on the Dr apps and said I will be going to the Dr while I have insurance, period end of story. I’m also still checking the internal job board each day, I just don’t mention it to him anymore.

    I get that he is worried how the team will function without me and hasn’t gotten any quality applicants in a month, but at the same time I’ve been remote for 2 years and he has the power to let me stay on remotely too. I feel like it’s not ok to keep me from company related trainings, webinars, etc that are relevant to my role just because I’m leaving his team. I also don’t feel like it’s right to try and make it harder for me to internally network and apply to other roles to stay at the company.

    So am I off base or is he being the tyrant it feels like he’s being?

    1. WellRed*

      He’s being a tyrant because some people just don’t handle it well when people give notice. I’m not surprised he isn’t supportive of training for you. He’s mentally checked you off. Are you actually gaining any tractions landing another role at this company? You should be looking outside it as well if you aren’t. I’d also ask yourself why you are working the extra half weeks worth of unpaid overtime at this point.

      1. Long Long Nooo iiii tiicce*

        Thanks I appreciate the validation!

        I’ve had no bites I trrnally sadly, so be ramped up my internal networking with some mixed success but no interviews.

        I’m applying externally but the analyst and finance analyst realms are kind of crazy right now. One person in my network let me know that the only reason I wasn’t interviewed for one role, had all the hard skills + some desirable ones, was because they had over 200 applicants get through just the HR screening (So I am guessing a thousand or more total applicants) so they ultimately went with people who had direct industry experience in that specific department over my more varied analyst experience.

    2. CommanderBanana*

      He’s being ridiculous, but I feel like this is another cautionary tale about giving employers long notice periods.

      1. Long Long Nooo iiii tiicce*

        Thanks.

        In this case though it was good I gave the long notice because originally I was going to have to leave in 1 month but since I gave long notice and have played ball I got an special extension granted to me.

        But yes this is a lesson learned for me how dangerous long notice can be even with formally reasonable managers.

    3. Pool Noodle Barnacle Pen0s*

      He’s certainly not coming off great here (a SIX AND A HALF HOUR CALL?!) but I can’t say I fault him for taking you out of rotation for trainings. You told him you’re leaving. He’s really not obligated to keep developing you in a role you’re actively walking away from. The rest of it just sounds like he’s taking out his anxiety on you by being a garden variety jerk. Just keep reminding yourself there’s an end in sight, and try not to take it personally.

    4. M2*

      I am sorry. This is why so many people don’t give more than a 2 week notice.

      No one should be treated this way.

      I had someone give me a few months notice. I thanked them and said since they were leaving they did not need to come to x meetings but could if they wanted too. We started hand over and got things in order and tried to take work off their plate as we got closer to there departure so they could spend time packing/etc. There was communication on what was needed on both sides and because the team could see someone who gave so much notice was respected and part of the process more people have done it. Mainly for people moving or grad school or going to a high level role.

      GL to you!

  24. A. Noni Mouse*

    I inherited a small team recently and all of the employees have expressed frustration that they don’t have more independence right now. Their previous manager was completely hands off and things essentially went off the rails and the company decided that they instead needed to report to me. The fact that these employees weren’t actually qualified for their previous (or current) role and that they had no instruction on the correct methods for carrying out their roles made for a mess that I’m trying to clean up.

    I’ve assigned one of the trusted employees who has been on my team a while to essentially help manage the new team’s projects and give them guidance on how to follow the correct process (all of the other teams I lead have a similar structure with one person overseeing multiple others work). All of the new team employees are resisting trusted employee’s role — some directly and some indirectly. The reasons seem to range from the fact that trusted employee has a lower title than them to just not liking that level of oversight to not believing they need it. I’ve had multiple conversations with new team employees about needing to be checking in with trusted employee on projects before moving forward on things, about trying to get everyone on the same page with the process, and about these roles being ones that require more intensive oversight due to their nature (not even just about fixing previous problems). But every time I think I’m making progress, it turns out I’m just not being given the full story by new team until trusted employee fills me in.

    For various reasons, I’m not able to let these employees go for a while without several more months of trying to make it work. And honestly, I’d like to make it work if possible! Despite their challenges, new team does all come with unique strengths as well. Does anyone have ideas about how to communicate in an encouraging yet clear way that things need to change and trusted employee needs to be seen as responsible for oversight and guidance, despite a lower title?

    1. EngGirl*

      I’d go with a group meeting just being very frank about the situation and your ultimate goals. It’s important to make sure it’s not a blame game, but make it clear that this is the way it’s going to be for the foreseeable future and that failure to comply will have consequences. If it’s realistic to say that the level of oversight is temporary until the team is back on track let them know that too.

      1. Kay*

        You could also do this in 1:1s. Their job is in jeopardy, it is a performance issue, they should know. I look at this situation as I would one needing a PIP – be clear with the employees on what you need to see and what the consequences will be. If a month or so goes by and things haven’t changed – that is when its PIP or more drastic actions.

        I do agree with the feedback on the jr member managing. If the team isn’t aware of their issues of course they are going to be pushing back/not working with you/the Jr member because they don’t know they are the issue!

        1. The Real Fran Fine*

          Yeah, I would do both – have the team meeting to make sure everyone’s aligned and that no one can tell OP’s trusted employee that OP told them something she didn’t actually say. Then I’d reinforce the message, emphasizing this is now becoming a performance problem and they must comply or be put on a PIP, during the 1:1s.

          This sounds like a shipshow, OP – good luck with this. I’m sending you all the vibes and strength to deal with it.

    2. Long Long Nooo iiii tiicce*

      Hmm. I think you have erred in assigning this to a lower level employee with a title below the people you are expecting her to influence. I think pushing back on that is completely natural.

      also you mentioned this is a small team. Any reason you can’t be the one overseeing their work? By all means have that Jr rockstar in the room with you to break down the work, been that person many times honestly, but I think it’s a mistake to expect her overseeing independently to work.

      1. kiki*

        Yeah, I think your desire to have this more junior employee in charge of more senior ones probably means the junior employee deserves a promotion and pay increase for their new duties.

        I also think having a junior person come in and be the one to insist on new protocols and procedures is never going to go well– you need somebody with actual authority to be pushing for these things and holding folks accountable for them.

      2. Dust Bunny*

        Yeah, I think this was a mistake, too. It’s perilously close to putting someone in a position of responsibility but no real authority.

      3. A. Noni Mouse*

        These are really good points. To clarify a little more, the lower level employee has been doing this role much longer than the new team and has significantly more experience and education in the field (and is only one step down in title). However, along with all of the other problems with the team’s previous manager, that manager also believed in promoting people as high as possible in order to buy loyalty. So new team ended up with titles that in no way match the roles they’re doing and which are tied to education/experience requirements that they don’t have. In an ideal world, they would have titles a few steps below trusted employee, but because of how they came in, their titles are inflated (and aren’t something I’m able to change) and don’t match the roles they’re doing. Trusted employee isn’t in a junior role, their title just isn’t as high as the overinflated ones the new team came in with.

        And Dust Bunny is right, it unfortunately has ended up as a situation with responsibility, but no authority. I promise that I’m working to fix that as well! I’ve got a promotion plan for trusted employee set up, but it’s requiring at least a handful more months of work as well to get through all of the approvals and budget reallocation. I had hoped to get this set up in a better order, but new team was transferred with no notice, hence why things ended up out of order.

        While this is a smaller team, overseeing their projects correctly is about 0.75 FTE and combined with the other teams I oversee, I simply don’t have the ability to take them all on as direct reports. While it’s not ideal, having talked through several options with mentors at work, having trusted employee oversee the work of new team is the only option that seems to be possible at this point. I’m not trying to argue these very good points that it’s been unfair to trusted employee — I completely agree and have had a lot of conversations with that employee to try to see what we can do to make things as successful as possible and to make sure I’m supporting them in every way I can and to make clear the promotion plan and timeline.

        1. ApplesNOranges*

          Oh yeah.. this is bad.

          You need to get the trusted employee promoted right quick. But even when you do, prepare for significant pushback. It sounds like this person will skip a few levels with the promotion. That’s going to sting for the new team.

          Speaking of which, I don’t love ‘trusted employee’ that is going to make itself known to the new team who is already going through a big adjustment.

          Have you sat down and looked at everything from your new team’s perspective?

          -It doesn’t sound like they have had good support or structure
          -It’s not their fault that the previous manager brought them in at a higher level than what you would have
          -They’re now being watched by your ‘trusted employee’ who is junior to them in reporting
          -They have new processes and rules along with a new manager
          -I’m assuming that right now they are reporting you directly but you are abdicating your responsibility to someone else

          This is a bit of train wreck so I would be very careful with you proceed and maybe take a step or two back

          1. Dust Bunny*

            All of this is what it looks like to me, too, and I think it’s going to be a much bigger problem than the initial question seems to realize.

        2. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

          The team having very inflated titles – and salaries? – is a really big mistake you’ve inherited. Difficult to handle this kind of inequity.

          In your next 1-1s you need to be explicit that they must take direction from trusted employee or the next step will be a PIP.
          Letting them go if they still refuse after this might be the only practical way of dealing with your inherited imbalance.

          Unfortunately even in a very blunt culture it would be very difficult to tell them the truth – that this oversight by someone junior is a consequence of having been seriously overpromoted.

    3. Gyne*

      Hmmm… does the team know how far off the rails things were before they were reassigned? I would think being transparent about that, as well as what you see as their strengths, would help get their buy in on the new structure. You really want to keep them all on and have the team be successful, but the way things were working before was not sustainable for the company.

    4. Cookie Monster*

      You could always go with Alison’s approach of naming the pattern you’re seeing and asking what’s going on. So in your next 1-on-1’s, you can be like “We’ve talked multiple times about how I need to see more of X, Y and Z from you. You haven’t been following through on this. What’s going on?” And then genuinely listen to their answers. Yes, they might just be frustrated about having more oversight now, but maybe there’s something else there too that you can actually help them with.

      Either way, you can make it clear that while you understand why they’re frustrated (you’re not trying to control their feelings, after all), it is now considered a part of their job to X, Y and Z.

    5. AcademiaNut*

      Honestly, you may have been given an impossible task.

      You’ve got a pool of people who are under qualified, under trained and are used to being allowed to do what they wanted without oversight or correction. Your most qualified and competent team member is lower than they are in title but expected to manage them, and you don’t have the time to do the hands on management required. To top it off, you are being asked to turn things around without being allowed to promote or fire anyone (are there any other reasonable consequences or rewards you can provide?) Your employer would have been better off breaking up the team and spreading the members over other teams so they could be dealt with one on one.

      Your best bet is probably to hang on with low expectations until you can do something practical, and back off from using the trusted employee as your proxy in the meantime, because it’s not fair to them. They’re being asked to supervise people senior to them who resent it, without any authority, and that’s a nearly impossible task. You risk having your trusted employee find another job because that sounds miserable.

      It sounds like the fundamental problem is that you’ve got a group of employees who are incompetent and don’t realize this. If they were working hard, do you think they would be able to get to a satisfactory performance in a reasonable amount of time? If not, you’re probably going to have to let most of them go, because expecting them to take a demotion at the same employer is not very realistic. The other option is to accept that this is a dud team, get your employer to assign a full time manager (with rank) to keep them performing at a minimal level, and transfer trusted employee somewhere where their talents will be of use. A decade or so of no promotions will hopefully get their titles more in line with their performance.

  25. Aughra*

    I’m new to using USAJobs .com, so a question for anyone who’s either successfully gotten an interview or who’s been on the hiring side. What about cover letters? They’re never listed under “required documents” for any of the positions I’ve been interested in. Do I write one and include it anyway? Do I just apply without? God knows I hate writing them and would be glad to escape the chore, but it just feels so *weird* to apply for a job without submitting a cover letter.

    1. Arcade Kitten*

      Hello! I personally dont do one unless its in the job posting (be thorough when reading them). My boss does a lot of hiring for our section and I rarely see cover letters. Your resume is more important. Make sure your resume meets federal resume styles (longer than regular ones). Also just one thing Ive noticed is the resume builder is kind of terrible when we go to print those resumes, they often get cut off. I have a PDF of mine upladed and searchable.

    2. ecnaseener*

      You can include it anyway if you think it’ll help you. If there’s nowhere to attach an extra file, just make it the first page of your resume.

      IMO, a cover letter can help you if your resume doesn’t speak for itself as to your fit for the particular job. If there’s anything non-obvious (transferable skills, misleading job title, etc) then a cover letter is a good idea. If you think the hiring manager would look at your resume and go “yep, makes sense that they’re applying for this role, they seem qualified” then no need.

    3. Pine Tree*

      I’ve asked this very question to a few feds who have hired. Some of them said they never even see any cover letters – unclear whether no one is writing them, or HR doesn’t pass them along (fed HR is generally pretty….mediocre). All of them said writing a cover letter is not going to hurt, but it is also probably not required.

      I just write one just in case.

      The more important thing is using the EXACT words in the job posting. If it says you need experience in X, say “X” not some thesaurus word for X.

    4. Office Plant*

      Hi! Successful applicant and federal hiring manager here. You’ll see this topic debated to death on /r/USAjobs and /r/fednews, and it can make a head spin trying to figure out who to listen to.

      Are they the norm in YOUR field? The federal government hires at least a little of almost every possible job, which is why there’s so much conflicting advice online. I think, on the whole, they are required less. But if you’re in a subset that mirrors academia (like R&D type roles) they may be much more beneficial and expected.

      Even with that in mind, the hiring manager will vary. Some toss them without review, some only consider them if everyone includes one, and some will ready any that are passed on and consider them. You can’t guess or control which you’ll have, so try not to sweat it that much.

      I agree with Arcade Kitten, even if you choose to do one, focus on getting your federal resume format right first. They are LONGER than you are used to, as someone mid-career, mine is five pages after judicious trimming. Part of it is because they require more information than “regular” resumes. My advice is to use the resume builder to make sure you’re including all the required fields, then copy it into word and format it better to make sure nothing got cut off.

      I choose to interview almost exclusively based on resumes, but I’ll review the cover letters again when making a final selection if they’re included. However, I’ve never dinged a candidate just for not including one. It’s just extra data for the ones who do.

      In general, with cover letters in the government, my advice is that skipping it doesn’t hurt, but including it has the off chance potential to help.

      1. Hush Puppies*

        I think “Are they theory in your field” is the key. For those applying to most positions in my branch, not having a cover letter or having a poor one is a knock against you being contacted for an interview. Being able write descriptively yet concisely is part of the job and the cover letter serves as an indicator.

    5. A Significant Tree*

      Used USAJobs for one application (applied for the same position twice, got through the second time). It may be dependent on the type of role, but I channeled what might have been my cover letter material into paragraphs of response to each of the required questions. Since I had to write those lengthy responses anyway, I didn’t feel I needed a separate cover letter.

      There’s a tutorial on how to create your USAJobs resume – definitely refer to that. It’s weird to restate the job description key words and phrases in basically every response, you’ll feel like your answers read like an LLM regurgitation, but it’s really a best practice to do so.

      And yes, the resulting format is awful. I have the PDF version of my application that was sent around with my interview invitation and it’s a mess. But, it’s not a deal-breaker because everyone understands it’s the software, not my choice of formatting.

    6. lina*

      Fed hiring manager. Definitely go with what is the norm in your field. In my office / government role, cover letters are not required and maybe 20% of candidates include one. If there is one, I’ll read it and consider it with the other materials, and it might get you an extra point or two. If there isn’t a cover letter, you won’t lose points, I’ll just be making my evaluation based on a smaller (but not necessarily weaker) amount of data from your resume alone.

      I was guided by our HR office on this one. We receive some pretty wild resume packages; their recommendation is, “If the candidate included it, they obviously wanted you to look at it and consider the information in your decision.” It can help you by talking about specific past experience that will translate well which I might not be aware of; it can hurt you if it’s full of typos and run-on sentences, because I hire for writing-heavy roles.

  26. Hornswoggler*

    OK, I need a little validation here.

    i had a freelance job which I had to give up temporarily while having cancer treatment. I suggested a friend of mine as a dep while I was hors de combat.

    My treatment was longer than expected and in the end I was away for 18 months. During that time, the employer was obliged by the organisation it is affiliated to (a university) to carry out a formal recruitment process for thd role (which I’d been in since 2017). So I returned to find I had to apply for, interview for and audition for my previous role.

    My dep told me when this was announced that he wasn’t going to apply as he’s on the verge of semi-retirement and didn’t want to be tied down. I find out only after being told I wasn’t successful that he did in fact apply for the role and has now been offered to job.

    Am I wrong to feel that he’s been really discourteous in not letting me know that he’d changed his mind? This is someone I thought was a pal and whom I see weekly at another regular event. I’m feeling really angry and upset, and want to point out to him that he hasn’t acted well in regard to me. Any thoughts?

    1. WellRed*

      You get to be angry and upset (I would be) but I see nothing to be gained by raising it with him. What is the outcome you would hope to achieve?

      1. Hornswoggler*

        I have to see him every week. I’m a bit afraid I might blurt it out in front of other people. I really feel he’s done me over.

    2. Dust Bunny*

      I’m not clear on what you think he did to you? Do you feel like you would have had a better chance at getting the position if he hadn’t applied? You don’t actually know that. You might have been further out of the running than that, for various reasons (the job focus changed, etc.).

      You’re allowed to be disappointed and I suppose you can be mad he changed his mind, but I think that the mindset that he did anything to you is misdirected.

      1. ecnaseener*

        That’s a good point. At worst, he lied, at best he forgot he had talked to you, but in either case would it have changed any choices you made?

        That said, the potential lie is understandably upsetting. Since this is someone you felt warmly towards and will see again, I understand wanting to just know whether or not he deliberately misled you so you know how to feel about him and how far to trust him in general.

        But I think the way to do it is warmly, operating under the assumption that he just forgot or something. Hopefully by the time you see him you’ll be ready to do that. Personally I’d do a jokingly-stern-type tone, “I swear you told me you weren’t applying for that!”

        1. Dust Bunny*

          I mean, he could have just changed his mind. People are allowed to do that. Would the OP really be less mad if the friend had told them and still gotten the job, or would they find some other reason to be hurt? And once he applied, actually getting hired was out of his hands (beyond the basics of having the skills and a good resume). Why is the OP mad at the friend and not the employer?

          Right now it sounds like the OP is miffed that they didn’t get the job and is blaming the friend for “stealing” it when in reality it could just as well have gone to a different candidate entirely.

          Being afraid they’ll blurt it out seems like an OP-problem, not a friend problem, and it’s on the OP to learn to manage that.

          1. Hornswoggler*

            Yes, I’m miffed I didn’t get the job, because I’d been doing it with a great deal of success since 2017. I think there was a degree of them just wanting a change, but it has all been pretty humiliating. That’s not my friend’s fault. But I do feel a lot worse because I’ve lost a really valuable (and, without going into too much detail, rare and sexism-laden) piece of work to someone who literally said to me “I’m not going for this job – I just see myself as being your dep while you’re off sick”.

            1. Dust Bunny*

              But you still seem to be mad at your friend over something that honestly seems pretty minor, when the real problem is either a bunch of systemic problems (sexism), or things that are totally normal when one is applying for a job (nobody is guaranteed a job just because they’re a good candidate; no matter how many good candidates there are there there is still only one job to be gotten; nobody owes it to anyone else to not apply, etc.).

              1. Dust Bunny*

                Should have said: Sexism and scarcity of work? Also not your friend’s fault.

                From here it sounds like the friend is an easy target for a bigger anger/frustration.

                1. Hornswoggler*

                  i am worried about that – I do know that the other stuff isn’t his fault. I’m just feeling very browned off by what he did, that’s why I came here to ask about it. It has been a week since I found out so I’m not leaping to action or saying something I’ll regret.

          2. ecnaseener*

            Not sure if you meant to nest this reply somewhere else, as it sounds like you think you’re disagreeing with me but in fact we’re in agreement on both your points: it probably has an innocent explanation, and even if not, it wouldn’t have changed what Hornswoggler did. I certainly didn’t suggest the friend was responsible for managing their feelings — if I thought so, I wouldn’t have suggested bringing it up in a warm, jokey way.

            1. Dust Bunny*

              I guess it sounds to me like Hornswoggler is nowhere near ready to be warm and jokey about this and so bringing it up any time in the near future would actually amount to asking someone else to manage their feelings. Or at least it would be barbed under the joking.

              1. Hornswoggler*

                Yes, Dust Bunny, you’re right. Losing this job has been a horrible blow to me that I’ve seen coming from a long way off, so my friend’s role in it really stings.

    3. Don't You Call Me Lady*

      Agree that he probably should have mentioned it to you, but you can’t really blame someone for applying for and being offered a job that they’re clearly well-suited too.

      If it’s bothering you that much though, I’d try to talk to him before seeing him at the event to clear the air.

    4. Eliz*

      It was absolutely discourteous and you have every right to be angry. But I agree with the other commenters that you shouldn’t raise it with him, especially not angrily. And especially if you still have to interact with him in the future. Think about your reputation. Maybe down the road you can have a heart-to-heart but only after you’ve cooled off and enough time has passed, if you do maintain a close relationship with that person.

    5. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      He should have been truthful and if he’d later changed his mind about applying then he should have told you – it’s absolutely ok for him to decide afterwards that he can’t pass up the opportunity but it was deceitful to stay quiet after telling you he wouldn’t apply.

      So it’s understandable you feel hurt. However, don’t raise it with him in front of others, as that would likely make you look bad. If you fell you must talk to him about it, then ask him privately what happened.

    6. allx*

      I would be angry also. Essentially, you had a friend/colleague sub in for you with a long-term client you freelanced to. That sub arrangement went on long enough for that friend to develop a relationship. When the work was to be re-let, the friend applied without disclosing to you (and after previously telling you he wasn’t interested). And then he was selected. It seems highly likely that the work he was doing as sub to you put him in a favorable position for winning the new contract. He is the “current” person performing the work, visible to the employer. He is the incumbent, against whom the other applicants would be measured. All that is well and good, and sure he could change his mind and apply. But doing so without telling you (and possibly acknowledging that he was in a position to apply because of filling in for you) is a crappy friend. Sure, maybe there are reasons for maintaining professional politeness cordiality, but I would be moving him out of friend category forever.

      1. Hornswoggler*

        Thanks allx, you have exactly grasped why I’m so sore.

        Without being too specific, he and I are both part of a social/leisure/arts organisation that meets weekly and presents public events several times a year. We literally sit next to each other, working together on the same thing. Moving him out of the friend category will affect this too, and the other friends who take part. It really stinks. I don’t know whether he’s just being gormless or just doesn’t care.

    7. Part time lab tech*

      You are absolutely justified over the lie/not telling you he’d changed his mind, but that’s it. I am someone who gets really wary after betrayals of trust so I absolutely would factor that part into how I talked about him and pull back on the friendship.
      It’s completely human to feel like he took “your” job but he is not obliged not to apply for any job just because you wanted it. Still sucks.
      If and only if you can genuinely congratulate him, Could you say something like, I’m really glad for you that you got this job, I recommended you to fill in for me because I thought you’d do a good job. I’m also really pissed you told me you weren’t going to apply because you considered it my job.
      Pause, to let him say something if he wants, then change the subject. Do not continue talking about it! or you will come across as holding a grudge.
      Also reach back to the company if you can for feedback. It’s possible he undermined you at the company although more likely he’s just conflict avoidant.

      1. Hornswoggler*

        Thanks. I hate holding grudges so that’s a very good point. I very much doubt he’s intentionally undermined me at the job. They have offered me a feedback meeting but I haven’t decided whether or not to take them up on it.

  27. Zephy*

    What’s the best way to get a job in a different (US) state? Like, what’s the best order of operations?

    My husband and I are looking to move out of our current state in the next year or two. We don’t have a specific destination in mind, though there are several states on the No list, for various reasons. I’m in higher ed admin, he’s in the medical field – we can do what we do at any university/hospital in the country, the roles exist at all of them and look largely the same everywhere. The question really is just “where do we want to go,” as opposed to “where are the jobs/where is the pay.”

    I would not want to move without at least one of us having a job offer in hand already. We don’t have kids, so we *could* pack up and vamoose on relatively short notice (no need to enroll/withdraw anyone in school, etc). So, any tips for how to get an application in front of a human being with an out-of-state address? How to address relocation timelines, assistance (is it OK to ask about relocation assistance if the job ad doesn’t mention it)? Any practical logistical tips?

    1. Long Long Nooo iiii tiicce*

      I’ve had success changing my address line to “Moving to City State, Zip Summer 2024” even though I’m not moving there until I get a job of course!

      I’ve also gotten relocation assistance using this method. Wait until the interview and then if they don’t bring it up ask when you are in the interview (hiring manager not HR). If HR says they won’t offer relo say that’s OK and still ask about. I’ve gotten relo this way too. IME HR are the naysayers and not reality lol.

      1. 867-5309*

        If someone lists “Moving to City, State in Summer 2024,” I have always assumed it is in their family plans and they do not need relocation so we do not include it the offer.

        1. Zephy*

          Ooh, that’s an interesting point.

          Would you consider an applicant from out-of-state that didn’t explicitly indicate pre-existing plans to move to your area? Does it make a difference if that person was recruited vs applied on their own (assuming you use a recruiter)?

          1. 867-5309*

            I am not a recruiter but have done significant hiring.

            I assume if someone is applying for a job that is not remote then they are open to relocation. HR/recruiting would ask that in the screening interview. It is always easier to hire someone local but I’ve hired local and out of state. It does not matter if they are recruited or apply on their own. Either a company is open to out of state candidates for a role or they are not.

          2. Long Long Nooo iiii tiicce*

            Well like I said I’ve successfully done it this way. Twice in fact.

            Each time HR/Recruiter said “No Relocation” but I asked the hiring manager in my final interview anyway. Both times they said “Probably not but we will see” and I responded with “Well I might not be able to except the rile without relo but I really want to move near family so it deoends on the offer” and both times the offer came in with significant 10k+ relo funds.

            YMMV. I have a very in demand skill set that is hard to find though.

    2. Kimmy Schmidt*

      I think both of these fields are used to relocations and hiring people from all over! I would use the cover letter to say something about hoping to relocate to be closer to family/spouse. When I was job-hunting across the country, I also removed my address from my CV.

      1. Long Long Nooo iiii tiicce*

        Good point on the cover letter.

        I’d caution about no address though. Most recruiters view that as a red flag.

      2. Zephy*

        That’s encouraging! We were already planning to use each other as the excuse for applying to positions from another state – moving because spouse got a job here. Which will *eventually* be true! Things are just perhaps not going to occur in precisely the implied order.

        I do know hospitals basically have dispensed with the concept of loyalty in an employment context – it’s known and accepted that people at his level have to move around every few years in order to get raises.

    3. 867-5309*

      OP, I have moved states for most of my career – Michigan to Kansas, Kansas to Ohio, Ohio to Michigan, Michigan to Florida, Florida to New York… Generally if you apply for a job that clearly states it is hybrid or onsite, the recruiter will expect that you will move. However, I have a line in my resume, below my contact information in the first page header that says – Open to remote and hybrid roles and relocation to NYC and Chicago.

      1. Bast*

        Not to derail too much but… as someone who moved only an hour away from where I grew up, I never experienced the shock that can be experienced by moving to a completely different state/area. Which of those moves was the biggest “Wow, it’s really different here” situation?

        1. 867-5309*

          You know, I’ve moved A LOT. After NYC, I went to Oslo, Norway, then to Columbus, Ohio, then Tampa, Florida and then digital nomad :) So, I adapt quickly.

          I think the first move was probably the craziest for me because it was the first. I went out of state for college but this was different. I moved from metro Detroit where I worked in an ad agency to do marketing for a global manufacturer with a location in Kansas City where I worked in a plant. I had no money for the move and you aren’t paid relo until a first paycheck so while they moved my stuff, a friend loaned me the money to get an apartment, I did now know ANYONE and this was early-ish internet days (2003) so it is not like you searched online for the best places to eat or clubs to join. Meetup was founded just a year before.

          Of course, NYC is a beast all its own and moving to Norway (Scandinavia) was a big shock – language, culture, etc. Typically, every place has that moment. “Wow, I was not expecting that.” or “That is a first.”

          Okay Zephy, sorry we hijacked your post. :)

          1. Zephy*

            No, this is fascinating, please continue! (if you have more to share, that is)

            The finding your footing/finding community is also going to be a big challenge for us, I think. None of the places on our tentative “short list” are anywhere near family. We’re not trying to get away from them, per se, it’s just that all our family are in the places we want to leave or don’t want to go to, LMAO. I moved states one time as a child, which was its own kind of culture shock, but that’s different at age 10 from age 30. He’s never lived anywhere else – visited lots of places on vacation, but the only time he really *lived* outside of the family home was when we were in college and immediately after. We moved in with his folks about ten years ago, now they’re looking to sell their place so we’ll need to move regardless. We might as well go big if we can’t stay home, amirite?

    4. Relocating*

      It’s been a while since I’ve moved for a job, but I have interviewed people who would move for a job many times. A few things:

      1) there are some hiring managers/companies that will not consider you until you have already moved. full stop. This is particularly true if you don’t have local family (if they can ascertain this)
      2) I have never seen a relocation package that comes close to covering moving costs, and I say that as a single person who has always rented apartments not someone with basements and attics full of stuff

      3) Paying for relocation at all has become less common, although there are definitely still companies that do it

      4) it is very difficult to get a handle on both reasonable salaries and expected expenses before you live somewhere. Knowing a place is more expensive (for example) is not the same as realizing your grocery bill’s are going to quadruple and the impact of that on your quality of life (for example).

      5) It is impossible to understand how easy or hard it will be to get from location A to location B in a new area until you’re actually doing it

      6) Many places make you pay back whatever relocation they do give if your job ends before X amount of time (even if they lay you off, although I have successfully seen this negotiated away after a layoff)

      I’m not sure if this is the type of stuff you’re looking for or not, but I hope it helps. Good luck!

    5. Ama*

      I agree with others that in those fields it’s fairly common to relocate for a job so that won’t be a huge problem but particularly for the higher ed admin you’ll want to at least note in your cover letter that you are looking to relocate to the area so they know for sure you’re not expecting to work remotely.

      My husband and I relocated to a new state last year — we didn’t have to worry about the job part because both our jobs are remote but I can tell you that it was an exhausting process just managing all the logistics of the move and actively applying for jobs while searching for, buying, and closing on a house out of state and coordinating with movers would have probably been too much. We also did a LOT of advance research (including two visits out to look at houses, one mostly just to look at neighborhoods we could afford to see what area we liked best and then one several months later to seriously look and make an offer) — but again, we could spend time on that because we didn’t have to fold a job search into it (or worry about buying a house in an area that made for an inconvenient commute). I would actually recommend planning to rent when you first move out if you aren’t planning to do that already especially if one or both of you arrive without a confirmed job.

      1. Zephy*

        We figured it would be easier to find a rental first to get established and get a PODS/similar portable storage unit that could join us later once we found a house to buy, yeah. The commute thing is also why I’d want at least one of us to have a job offer before we move, to give us an anchor point when searching for accommodations/jobs/etc.

  28. Making a choice*

    Hey y’all, I have a big fear of making the wrong decision about jobs and would love some help.

    I just drove across the US to move closer to friends and family and am seriously lacking good sleep, so this may be contributing to my emotions.

    I have been looking for a job for a year now. I currently work remote, part time for a small treatment center and the other part for myself as a therapist. After a few of years of doing this, I realized it’s not for me to do such client facing work, and I’m exhausted. I also am not making enough money for the VHCOL area I now live in, and it’s either ramp up my business or find another job (as full time wouldn’t pay enough either.) I feel like I’m failing the “American Dream” but owning a business is not for me, I love my clients but I don’t like the business aspect and the ebb and flow of money. If I wanted to continue it, I would make it a small side thing.

    I received a job offer today for a job that would make me 30% more than I currently make in my business + part time job. It would be in person with a commute, but otherwise, I’m excited about everything else! I’d be able to work from home a 2-3 weeks per year but that’s it.

    I also am interviewing for a fully remote job with ok pay, but I could keep my business going (I feel meh about that) since I’d be remote and could do it right at 5pm. However, the job itself is not aligned with my values and not something I’m interested in.

    On the other hand, I absolutely love the treatment center that I work part time for. They’re already strapped for staff and I feel horrible leaving them. I’d give a month’s notice which is industry standard. I would really only stay in this job because my team and leadership are amazing, but their hands are tied with giving us more pay (and I would still have to do the exhausting client facing work.)

    I feel torn. Nearly every friend I talk to (who they all work remote as they either own their own practice or work remotely) say I’m silly for considering a job that’s not remote and that I would have to commute (30-45 mins, 1 hour if there’s an accident.) I am tired of fully remote and would prefer hybrid, but this job does not allow that (outside the 2-3 weeks WFH.) it’s a job involving students so I’d have to be in when they’re in.

    I feel like I should be excited but I’m absorbing a lot of feelings of doubt because it’s not a remote job, and sadness of disappointing the small company I work for. There’s also just the scariness of doing something new! Thankfully *I* have therapy this week to process but would love AAM commenter thoughts.

    Thank you!

    1. lost academic*

      Your friends are allowed to have their own preferences. You know what you need professionally to be fulfilled and successful. Everyone has their own definition and tolerance level for commutes and traffic, too. I’d just say to let the guilt go about leaving your other employer – as someone once said to me, it’s not on you to set yourself on fire to keep others warm.

    2. ecnaseener*

      Honestly, 30-45 mins isn’t bad at all. I think you’ll be fine. With so many changes you’re excited about, it’ll be a while before you get sick enough of the commute to want out.

    3. Hlao-roo*

      First of all, I hope you’re able to get some good sleep this weekend! I think you’re spot on that the lack of sleep is contributing to your emotions.

      I feel like I’m failing the “American Dream” but owning a business is not for me

      Owning a business is not for a lot of people. That’s why so many people work at businesses owned by someone else. You tried it and it’s not for you. That’s not failure; that’s good self-knowledge.

      I work in an office every day, and I personally prefer that to working from home. It makes sense to me that all your friends who work remotely highly value the ability to work remotely. But your friends aren’t you. If a higher salary and better alignment with your values are more important to you than remote work, take the job offer!

      1. Tio*

        My mother owned a business, and that was how I knew I didn’t want to own one. Not that it was terrible! But having that behind the scenes info really helped me be clear eyed about what I did and didn’t want in a career. Owning a business comes with a lot of admin that I both don’t like and am not great at. I like having things that are very much other peoples’ problems,. And in the vein of what Hlao was saying, we literally could not sustain everyone having their own business.

      2. Ama*

        It’s also fine if your career goals change! Maybe at one point you did really want to own a business, now that doesn’t suit what you need from a job — it doesn’t mean you’re a failure it just means your life has changed.

        30-45 minutes would have been a great commute time in the city I moved from, fwiw. If that doesn’t phase you don’t let it stop you just because it’s not what your friends would do for themselves.

    4. MsM*

      I mean, if you tell a bunch of confirmed childfree friends you’re thinking about having kids, of course you’re going to get a lot of “why would you want to do that?” in response. Same general idea with your sample pool here. Doesn’t make it the wrong decision for you.

    5. Alex*

      I’d take the job I’m excited about and will pay more money! It doesn’t sound like remote is that much of a valued perk for you, as it is for some people. 30% is a lot of money. Even I, a lover of remote work, would go in person for that, especially if your costs are high.

    6. Glazed Donut*

      From reading what you’ve shared, I’d suggest the full time job! I’ve been at a crossroads and reminded myself there’s not a right and wrong choice, just different choices. Worst case: you take it, realize you do actually want full time remote work (or more hybrid) and then look for that. Try something, see how you like it, and use those data points to inform the next steps. At the very least, feel more comfortable financially while you’re looking.

    7. Hillary*

      You need to put on your own oxygen mask first. The on site job sounds good for you – not client facing stress and more money. Your friends may prioritize things differently than you do. That will give you space to figure out what comes next.

      I said I’d never start a company and run my own business after watching my Dad do it. And then of course I started a company. It sucks sometimes – it’s completely reasonable to decide it isn’t for you. I won’t start on how the “american dream” is a neoliberal illusion. ;-)

    1. Texan In Exile*

      “We also give all of our volunteers access to benefits such as advanced features of Google Workspace, the flexibility of working remotely, and unlimited Mental Health Days.”

      I don’t even know what to say to that.

      1. WellRed*

        That tripped me up too! Unlimited Mental Health days? For a very part time volunteer role? Yeah, ok. Good for you Pitch, really putting yourself out there for unpaid volunteers (experience required, of course)

    2. Yes And*

      Wait, they want to expand access to entrepreneurship by… trying to get free, skilled labor? So much for “Be the change…”

    3. Don't You Call Me Lady*

      It looks like a college project of some kind – the “Board members” look extremely young and are all students in North carolina.

      Also says nobody gets paid, even leadership. I don’t think this is so awful.

      1. electric telepathy*

        Yeah, I mean, if I was looking to do some volunteer grant writing, I probably wouldn’t choose this org — but fundamentally, there’s nothing wrong with nonprofits using Work For Good to recruit volunteers. That’s part of what that site is for.

    4. Victoria*

      … I don’t see the problem? It’s a grant writing volunteer gig. Not likely to be very successful for them, but it’s a reasonable volunteer project and expectations.

    5. yeep*

      I don’t mind that they’re trying to get someone to help with grant writing for free (honestly I do that for all the organizations I volunteer with, it’s not a big deal), but what’s killing me is:

      you have to respond to messages within 24 hours, but they’re extremely flexible with time and and just ask that you contribute what you can, but also you have to work 3-5 hours a week for six months at a time, but also you can take as many mental health days as you want.

      WHICH IS IT

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        This! You can’t be Santa Claus and still expect people to be constantly available for a volunteer gig with no parameters.

    6. Zona the Great*

      This is one I would love us all to apply to and then laugh in their faces and say “Nevermind, that’s bananas.”

    7. Nancy*

      This is a nonprofit run by college students/recent grads and everyone involved is a volunteer. Their ad reads like they expect to hear from students looking for more experience or volunteer credits and they posted on a site that has a volunteer section.

  29. kiki*

    I’ve been working at a company that has been super disorganized and letting balls drop for years, in large part due to poor staffing and attrition. Coworkers and I have been raising these issues for years with no real sustained action taken– just advisement to “ruthlessly prioritize.” Our industry has been in a “down period” for staffing recently (lots of layoffs despite tremendous profits), so many folks including myself have stayed for the stability despite knowing the work was chaotic.

    So after a few years of ruthlessly prioritizing, which got so ruthless we were essentially throwing potable water off the life raft, things have gotten bad enough our customers are impacted. Our leadership is now scrambling to fix things, which is good! We’re all happy these issues are finally being taken seriously.

    The issue is that they are trying to address SO much at once that it’s super confusing and, frankly, just a lot of work nobody is familiar with since it hasn’t been done by anyone on the team in years, if at all. I don’t think leadership is fully recognizing that even if each request is relatively straightforward, if they’re asking person to do ten new things on top of their existing jobs, that’s going to be overwhelming and increase the amount of hours everyone works. All these projects are being treated as urgent, which is justifiable based on what the projects are, but not everything can get done at once.

    Does anyone have advice for how to raise this in a way that will come across well? I am in support of all these initiatives! All this stuff has needed to get done! But I can’t do it all right away now on top of my current job.

    1. Ama*

      What about making up a list of a timeline you think would work, prioritizing the stuff that is most urgent and/or easily handled and then working up to the stuff that will be most complex to implement and/or affects fewer customers. And then bring that to your boss and say “I think it’s great we’re doing all of this but realistically we need to space some of these new projects out, here’s a possible timeline for doing that, do you think this could work?”

      I find that when I need to have a hard discussion about workload with my bosses, it’s more effective when I come in with a suggested solution then just saying “there’s too much on my plate, can you fix it?” They may want to edit your plan slightly but at least you’ve given them a starting point. And if they won’t even listen and insist everything has to be done right now, then I’m afraid you’ve just traded one problem with your leadership for a new one.

    2. Mighty K*

      It sounds as if the only solution is to recruit? If you’ve been at 100% (or more) just trying to hold it together then there’s no capacity for the “fix it” projects without more resource, and it seems that getting that message across will be key. I suppose it’s back to the “I can do new project X, but important regular task A won’t get done”

      Easy to say, I know. Good luck!

  30. Daniel*

    What’s everyone doing to get their resume/job applications noticed in this current job market?

    I’ve followed the advice on here, but I know every job I’m applying to has hundreds (if not thousands) of applicants.

    For context – I’m a Product Manager in the NYC area.

    1. Stuart Foote*

      I think a lot of it depends on how much experience you have. On my last couple job searchs my resume got a fair amount of interest, but when I just had 3-4 years experience even getting a phone screen was tough.

      I’d take the 100’s of applicants with a grain of salt–I believe LinkedIn counts anyone who looks at the job as an applicant. And the EasyApply jobs are so easy to apply to that I have to believe they have dozen and dozens of unqualified applicants applying just because there is no barrier to entry.

      1. Daniel*

        Thanks for the reply, Stuart. I do have a few years of experience as a Product Manager. Before that I was a Product Analyst.

  31. i put something here because the name field is required*

    Work is closing my office and has offered relocation to one three other offices (of their choosing) sometime in the next 18 months (timeline also of their choosing). My department is being sent to a red state across the country in early 2026, so I’ve declined to follow my role and have instead been looking at opportunities going to a closer blue state office.

    Recently, they decided to try to internally pre-fill some roles where the current person won’t be moving. I’ve accepted an offer that would be a promotion, with a significant pay bump, but it doesn’t start until almost exactly a year from now. I don’t foresee any issues coming up as the role is fairly critical and policy is strictly “no take-backsies” on the move/don’t move decision.

    So now I’m in this weird position where I’m basically giving my current manager World’s Longest Notice. I’m also really excited about the move, but it’s not for a year, and that’s going to give my anxiety a hell of a lot of time to catastrophize.

  32. Caregiving*

    Is there an objective definition of caregiving? My org just released an updated remote work contract. One clause is “Employee is not simultaneously working remotely and caregiving people of any age.”

    Similar clauses about advanced pet c

    1. WheresMyPen*

      In this context I’d guess they mean being solely responsible for. So you can’t work remotely while your kid is at home, even if they’re old enough to occupy themselves.

      1. Caregiving Continued*

        Our local school district is threatening a 4 day school week. I think the policy change is anticipating this and they made the language as broad as possible.

        I don’t have kids. I live with my Mom.

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          I consider caregiving to be something that takes up a large amount of time and effort. A pre-K kid needs more supervision than most middle school kids. My retired mother can take care of herself, but if she had dementia it might be a different story.

          If you weren’t there, would you have to pay someone else to be?

    2. Caregiving Continued*

      Similar clauses about advanced pet care, caregiving kids under 10, and supervising e-learning. Each clause must be signed individually. Violation is grounds for immediate termination.

      I don’t want to ask clarification on the “caregiving of any age” because I think it would flag me as a potential violator of the rule. I also don’t know how to discuss this without disclosing very personal health and financial information.

      Is there commonly held definition of caregiving I can use?

      Noteworthy: I’ve been working remotely under these conditions for 2 years with excellent reviews and rapport with colleagues and managers.

      1. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

        I presume you’re referring to caregiving for an adult – maybe an aging parent or a disabled spouse – who requires full-time care. And I don’t know how to answer that – you know how much time is required in a particular day, and how predictable the needs are (is this something you can have scheduled breaks in your day to do, or something that will involve unexpected interruptions)? If it’s been working for you so far, it’s likely to lean more toward the “predictable, and you can work around it” side.

      2. Flying Turtles*

        You could ask in the context of aiding your mom during her recovery from a minor to moderate surgery that may be on the horizon — maybe knee or hip replacement, or similar — and ask “would I need to take leave if her needs were ?”

    3. Managing While Female*

      Likely what they’re getting at is people who are trying to work while also doing full-time care work. A pet who generally just lazes around, or a kid old enough to basically take care of themselves with minimal supervision is likely fine. What I would imagine they’re trying to prevent is being so distracted from work that you’re not actually getting much done or you’re not doing it particularly well because you’re so distracted.

    4. PotatoRock*

      Honestly what I think they mean in practice is: if we can tell you’re caregiving (if it’s affecting your work), it’s a problem. And they’re being vague bc some 10 year olds are fine on their own for a few hours after school and some aren’t.

      1. Caregiving Continued*

        My Mom and I pooled resources 2 years ago to buy a house together. She can’t live alone but I don’t need to handle basic care for her.

        When I bought our house, I’m pretty sure I mentioned buying with my Mom. So people might remember we live together. I don’t want to discuss my Mom’s health in detail. Feels like a violation.

        1. Managing While Female*

          I don’t think you need to disclose anything. It doesn’t sound like your mom needs around the clock care or anything (think like what a nurse would provide in a hospital). If you’re able to do your work and help out your mom here and there, I wouldn’t think that would fall under the scope of this policy.

          1. Caregiving Continued*

            Thanks.

            Grounds for immediate termination is scary because this is the top paying organization in my region.

          2. DrSalty*

            I agree with this. If you live together but she doesn’t need your help intensely during the workday, I wouldn’t count that as full time caregiving.

        2. DisneyChannelThis*

          That’s likely fine. Your mom is home at the same location but you are not using work hours to do tasks for her. As far as they know, your Mom could be living with you for financial reasons on either side (your lack of funds or hers) and have nothing to do with caregiving.

          Seconding everyone else that sort of broad clause is angled at if they need to deploy it on a specific person whose not getting work done. Like if they’re trying to fire Susan for not meeting goals at work and Susan tries to say you never told me I couldn’t spend 60% the workday caring for my cats.

        3. PotatoRock*

          I would just not disclose that. You aren’t caregiving for your mom while you’re working. If you’re changing lightbulbs for her on the weekend, your company doesn’t need to know

    5. Some Thoughts*

      How about: something you’d have to pay someone to do if you weren’t there to do it? Like, if you have an infant…makes sense. If you have a child under the age of XX (whatever your state requires as to when kids can stay home alone), then you’re a caregiver. If you live with your mom because she needs help with meds and can’t drive and you help her shower at night, but she could stay home by herself, and if there’s an emergency, you’re RIGHT THERE (that one’s just proximity, if she lived in the next town and had an emergency, you’d sign off work), then nope, you aren’t a caregiver. If you live with your mom and you have to keep an ear open for her at all times because she might put her eyeglasses in the microwave, and you have to help her to the bathroom when she needs it, and you need to calm her down when she’s agitated, you’re a caregiver.

      1. lost academic*

        Pretty much this – it’s a good test. In your case, your mom is just basically your roommate. They don’t have any rules about that, it sounds like.

        I think they also said “advanced pet care” because they are not trying to say “you can never walk your dog” but “if your dog needs the level of attention that a small child would, it’s advanced”.

        1. BubbleTea*

          Yeah, I’d say this is the distinction between “I have a cat” and “I foster newborn kittens with FIV”.

      2. Cordelia*

        yes this is a good way of looking at it. They don’t want you doing a second job at the same time as the one they are employing you for, so you can’t be providing childcare or elder care that you’d otherwise need to pay someone to do. I think you’re fine.

    6. RagingADHD*

      IDK about an official definition, but I would define caregiving as:

      Do you have to

      a) Feed someone or an animal more frequently than your own scheduled breaks?

      b) Assist with toileting on demand or clean up accidents?

      c) Administer medication or treatments/ therapies more frequently than your own meal or bathroom breaks?

      d) actively monitor them to avoid accidents and injuries?

      e) Answer frequent questions on demand or otherwise deal with interruptions during work hours?

      f) Transport them to appointments or activities without taking PTO?

      g) Actively or frequently monitor them to make sure they are on task (such as homeschooling)?

      If none of the above, I would not call cohabiting with another adult caregiving – even if they need you to do things like grocery shopping, cooking, and cleaning. You do those things for yourself outside of work hours anyway.

    7. fhqwhgads*

      Pretty much if you can’t leave the person alone in the house, then you can’t work remotely while that person is home unless there’s another person present to be responsible for the one needing care (ie the one who can’t be left alone). Even if practically speaking you wouldn’t regularly be called away from working during work hours to care for the person, you shouldn’t be the primary caregiver during working hours.

  33. Slow Down*

    Any suggestions on how to get a colleague to slow down and read what you are asking for? They doesn’t have the best manager but I have brought up the issue to this person before and to the persons boss. They are definitely trying to do to much (a whole other set of issues many of them self inflicted) so they just give you the quick answer they think you want, but even when you respond with why what they gave is incorrect they push back a second or third time before finally admitting they didn’t give you what you need an apologize. I just need them to read the first (or even second time) and get what I need instead of what they think I want. Many of these requests are in writing to try and prevent confusion or because I need to loop in other groups or because I don’t need it in the next five minutes and I don’t want to interrupt their flow of other tasks.
    In the most recent example I needed the equivalent of a formal quote from a customer that they have access to but I don’t and they gave me a standalone price. Despite saying again I needed the formal quote they claimed they gave me that in the email and I had to repeat I need the formal signed quote and not the price they gave me.

    1. allx*

      1. Write your request in shorter sentences. Avoid conjunctions. Bold the sentence that ask for the actual thing you need.
      -OR-
      2. If the request requires a lot of explanation, after you write it, summarize it in one sentence at the top that highlights only what you are requesting. Mark it as “Short Version” or “Request” or similar. Bold it.
      -OR-
      3. Use bullets or outline format. Keep sentences simple. Bold the actual request.

      I have had good results with including the short summary at the top.

      1. Mad Harry Crewe*

        Yeah, make it as easy to read as possible. Put the ask at the front, put any explanation or clarification later. Numbered lists are your friend.

        I would also short-circuit the back and forth and try calling, or going over to their desk to chat. Especially if you get the wrong answer the first time, give ’em a call. You know emails aren’t working, so try other things.

  34. WheresMyPen*

    How to argue for a sabbatical?

    My company offers 3 month sabbaticals once you’ve been there 5 years. There’s not much documentation about it in our handbook or intranet, and I don’t know anyone who’s done it. A friend said he’d asked about it and we’d have to write a letter applying for it, presumably giving reasons why they should grant it. I’m thinking of applying for one after I get to 5 years in September, but am not sure what I’d write in the letter. I work for an educational publisher in the languages department, and part of the reason is that I’d love to travel more around the countries we feature in our publications, which are countries I studied in at university. I can probably frame part of it as wanting to reconnect with the cultures and languages we write about, but that’s not necessary to do my specific job well. But also I’m just a bit tired of my job, feeling a bit bored and not sure if I want to move on, so want a break, but having a job to come back to seems more attractive than quitting to go travelling indefinitely. Is there anything else I could include to make a good case for letting me take the sabbatical?

    1. ferrina*

      I think traveling the countries so you can gain a deeper understanding is a great reason! It sounds like it would have a lot of benefit to your team and your company. And you want to position it in a way that makes it as easy as possible for them to say Yes. “Hey, I heard we offered this sabbatical. I would love to take advantage of this to travel in Countries so I can better understand the nuances of language and culture. What do I need to do to make this happen? Are there forms to fill out? Who would need to sign off?” In this initial conversation, try asking with a direct question about next steps- this can prompt people to think more about ‘how will we do this’ rather than ‘should we do this’

      Don’t mention “I’m bored”- that isn’t a reason to say yes and can really get on managers/administration’s bad side.

      1. WheresMyPen*

        Yes of course, I wouldn’t mention the bored aspect :D

        I think my manager would appreciate wanting to spend more time in the country to be inspired, but wasn’t sure if it would really move HR much since it’s not necessary to do my job, and me being away for 3 months would inconvenience the team :/

        1. WellRed*

          Yes but they OFFER it as a benefit. It’s nit like you are suggesting this out the blue ordinary. If your boss is on board, why should HR care?

    2. Texan In Exile*

      Are you sure you have to give a reason? Mr T worked for a tech company with a similar benefit. He just told them he wanted to take the sabbatical and the next step was working out the timing and logistics. He didn’t have to give them any reasons.

      1. Cordelia*

        yes, sabbaticals are available from my employer – what you plan to do with the sabbatical is not part of the employer’s decision-making process, it’s purely about how much of a problem your absence will cause to them.

    3. Hope and Story*

      I think you need you find out about the procedure for applying for yourself, and not make assumptions based on second-hand information (“presumably giving reasons”). You don’t even know if you’d have to “argue” for this yet.

  35. Aelfwynn*

    Has anyone here changed from a manager-level position back to an individual contributor? What were the upsides and drawbacks?

    I feel like I’m honestly a pretty good leader, but I’m just feeling burnt-out at getting sh*t from all angles. No matter how compassionate, flexible, and fair you are, there will always be people under you who resent you because you’re the ‘boss’, people who think you have more power than you do (I have no control over people’s pay or whether they get a promotion besides recommendations), and people above you who blame you for anything and everything even if it’s outside your control (we had a very senior executive say that if people weren’t receiving promotions/raises, it was their direct manager who determined that which, as I mentioned, is CATEGORICALLY FALSE and just leads to people being pissed at me for things I do not actually control).

    It’s a tough position to be in, and I’m not sure that it’s something I actually want to shoulder anymore. Anyone else go through this? What did you do?

    1. ferrina*

      Honestly, it sounds like you need a new workplace. If your Very Senior Executive is giving lies instead of raises, that’s a red flag.

      To answer the question you asked, I went from being a manager to being an individual contributor (switched teams to a totally different structure). I really miss having direct reports. I loved being a manager. But this new role is giving me the opportunity to support the company in a new way, a way only I can do.

      I don’t know if you’ll find that at your current company. If you’re getting hit from all angles, changing from manager>IC will only mean that you’ll be hit from less angles, not that you’ll stop being hit. And there are companies where you don’t need to worry about that level of toxicity.

    2. Texan In Exile*

      I have two friends who have done this. In each case, they wanted to go back to Doing the Thing instead of Managing Other People Doing the Thing. And in each case, they were valuable enough to their employers that they were able to do so. They’re still happy.

    3. Qwerty*

      I do this! I’ve been alternating between leadership and IC roles for a lot of the reasons you state. I am a software engineer, so its pretty common in that field. All I have to say in an interview is that I love coding and want a break from being in meetings all day and they usually get it.

      One thing that is tough is breaking out of the leadership habit as an IC. I end up taking on part of my boss’s job, which makes them happy but then I find myself being a psuedo manager without the pay or authority, so you have to enforce good boundaries on your habits and remind yourself sometimes “not my circus, not my monkeys”.

      Former managers often make good mentors, so maybe look for a role that involves training less experienced coworkers?

      1. Mad Harry Crewe*

        Yeah, when I changed fields I went from supervisor to IC. I’m much happier as an IC, but it took a while to break the habit of seeing a thing that needs doing and figuring out what to do about it. That’s not my job anymore.

    4. Tio*

      I actually just talked about this with one of my reports who I pulled from our old company from a manager role to a contributor role. He’s very down with the work he’s actually doing, but he said the weirdest change for him was going from being very “in the know” on the behind the scenes info to what’s going on in management being a black box again. He misses the policy guiding and planning way more than the people management part (he could probably do without that again tbh lol). And I get it. I’ve worked with some frustrating reports before, and it can be exhausting.

  36. I edit everything*

    University job interview happened this morning (I’ve mentioned it a couple times in the last few weeks). I’m one of two, I think, and the hiring manager expects to make a decision by the end of the day. I’m feeling good, but trying not to. We really hit it off, and she kept saying things like, “If we’re lucky enough to have you join the team,” which is making it hard to get on with my day. It will be a big adjustment from my current job, which is mostly sitting and waiting for the phone to ring.

    Keep your fingers crossed. I’m not sure what I’ll do if I’m limited to two weeks vacation. If that’s the standard starting point, I’m going to try to negotiate up. My partner has 5-6 weeks, so only having two will be a real pain. It’ll be my first union job, too.

    1. yeep*

      Good luck! Just remember that even if they make the decision today, they may not be able to reach out to you to make the offer until next week. If you don’t hear back from them today, it may just be that they had to clear the offer with HR, and it took longer than necessary.

      1. I edit everything*

        Yeah, she explained that there are bunches of hoops and approvals HR will need before they can make an offer.

    2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      I’m also waiting to hear about progress in a university hiring process (no way it’s the same job, from your details). Universities don’t move quickly. We both need a buttload of patience!

      Wishing you all the best.

  37. Debt?*

    I hope this is ok for the Friday thread, as it’s about school! If not apologies, I’ll try to repost tomorrow.

    I’m not American but I’ve been listening to some US personal finance podcasts and most people have a ton of student debt. Like sometimes in six figures. I swear I’m not trying to do the thing where I’m doing false concern or “I can’t believe how dumb you guys are, how do you live like we do in my country”, but can people help me understand more about US student debt? Is six-figure or high five-figure debt common? And is it mostly for tuition, or accommodation, or other? And how recently has this got this bad? Would someone who finished university 20 years ago, for example, have had near the amount of debt a more recent graduate would have?

    Thanks in advance! I’m just really curious on
    The details.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      Honestly, run an Internet search on “Why is US student debt so high?” because this is a much bigger answer than you probably think it is. Basically, tuition rose faster than incomes, we have an insane loan system, and higher education isn’t as subsidized here as it is in other countries.

    2. Managing While Female*

      College costs in the US shot up around the time of the Reagan Administration (late 80s, early 90s). You can Google the reasoning for this and it’s a fascinating account of full-on racism and elitism that led to this sudden spike in prices.

      It was also the time when parents were really pushing their kids to go to college, and that continued well into today. In my own experience, I was a 17/18 year old kid signing loan documents because college was the path to success and “I would be able to pay it back no problem once I get one of those nice jobs that people with a university degree have”. That was the thought. Add in post-graduate studies, and the cost soars.

      The issue also isn’t just with the loans themselves, it’s the interest rates. Even government-sponsored loans, which were SUPPOSED to be very low interest and mean to encourage kids to go to college, have 15% interest rates. Most people still paying student loans aren’t just paying the principle, they’re paying the interest and it keeps accumulating.

      Enter in the 2008 recession and the lack of jobs for several years… guess what kept accumulating interest? Yep. Those loans. All while the kids who took them out are trying to eek by on minimum wage jobs because they can’t get a job in their field.

      This isn’t EVERYONE’S experience, of course, and some people like to brag about how it wasn’t their experience, but a lot of what especially millennials hear is about how stupid we were to take out these loans by the exact people who told us it would be a good idea and we were ‘investing in our future’. The issue, long story short, is not only with the high sticker price with college (including tuition and room and board), it’s with the interest associated with those loans and the lack of the ‘promised’ high-paying jobs.

    3. ferrina*

      5-figures are extremely common. 6-figure is less common, but can be common in certain industries that require higher-level degrees from expensiver schools (hello to any lawyers or doctors out there).

      College/university tuition has been steadily increasing for over a decade. “tuition” includes accommodations at some schools, but even if you aren’t paying for a room and don’t have a meal plan, tuition is still extremely high. You can find some costs on the college’s websites.

      Each person must pay individually. Some families are able to pay for their children’s college without taking on loans- these are higher income families who have often been saving for years. Scholarships can be available, but usually won’t pay for the full amount and can be tough to get. Some schools offer need-based assistance. This means that they can waive parts of the tuition if you are in poverty. It helps a lot, but still can be more than the student can afford. In that case, the student is still taking out loans to pay for accommodations and the parts of tuition they need to pay.

      This can be a contributing factor to generational wealth/poverty. I graduated with 5-figures of debt. I graduated right into the Great Recession, so I was paying $500 per month on my loans while making barely above minimum wage. My savings account was minimal. Meanwhile, I had friends whose parents had paid for their college in full. They had no debt. That extra money that they saved went toward a down payment on a house or other investments that increased their wealth. It’s a broken system.

    4. Not Your Secretary*

      As Dust Bunny said, it’s complex, but one of the issues is that supply doesn’t meet demand. As manufacturing died out, college education was seen as the only way to enter the middle class, and prestigious colleges were seen as the main way to become wealthy. That made competition for jobs fiercer, so more and more jobs started requiring college degrees, which reinforced the problem.

      Still, there would be a natural limit to the amount families could pay if not for the government-backed loan system, which allows relatively poor students to take on a huge amount of debt. The conventional wisdom for a long time was that any amount of debt was worth it and that future earnings would easily pay it off, but that really isn’t true anymore. It’s also very difficult to get rid of debt, particularly if you have to drop out or your school turns out to be a for-profit scam; it stays with you even after bankruptcy.

      Our government is currently arguing over whether it’s okay to forgive some of that debt, but that doesn’t address the fundamental issue of college being unaffordable.

    5. DisneyChannelThis*

      https://educationdata.org/average-cost-of-college has the answers you are looking for.

      The big one is you often cannot work full time while also going to school, the course timings don’t work out. I personally did 3 part time jobs (none with benefits) while in school to work around my class schedule (one was an all day sunday, one was 2hrs/day spaced before my classes, one was 3hrs twice a week after my classes). School in lecture hours, time spent on projects/homeworks/readings also adds up. So you are paying for school, fees, books, housing, food all without bringing in much income. Most people take on loans. Loans have very high interest rates, so even if you pay 1/2 your paycheck to the loan each month the interest is still more than you are paying, so the principal of the loan never decreases.

    6. Angstrom*

      Another oddity is that the most exclusive, wealthiest institutions have the highest costs on paper, but also have the most generous financial aid packages. A low-income student accepted to one of those palces could end up paying and owing less than they would at a “less expensive” college or university.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        Yeah–and I went to college in the 1990s so I sort of predate the worst of this–one of my siblings and I went to the same nominally-expensive college, but they were generous with funding, we had good test scores, and there were two of us there at a time, so it ended up being manageable.

        My best friend, whose family was lower income than ours, went to the same school on a full scholarship after passing up a full scholarship to an Ivy League (she realized she couldn’t afford the social life there).

      2. SLAC*

        Yes, great point. I went to an elite school for my undergrad during a period when the entire school was no-loan. It meant that for many of us, the overall cost was less than it would’ve been at our state university. But they could do that because there were lots of kids from rich families paying the full sticker price (and because of the bazillion-dollar endowment).

      3. kiki*

        Yes, I mentioned below that I went to a school that charged ~$50k per year but it was somewhat rare that anyone actually paid that. Between scholarships (mine was full tuition) and financial aid, only very wealthy people who struggled to get into other colleges ended up paying that $50k. In a way, the nepo baby contingent subsidized the rest of us.

      4. A Person*

        100% this. I was lucky enough to go to college in the early 2000s which was still before the worst of it, but I *also* was low income at a school that advertised 100% of need met. I had a few quarters where the school actually gave me money to put towards housing/food when I wasn’t living in the dorms. I also got to get some money from work-study in the summer.

        I ended up graduating with 4 figures of debt which was doable to pay off with an entry level job before the interest even hit. I feel incredibly lucky.

        1. LoansRequired*

          Yes, but the way they define need, or did in the 80s and 90s, meant that there were a huge swath of people who had too much money for financial aid but not nearly enough money to pay for school. Loans were the only option. It was not based on reality.

          Signed, like everyone I know I fell in the gap

    7. Hlao-roo*

      This article is from 2015 but it has some good general background info on student debt in the US:

      “Everything you need to know about student debt” by Libby Nelson from June 10, 2015 (on Vox, I’ll put a link in a reply)

      This article has a breakdown of average loan amounts by degree type:

      “Student Loan Debt Statistics: 2024” by Eliza Haverstock and Anna Helhoski from February 5, 2024 (on Nerdwallet, link in reply)

      For a bachelor’s degree, most student loans are in the low to mid five-figures. It’s the graduate degrees where the high five-figure and six-figure debts are more common.

    8. Kimmy Schmidt*

      Student finances in the US have a ton of factors to consider, but here are some of the things I can think of from my own experience.

      – Public v private university. In general, a public state university is going to be much cheaper, especially a smaller regional comprehensive (as opposed to a big flagship school).
      – In-state tuition v out-of-state. Out-of-state tuition is sky high and can be 2-3 times more than in-state. However, many states now have reciprocal agreements where people in certain neighboring states/counties get the in-state rate. You can also sometimes qualify for the in-state by becoming a GA, working on campus, or getting certain scholarships/grants.
      – Financial aid. Wonky and wack and varies by state and campus. For the most part, students have to fill out the federal FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) to qualify for everything from merit scholarships to need-based scholarships to federal work study (not all jobs on campus are work study but many are) to grants.
      – FAFSA calculates based on family income, so there are a ton of 18 year olds with families who technically make too much money for assistance, but those families aren’t paying for that child’s education. These individuals generally have no choice but to work full-time or take out loans.
      – Tuition remission or assistance programs, often for graduate programs in exchange for labor (different from paid stipends).
      – Many students get student loans with the expectation that they’ll work in a position where they qualify for student loan forgiveness programs after so many years (very common in my field of higher ed). There are both federal and state forgiveness programs.
      – There are different types of loans. Federal loans are the least (?) predatory, but there are tons of models in both federal and private loans. Parent co-signer, some only for graduate students, some don’t accumulate interest if you graduate within X years.
      – As far as I know, many of the 6-figure loans are for graduate/professional school, with the understanding that you’ll be making a big salary afterwards to pay them off. Law, medicine, some types of engineering.

    9. kiki*

      It’s dependent on a lot of factors, but most of the people I know with six figures of student debt have advanced degrees in fields that generally come with higher pay (law, medicine). I also live in DC where a lot of the jobs require advanced degrees, so it’s more common here to have really high levels of student debt. There’s an assumption of a lot of folks going in that they will be paid so much the huge amount of debt can be swiftly paid off, like going into Big Law where even the starting salaries can near $200k per year. Or folks go with debt go into public service where there are programs that will pay back their debt if they stay in the field for X amount of years.

      I think it became common for students to have large amounts of undergraduate debt when I was in college, about 10 years ago. That, to me, is more dangerous. The college I went to had tuition of nearly $50k per year. That didn’t include room and board! I had a full tuition scholarship, so I managed to get through undergrad without any debt and I’m tremendously thankful. A lot of my peers have had to stay in jobs/industries that they hate or even morally oppose just because they want to get out from under $100k or more of student loans just from undergrad.

      I also think every college student going in assumes that they’ll end up with a high-paying job upon graduation, so the debt will be quickly offset and worth it like it was for their parents or grandparents, but that just isn’t the case– average salaries haven’t kept up with the cost of college.

    10. Stuart Foote*

      One thing to bear in mind is that salaries tend to be higher in the US than most other countries, so it’s easier to pay off, say, $15k in loans than it might be other places. The six figure debt is more common for a) grad school for high paying jobs, or b) grad school for interesting but NOT high paying jobs (ie, fine arts, etc). Costs are combined between tuition and accommodation.

      For many middle-class and upper-class people, college is somewhat of a vacation before starting the work force where the idea is to prove to potential employers you aren’t a complete idiot. I strongly suspect that 90% of Business majors (which I studied) do very little studying and nothing they learn couldn’t easily be learned on the job. So a lot of student debt goes towards fake majors where nothing is learned and the main goal is to have fun. A surprising number of people go into huge amounts of debt to play college sports as well–I’ve known a number of people who racked up over $50k of college debt to play Division II or III football.

    11. Chidi has a stomach ache*

      So, I am one of the student debt holders – mine was high 5 figures. The amount people hold will vary depending on whether they went to state universities or private universities (I went to the latter) and very often includes both tuition and on-campus living costs (which for me was adding roughly 25% of the overall tuition). If I had not had scholarships and worked as an RA I likely would have hit 6 figures. Graduate degrees will also add to this — it’s not uncommon for law schools, med schools, etc to leave graduates with multiple hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt.

      I went to college right before the 2008 recession, a moment in time that was a toxic mix of highly escalated college costs and lackadaisical attitudes towards debt. I also did not have very financially savvy parents, so some decisions were made without really thinking through the long-term consequences. Then, the recession tanked salary growth for a large portion of my age cohort and those graduating college behind us. My younger sisters, who started college during and just after the recession, both had lower debt loads than I did, which was largely because 1) my parents were finally in a position to help them with tuition and 2) private colleges started highly discounting their stated tuition in order to keep enrollment numbers up. So while tuition numbers are still high, it very much varies from school to school what the average student is actually paying (I was tenure track at a private university for a few years, and the avg student there payed 60% or less of the sticker price for the school). But even lower loans still cause problems because wages are still relatively stagnant. At the same time, while private schools were starting to highly discount, public university tuition has gone up because of underfunding them — my husband went to a state university for essentially free given his AP credits and scholarships, but that wouldn’t be possible for him if he went to the same school today.

      This is all anecdotal, and there is a lot more large-scale economic data worth checking out on the issue. I honestly don’t know if the debt loads, on average, are worse for current graduates relative to inflation and avg wages than they were for my cohort. There are a lot of individual factors that can weigh in there.

    12. Llellayena*

      Most people here are going to give you the over the top examples, so here’s one that’s more “budget”:

      In state tuition, state school, $6000 per semester (not per year), 3.5 year program, no summer classes. Housing $600/mo, actual apartment but on campus (dorm room might have been less but I was a graduate student so not an option). On campus food program was a separate cost that I don’t remember because I opted out (since I had an apartment, I had a kitchen) so food and other “living” costs were separate and not tracked well. It was the recession so no summer jobs available and the program I was in strongly recommended not having a job during the semester (lots of out-of-class work). My parents helped me with rent over the summers. After the 3.5 years I had $75,000 in loans just from those expenses. Over 10 years on a plan where amount paid was tied to income (notoriously low paying career, couldn’t do the $900/mo they wanted, it was more than my new rent!) my loans INCREASED due to the interest rate to just under $90,000. Then COVID relief for the interest and I’m only back to where I started on the loan despite continuing payments.

      Basically the system is set up so there’s no way to dig out without a high paying job AND good budgeting fresh out of college when your earning potential is at its lowest. Interest rates are awful and make the loan underwater in many cases. I’m going to stop here lest I go on a political rant…

    13. Dancing Otter*

      Government support for higher education has been declining for decades here. Funding for state schools is inadequate, so tuition and fees have dramatically out-paced inflation. Many of the highest regarded universities are private and receive no direct government funding at all.

      Somewhere in the 1980s or ‘90s, student aid shifted from mostly scholarship grants to almost entirely loans. Teenagers generally aren’t mature enough to see the long term financial implications, so they take the “free money” rather than choose a less expensive school, or work and attend part-time. Not all of them, but a lot.

      I graduated in 1975 with no student loan debt, because I had academic scholarships. In 2002, my daughter graduated from a state university owing about $15K (around $26K in 2024 dollars). A private school could have been double that, even then. Those numbers are for a basic bachelor’s degree.

      Add a couple of years of graduate study, and six figures do not seem unlikely.

    14. Zephy*

      1. Yes, it’s increasingly common for Americans to go into five-figure debt for a bachelor’s degree. Six-figure debt is not unheard of for undergrads (particularly undergrads at private institutions), but is more common for graduate and professional degrees.

      2. It’s mostly for tuition, although on-campus accommodations are not exempt from the current ongoing insanity around how much it costs to live inside a building in this country.

      3. Someone who graduated in 2004 would probably also have done so with considerable student debt, but probably not as much as someone graduating in 2024. (Source: I graduated in 2013 with five-figure student debt.)

      The US does not have any national free or low-cost post-secondary education, and the way our state and Federal governments interact, the states are more like a bunch of tiny countries in their own right. Some states offer free or deeply discounted tuition at public colleges/universities for residents; the exact terms of who qualifies and how, and what is and isn’t covered, and how much, vary wildly from one state to the next. And that’s before even considering private institutions. The availability and extent of financial aid also varies from state to state and among public vs private institutions. Federal financial aid is arbitrarily capped at certain amounts per year (around $15k on average), as well as per student over their lifetime – the government will not pay for your education indefinitely, and you do have to pay back loans you borrow from them, regardless of whether or not you graduate, and regardless of whether or not you find a job in your field or make use of your degree beyond checking “Yes” when job applications ask if you have one. There are no carve-outs or special allowances made for fields that require more than a bachelor’s degree to practice the discipline (like medicine and law, or anything requiring a Master’s degree for professional licensure).

      I think most public institutions have a five-figure pricetag per year at this point. I would be surprised to hear of a private American college/university with a sticker price under five figures per *semester.* The college I work for is currently charging almost $20k a semester just for tuition and fees, and staying on campus can almost double that depending on the room type. Certain programs have additional fees tacked on as well. Direct cost of attendance hovers around $50k/year right now, plus or minus easily $10k, depending on factors like that. Now, that’s the “sticker price,” and very few people actually pay that. The school offers some scholarships that are more like discounts, the state has a couple of grant programs that residents can qualify for, and then the Federal government can usually offer students at least a few thousand in loans if nothing else. It does leave a not-insignificant number of students in need of a four- or five-figure private student loan, though, and that’s where you start to see the really crazy loan debt. And private loan debt is largely exempt from the loan forgiveness that the Biden administration has been rolling out.

    15. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      If going bankrupt won’t clear the debt, what happens if your income is genuinely too low to repay those loans, or if you simply decide not to work, e.g. meet a partner who works and you both agree that you’ll stay home permanently for childcare, house & garden. Are there any penalties for this?
      Or if you are able to emigrate to another country, what can they do when your income and assets are all abroad ?

      When the UK introduced student loans (dreadful policy; I’d never have gone to uni if it hadn’t been free & with full maintenance grant) repayment only happens after a certain income level so you can study if you don’t plan to work or only for a lowish income. Also, the govt can’t deduct from your pay if you move abroad – a much easier escape route for the young before Brexit.

      1. Hlao-roo*

        If your income is too low to repay the loans, or if you decide to not work, I think your debt just keeps accruing interest.

        There is a program (Public Service Loan Forgiveness) for people who work certain qualifying low-paying jobs where student loans can be forgiven after 120 payments (or 10 years). This program started in 2007 and was very poorly run for a long time, with only 7,000 people’s loans forgiven in 2021. But the Biden administration has made a lot of improvements and as of last year, 715,000 have had their debt forgiven through the program.

        I’ve read a few articles of people moving out of the US to escape student loan payments. Technically, they still owe and are still accruing interest, but no one’s going to hunt them down while they’re abroad. The plan seems to be “never go back to the US again.” I’ll link to a few of those articles in a reply.

    16. Kesnit*

      I did my undergrad in the 90s. My family started buying savings bonds for me when I was born and used those to help pay for my college. My parents were also solidly middle class and took out parent loans to help me pay for school. So when I graduated, I had very little student loan debt. What I had I paid off within a few years.

      In the late 2000s, I decided to go to law school. I ended up at a private school (which was more expensive). Of course, I also had to pay rent, food, and utilities. My now-wife (then fiancee) worked part time in retail, so could help a little with costs. I am a veteran, so had the Post-9/11 GI bill, which mostly covered rent, but not much else. So I took out loans to allow us to live.

      I had about $200,000 in debt when I graduated in 2012. The legal market wasn’t great and I could not find a full-time, permanent legal position until 2015. I was paying on my loans, but because my income was so low, my monthly payments were minimal. In 2017, I started working for a state agency, still paying my loans. I have paid monthly since, except where there was a pause during COVID.

      I now owe about $190,000.

      (I still work for a government agency. If all goes according to plan, my loans will be forgiven in 2027.)

    17. Excel Gardener*

      In general the internet, and frankly this website too, gives a very skewed picture of the situation that makes it sound far more dire than it actually is for the average person. For undergraduates at public universities, high five figure or six figure debt is not common. Most Americans go to public universities for undergrad, and of those only about half graduate with debt. Of the half that graduate with debt, they have about $30k of debt on average. Which of course is a lot, but keep in mind that college graduates tend to make more money than people who don’t go to college, even in 2024, so in the long run the investment is still worth it for most.

      People who have high five figure or six figure debt either went to very elite private schools (in which case they often have very good career prospects) or, more likely, went into debt for graduate school. Often these graduate programs are in high paying fields, like medicine or law, so again the long term salary gains more than pay for the initial debt. However, there are some fields that require graduate training but don’t pay very well, like libraries or social work. I do feel for people in those fields, but their experience is far from typical.

      There are also a lot of predatory graduate programs, even at otherwise credible universities, that charge insane tuition with the promise that they will help people enter competitive, prestigious, but low paying fields like journalism, entertainment, or the arts. The number of people who go through programs like these is pretty small, but understandably they’re upset and vocal about it once they realize the degree wasn’t worth it. They’re also very overrepresented in online discourse in my experience. I have sympathy for these folks, but also it’s annoying when they act like their experience is typical.

    18. Burnt out or Lazy*

      It really depends on a bunch of factors as many people here have said. But for reference here’s my general info.

      I went to a public college paying in state tuition. I also got a full tuition scholarship. Unfortunately the cost of room and board were way more than the tuition. I only had to take out loans for one semester, at government interest rates (I think it was like 5-6%) and my parents covered the rest of my fees so I was lucky and graduated undergrad with a 4 figure debt.

      Then I went to grad school. I also got a decent scholarship there but I had to take out additional loans in order to actually be able to live and go to school at the same time. So then I had 5 figure debt with a 7-8% interest rate.

      Then I couldn’t find a job for about a year and ended up having to go on an “income driven” plan which meant that I basically didn’t have to pay anything but interest continued to accrue. I got a decent job but in order to make my payments affordable and still be able to enjoy my life I had to put myself on an extended payment plan, so I’ll be paying more in the long run but my payments are manageable. This plan is not based on my income anymore.

      Honestly at this point I could absolutely afford to pay down the debt faster but I’m kind of hoping some kind of student loan forgiveness eventually sticks so I’m playing the long game.

    19. anon24*

      This is late, and you already got a bunch of good links and good resources, but this is my personal experience. I have been working through community college, which is fairly cheap, but now I’m transferring to a state university. Tuition is 18k a year. As a single person who works full-time and makes about 40k a year, I’m considered able to pay my tuition in full myself, which is not even close to realistic. I’m not eligible for any grants, and despite having a 4.0 GPA I was denied all the scholarships I applied to. I was offered a scholarship of 6k a year, but only as long as I attend school full-time and never drop below full time at any point, and I have to work at least 45+ hours just to break even and pay my bills every month. This leaves no extra money for things like tuition, textbooks, the occasional treat, clothing, or even personal essentials. My entire household budget for cleaning supplies, personal hygiene items, things like paper towels, toilet paper, etc, is $50/month. Of course I’m going to end up deep in debt, at the same time I’m working myself to death picking up tons of OT shifts and doing school. But it’s a gamble I’m taking, because my current career path is going to leave me unable to keep a roof over my head soon with the way cost of living is rising, and if I can finish my degree I should be able to pay off my loans and survive. And if I can’t finish, I won’t be able to pay rent and I’ll end up homeless anyway, so paying off my loans won’t matter, because the debt collectors can come find me on the streets.

  38. Knock knock*

    I’m hoping someone out there is able to help me and offer some advice. I am desperately trying to get into the United states, via a work sponsored visa but am somewhat floundering at where to start. A brief background about me, I’m a British citizen. I worked as a state/HCPC (Health and Care Professions Council) registered Biomedical Scientist specialising in Biochemistry for 15 years. I have spent the last 5 years still working in Pathology but managing the laboratory information systems.

    My main question is, where is the best place to start looking for roles in this area?? In the UK 99% of our hospitals and healthcare settings are within the NHS, so that is the single point of contact for searching for jobs. But how does this work with the American Healthcare model?? Are there any specific websites or recruiters that I could look at??

    I’m not restricted to working on the customer side and I would also be open to working for the suppliers of the systems, many of the systems i currently manage are supplied by American companies so i suspect they are commonly used here too.

    Second question: My current employer is very keen to keep employing me and has suggested that I could have extended periods of ‘Working from America’ but I am unsure of the legality of this when in the country on a visitors visa, the information available online for this is somewhat vague – is there anyone that could offer advice as to whether I could work remotely for someone in the UK whilst visiting?? and how long I could do this for??

    Thank you for reading this, any advice or guidance would be gratefully received!!

    Systems I have experience using and managing –
    LIMs – Dedalus Telepath v2.3, Clinisys Winpath Enterprise
    Electronic Order comm – ICE
    Electronic Patient Record – ecarelogic
    Lab data managers – Remisol, CITM
    Sample tracking – Vantage
    Digital Pathology – PACs

    Also extensive knowledge and experience with Biochem analysers – DXI 600/800, DXCs, Au5812, Automate and the Power Processor sample tracking system.

    1. Kesnit*

      I used to be an immigration attorney (in the US). I did not work much on the employment side, but I do remember a little

      You CANNOT work in the US if you are here on a visitor visa. Sometimes people will come here and then work under the table, but I doubt that is what you are looking for. (Most often that is people on student visas or people who are backpacking around and picking up odd jobs while on vacation.)

      If your current company has an office in the US, you may be able to transfer to that office. How that would be done is outside my area, but it is possible.

    2. Tio*

      To work in the US you need a sponsored work visa. It is illegal to work on a tourist visa at all, as the other commentor noted. If you were doing some working from America, it would have to be small, few day business trip style work.

      The US does not have a single healthcare system. Each hospital is pretty much its own business, and they are businesses. They are for-profit institutions, and behave accordingly. However, for biomedical and pathology specialties, consider looking at openings for the Center For Disease Control (CDC), who do various research type things as well.

    3. US very different*

      Also, be aware the US has it’s own very specific health IT systems and requirements. I’m not saying you won’t find any of the above systems in use here, but they will likely be configured very differently if they are (and most seem to be UK-specific, designed for NHS use, or primarily used in Europe more generally).

      Does that mean you can’t or shouldn’t look for work in the US? Of course not! But you’ll have to learn new systems, new regulatory requirements, new processes, and may need to look closer to entry level options until you learn and get used to all of the above.

      Good luck!

    4. Ama*

      The other commenters are correct about the visa — you must have a work visa to work in the US.

      I have spent the last 10 years working adjacent to the US health system, if you can really call it that, since it is a hodgepodge of nonprofit/for-profit/academic and community based hospitals. Based on your background you may be better off looking at a hospital run by an academic institution. Unfortunately all of these run their jobs separately, however there are some professional associations specifically for pathologists; these may have job boards for pathology related jobs or they might at least have lists of their member institutions which could help you identify hospitals to look at. Start with the College of American Pathologists and the American Society for Clinical Pathology and see if that gets you anywhere.

      Also, would Canada be an option at all? I know a handful of Canadian doctors and it seems like their medical system is much closer to the British one (government run), so that might be easier.

    5. Hillary*

      You probably want to start by narrowing down what you want to do or where in the US you want to be. I’d start looking on Indeed or LinkedIn and saving jobs you’re interested in. That should help you get a clearer direction. From there, look for employers that sponsor visas. I’m not an attorney, but it looks like H1-B or H1-C are the common options for non-doctor health care providers.

      I’m sorry to say employer sponsorship is pretty rare for external hires in the corporate world. My last employer only sponsored employees transferring from another country, and even then they had extraordinary skills. I had one colleague who was initially hired in the US on her husband’s visa. They wanted to sponsor her for the US but she ended up in Canada for five years first.

      You’re going to see conflicting advice on the internet – do not lie about your need for sponsorship on applications. Lying will turn a maybe into a permanent no.

    6. Nesprin*

      FYI in California there’s a specific clinical lab scientist certification that’s required for this sort of work for clinical samples.

  39. Mimmy*

    The post above from “Seeking Transition” got me thinking about something. The OP stated that, although their university administration wants online classes, they want staff to be on campus in case students come in.

    I’ve been wondering about this myself. I’m not in higher ed but have been trying to find jobs in the field. The types of jobs I’ve been looking for are student-facing, so yes, it’d make sense that you’d be expected to be on site for meet with students face-to-face. But what about a school that emphasizes online classes, such the OP’s university? The school where I got my masters is also largely online; yet they expect primarily in-person staffing, which made little sense to me (at least, that was the case 2 years ago when I graduated).

    Thus, my question for those in higher ed: What do the students expect, especially when it comes to student services (Career Services, Disability Services, Academic Advising, etc.)? Do they want to be able to go to campus to access services–even if they take only online classes–or do they prefer the flexibility of remote services? Does anyone see a trend towards remote work, perhaps with the “online” arm of a major university?

    1. HigherEdAdmin*

      I work in higher ed student services and we work hybrid, taking “in person” meetings using Teams and a campus meeting room with a computer (so the staff can be remote but talking to a student on campus). We have another student services office in a different division that does no in person services, only phone/email. And I have a colleague in an academic department who is only allowed 1 day per week remote work. Expectations about remote work vary widely across my campus. My particular area has had to become hybrid to be able to hire competitively though there are some limited fully remote positions available for the most behind the scenes folks (tech mostly).

      Student response-wise, we haven’t seen significant pushback to the virtual meetings. Tech issues can be frustrating in these situations, but we’re a pretty well-oiled machine after the last 4 years !

    2. Zephy*

      I work for a university that caters primarily toward non-traditional students and almost all of our programs are available fully online. The university still has physical office locations and prefers for their staff to work from those physical offices, even though at this point basically 100% of every department’s job duties are accomplished via web-based platforms. The business case for requiring in-person work serving online students is “we’re paying for this damn building so you’re going to use it,” as far as I can tell.

      1. Zephy*

        Hit submit too soon.

        To answer your question about what the students want – even my local students opt to meet with me virtually most of the time. I think especially younger students are more comfortable with remote services – *I’m* not remote, I’m at campus and they can come see me in meatspace if they want to, but if we’re meeting via Teams, it doesn’t change the student’s experience if I’m in a building on the side of the highway or on a beach in Cabo (heaven forfend). Older students that have already made the technological leap to online classes are usually OK with at least phone meetings, if they haven’t fully bought into Zoom/Teams. Many of the students that opt to meet with me face-to-face are either older nontrads, or for the younger set, they have parents who still handle this kind of stuff for them. Those parents are less technologically adept and so compel the student to come see me in person rather than arranging a virtual meeting.

    3. Brevity*

      It’s not what the students want, it’s what the upper administration wants, because they’re competing for students.

      Most people in upper administration are Old School and are still deeply uncomfortable with online work, where they can’t see staff in seats. They’ll trust faculty, because historically they always have, since faculty positions have never been butt-in-seat jobs. But with students populations dropping, a lot of people in upper admin are going crazy worrying about money (specifically, the money that pays their salaries). There is so. much. shouting at the tops of their lungs about enrollment and retention, and the shouting is done at staff, because staff are the “value-added” complement to the student-faculty relationship.

      Upper administration also reports to Boards of Trustees, who are usually business people who don’t understand that higher education isn’t supposed to be a profit-making operation in the first place (as well as being older Boomers who don’t trust the whole work-from-home concept and must see butts in seats to believe work is being accomplished). Add that to falling enrollment, and bang, unhappy Boards bitching about lack of “deliverables” to upper admin, who then apply more and stricter pressure to advising and other staff via HR.

      Higher ed is an absolute clusterf*ck right now. Too many boomers are still in charge, clinging to outdated structures that don’t serve students, denying the fact that enrollments are just not going to be what they were for their generation, and refusing to reduce the upper admin bloat that inflates tuition.

  40. Nicki Name*

    If references you haven’t interacted with in at least a year are too stale to use, and you’re job-hunting secretly while at a job you’ve been at for at least a year, what do you even do for references?

    1. Not Your Secretary*

      I have never heard a rule that references you haven’t interacted with in a year are too stale to use. That would eliminate *all* of mine. Just reach out to them and ask if you can still use them as a reference (and so they know to expect a call).

      1. ferrina*

        All of this.

        I’ve used references older than a year. I’d say “stale” for 7+ years old. I’d even allow for 5 years if they can speak in depth and you’ve got someone more recent included on the list. Current is nice, but I think most people know that some people can’t ask their current co-workers to be references (much less their current supervisor!)

        You’re fine, just make sure your references know that you’re still putting their names down.

      2. kiki*

        Seconding that I don’t think that rule is true. You should reach out to the reference beforehand to check in and make sure they’re still willing to be a reference, but I’d be the answer would be yes unless there are other factors going on.

    2. WheresMyPen*

      A lot of job applications I do ask ‘can we contact this reference during the application process?’ or something like that. If you’re hunting secretly but think your boss could be a good reference once you decide to leave, often you can tell companies that so they don’t contact your boss too soon

    3. HonorBox*

      I don’t necessarily think there’s a hard and fast expiration date on references. A year is certainly not too long ago. If a reference can speak to your work in a way that shows relevance and knowledge, they’re someone you should keep on your list. If it is someone you’ve not worked for or with in like 10 years, there’s probably enough time that has passed that you might want to consider someone else.

      My references include a colleague who left my business 2 years ago, but who could still speak to my work because we’re still somewhat connected; a former supervisor who I’ve stayed in touch with and whose work in my industry makes their opinion about me relevant; and my current boss (which can be perilous, but he’s also been supportive of exploring options when recruiters hvae reached out in the past).

    4. ecnaseener*

      I just contacted an old reference from 5 years ago and she responded quickly agreeing to still be a reference! One year is nothing.

      That said, if your latest performance review at your current job was good, offer a copy of that when you explain that you can’t offer up your current manager.

  41. Richard*

    Anybody else see this post from Fortune/Yahoo Finance about a Gen Z grad landing a job at Linkedin by waitressing at a conference? https://finance.yahoo.com/news/gen-z-grad-landed-linkedin-090000800.html

    Stories like this irritate me. I know AAM and the readership here are against using gimmicks to get jobs, but hearing about a young professional having to do this to land a job shows how broken hiring is as opposed to it being inspirational (and I’m also annoyed at people praising the “gumption.”) I am all for networking, but this woman shouldn’t have needed to waitress in order to get hired.

    And how many other people have tried this to no success? What are your thoughts?

    1. Managing While Female*

      Oh my gosh I hate these too for all the reasons you said plus the fact that it implies that others who can’t get jobs just aren’t working hard enough which… no.

      Also on my hate list — those articles about how some 22 year old paid off 150K in debt in 6 months “just by hard work and savviness”. Ummm… okay, that money had to come from somewhere, though and my bet is either a nice loan from mommy and daddy or a super high paying job helped.

    2. Don't You Call Me Lady*

      I wouldn’t do this myself, but I do admire the effort and creativity she put in. Even though gimmicks and gumption aren’t great job hunting strategies overall, they can clearly work sometimes.

    3. Ama*

      I would caution though that Linkedin is one of the few places this would work because their whole business model is based on pushing networking as the solution to every business problem (they also have a vested interest in publicizing this story for that reason).

  42. Knock knock*

    Hi,

    Brit looking for advice finding a job state side in the heathcare sector. I’ve worked as a Biochemist in hospital pathology labs for 15 years and spent the last 5 years managing Pathology IT systems.

    In the UK we have the NHS which covers 99% of healthcare settings, so its a single point of contact for finding vacancies. Where do you start looking with the US healthcare models? Can anyone recommend any agencies that might be able to help me.

    My current employer is keen to keep me employed and has offered extended periods of ”working from america” but i’m not sure about the legality of this – can I work remotely for a UK employer whilst in the USA in a visitor visa?

    many thanks for any advice

    1. 867-5309*

      I would suggest finding a U.S. employment lawyer regarding the tax and legal implications of working from the U.S. for an extended period of time. Does working in a lab require any kind of licensing, even though you are IT? If so, you will need to find local boards. Additionally, are you authorized to work in the U.S.? Coming here with a spouse or partner? Will you need workplace sponsorship?

      There are many considerations and I would be hesitate to go into just on anyone’s advice, even if they did something similar, without counsel.

      Once all that is covered, medical jobs are posted for disparately here. There is not a single place but many professional organizations post jobs, once you decide WHERE you want to live you can look online (Indeed, etc.) for jobs in the area, and so forth.

    2. US very different*

      there’s a similar thread above yours. Please check my response there.

  43. Not Your Secretary*

    One of my male colleagues emailed a group three weeks ago with, “Can someone set up a meeting about [my project] so it can move forward?”

    Another member of the group just replied, “Has anyone followed up on this?”

    I’m a woman in tech and neither of their admins. I’m playing this game of email chicken to win. (Though I feel a bit guilty about not fixing things, which just makes me annoyed and more stubborn.)

      1. ferrina*

        Seconded.

        If you must respond, say “My calendar is up to date- pick any time that works for you.”

      2. lost academic*

        This. Do not respond for any reason unless asked a direct question, and then you can and should find a way to not do it because this is absurd. It is a slippery slope.

    1. Texan In Exile*

      Be strong! Do not yield! It’s his project – he can set up the meeting.

      Please do keep us posted.

    2. Zona the Great*

      Holy heck that really grinds my gears. I’m on the fence on whether you should write back with a, “That someone is you, the one who wants the meeting. Make it so”, or if you should ignore completely because it isn’t your job to teach them.

    3. Antilles*

      This might be my male privilege (or maybe it’s just my personality), but reading both those of emails, I wouldn’t have even considered scheduling the meeting for them. Like, the idea of scheduling a meeting that Colleague #1 wants for his project wouldn’t have even crossed my mind.

      1. Orange you glad I didn’t say bananas*

        This is great. So if LW is asked specifically in the future she can have a “Huh? Sure. Let me know you get that scheduled.” Just like a man would.

      2. Zephy*

        This kind of indirect request historically has been a HUGE part of feminine corpo-social conditioning, at least in the US. It’s starting to shift now, thankfully, as more and more women (1) wake up to this kind of bullshit and (2) take on higher-level leadership roles, but my mother (a lifelong admin – no disrespect, a good admin is worth their weight in gold and my mother is a damn good admin) would almost assuredly have understood that email as a request for her, specifically, to schedule the meeting.

      3. Mad Harry Crewe*

        I don’t know that it’s male *privilege* exactly, but those emails are a pretty explicit request for “somebody (who isn’t me, the email writer) to schedule a meeting” and then a followup asking the universe why this task hasn’t been done. The fact that you weren’t taught that it’s your responsibility to make sure things get done is a result of gendered expectations for you.

        Girls and women, broadly, are expected to see things that need doing and do them – chores, errands, scheduling, note taking, message taking, and so many other small admin tasks at home and at work. That work often happens so far out of sight and with such little friction that you may not notice it’s getting done at all.

        This email thread just brings the expectation (someone else will handle this trivial but boring task that I don’t want to do) very much into the light.

      4. The Cosmic Avenger*

        I’m male and have actually done this on rare occasions for male and female bosses (when I am in charge of a task and they ask to have an update or something actually reasonable), but then I also do clean up after others and take notes sometimes. Rather than ignore it, I probably would have responded in this case as a few others have suggested, either “Go ahead, my schedule is open/you can see my availability in Scheduling Assistant”, or more likely, since he probably included me and at least one other female colleague, “Good idea, [Male colleague]! [Female colleague(s)] and I will look for the Outlook invite.”

    4. Nesprin*

      “Oh sorry- I would have assumed that you’d know how to use email. Let me know if you need outlook tutorials for scheduling a meeting”

    5. Analytical Tree Hugger*

      What is wrong with your colleagues??

      In my head, my response is something like, “I’m sure you can do it. I believe in you, champ!”

      In reality, ignoring it forever is the way to go.

    6. DrSalty*

      Frankly I would be tempted to respond “my calendar is up to date, please take a look and schedule something”

    7. BikeWalkBarb*

      [Michael Jackson eating popcorn GIF]

      No guilt! No fixing required! Because nothing’s broken other than their tech skills involving Outlook calendar use so no irony here since you work in tech.

  44. beaming bean-counter*

    just wanted to drop a quick “thank you” to the readers/commenters here– earlier this year I wrote in the weekly threads asking for job hunting advice, as I was absolutely miserable at my last place. I got some wonderful feedback, and once I got into the final rounds of a position that looked much more up my alley, the folks here were great in helping me get the confidence to negotiate for my needs and ask questions about the role I’d normally be too shy to poke into.
    I just hit 90 days into the new position, and things are going swimmingly– there’s no such thing as a perfect workplace, but I go through my workday with a little smile on my face, and I’d say that’s pretty damn close. I find that I genuinely enjoy both my colleagues and the work we do, and everyone here is so incredibly component and good-natured that it sometimes takes my breath away.
    thank you much for everyone here who gave their 2¢! wouldn’t be here without it.

  45. Tradd*

    I have some positive news about the late 50s/early 60s women who were looking for WFH jobs that I posted about maybe 6-8 weeks ago. One woman immediately took a MS Outlook and Word class through her local library. She has a job now! It’s in person, sit down, office job. Through extended family/friends network, she was told of an office job in a small family-run company. They needed someone to be in the office, answer phones, do simple email/word processing stuff. She’s several weeks in and I’m told she’s doing well and she said she likes it. She never had an office job before. It’s very close to her home, so commute isn’t much. I don’t know exactly what she’s making, but it’s definitely more than minimum wage.

    1. Managing While Female*

      Wootwoot! +10 for libraries. They’re an incredible asset to a community for more reasons than people know.

    2. pally*

      I remember your prior post!
      This is good to see. It’s not work from home but she scored a job and I bet it’s really fueling her self-esteem!

      Public libraries are such hidden gems!

      1. Tradd*

        She couldn’t do retail (or the like) as she couldn’t stand long due to health issue. I don’t think an office job ever occurred to her! So she can sit down, which works well for her.

    3. AnonymousOctopus*

      I remember your prior post! I needed this today, thanks for sharing the good news.

  46. anonforthis*

    How plausible is it to get a job in market research after you have been out of it for a few years? One of my first roles was as a market research analyst. I left to do policy research for a nonprofit for a few years but now want to go back. Will the fact that I’ve been out of the sector hurt my chances?

    1. ferrina*

      No. If you are looking at analyst roles, this is actually a plus. Most analysts are fresh college grads, but you’d be coming in with industry knowledge and office experience. In your cover letter, you can speak to why you want to work in market research (outside of “I like numbers and research”….everyone says that, but you actually know what market research really is and what it really does.)

      The market is a bit competitive right now, but you should go for it.

  47. Despairingly unemployed*

    Post-interview update: 20mn with 4 people did go by really quickly!

    As much as I want to say it went well I’m not very confident given all the questions were not typical (aka took me by surprise) and I feel like I skirted around things (unintentionally). But hey, they liked my (Alison’s) questions! The interviewers were nice and it seems the culture is very supportive.

    Thankfully it’s only a two round process (bless), with round two at a slower pace, so I find out next week if I make it through or not. Maybe then I can use the negotiating advice, but I know I’ll be asking their intended start date.

  48. Mentalrose*

    I have what is basically a serious reference problem.

    I’ve worked the last 17 years as both a receptionist and a dental assistant in the rural dental office belonging to my father. This has been both very good for all concerned and also very aggravating for me, since every time there is a family emergency the Actual Assistant who is also my mother takes off to take care of family and I become the sole employee. We figure at this point I have a total of at least 10 years worth of experience doing most of the tasks by myself, possibly more.

    Dad’s 76. Mom’s 74. This office has been open for 46 years and they are done now. It’s retirement time – for them, not for me. My problem is that I am now 51 years old with a ton of work experience and…nobody to go to for references, given that most businesses do not want reference from immediate family members. I know that Dad would give a fair and accurate reference but of course hiring managers don’t know that.

    I’m not really after a career here. It has been an extremely difficult 17 years of emotional labor in addition to actual work and a blurring of boundaries and professional norms that I would not have undertaken for anyone else in the world. I just want a nice, calm job at a nice calm desk that I can do a good job at with work that is designed for one person to do. Be nice if I could make somewhat more than minimum wage doing it. I am *terrified* that what I’m going to wind up with is work at a grocery store or fast food because I won’t be able to convince anyone else to give me a shot. There’s nothing wrong with those jobs but I have done them before and know beyond a doubt that I will not enjoy them and they will not much like me either. Any advice at all from people who do hiring or people who have gotten themselves into a position similar to mine would be greatly appreciated.

    1. Tradd*

      Did anyone else work in the office? Maybe long term patients would be willing to act as a reference if you saw them a lot?

      1. Mentalrose*

        Not while I was there, no. I am familiar with some of his past assistants and know them fairly well, but the fact is that I grew up with their kids and ran in and out of that office all through my growing up, and that’s mostly how they know me. Small town living. One of the past receptionists is still a patient, so I suppose I might be able to ask her? But again, it would be a situation of having seen her and her husband maybe twice a year for an hour as a general rule. Would an employer consider that a reasonable reference?

        1. Tradd*

          I live in a metropolitan area so my experience is going to be very different. If you’re staying in the same rural area, I expect there are different attitudes towards references as there is much more of a “everyone knows everyone” situation.

          1. Mentalrose*

            It’s a weird-ish situation. The town I live in is super-rural and the ‘everyone knows everyone’ thing definitely comes into play here. But in a town of 500 people, job openings are at a bit of a premium, so first there has to be something. Half an hour away, in any given direction, are a number of much larger towns where there are more jobs but nobody knows me especially. I will be staying here, as unless my husband’s job decides to move him, this is where his career is. (Applying to his company is definitely an option, it’s an international company and one of the largest employers in the area. The fact that they know my husband might or might not be a help to me, I’m genuinely not sure.)

    2. Celebrating*

      A question and then a thought:

      Question: Do you share the same surname as your parents?
      If yes, then you navigate it one way. But if you have a different surname, it may be less apparent that you’re working for your dad.

      Thought: When you list the workplace on your resume, note that it was a business owned by your parents. That’ll give a hint that you worked with/for family. If I were reviewing your resume, I don’t think I’d really give that much more than a passing thought. People work for family businesses all the time.

      Then list all of your responsibilities. Highlight what you did, what you know, and show the skills that would be appealing to someone hiring for the role you’re looking for.

      As far as listing references, are there vendors you worked with? Did you do anything with any of the companies that you used for supplies? Are there a couple of well-placed clients who could speak to your skills, your interaction with patients? Do you work directly with a person at an insurance company? I think as long as there are others beyond mom and dad who can add context to what your parent(s) would say, you should be in good shape.

      1. Mentalrose*

        I go by my married name these days, not my maiden name, so that’s definitely different. There are a couple of vendors at the supply companies that I spoke to fairly regularly, though I never met them face to face. Our accountant knows me pretty well, come to think of it, we’ve dealt with one another for some years. Thank you, these are not people it would have occurred to me to go to.

        1. Celebrating*

          I think there’ll be much less thought about family relations with you going by your married name. And I’d definitely add a patient to your list, as well.

          Good luck!

        2. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

          Might be worth also reaching out to some of these vendors (i.e., your accountant!) who may know of anything that they can directly refer you for!

    3. CzechMate*

      I’m no expert on this, but I would assume that you could approach this somewhat like a person who is interviewing after being self-employed–you could use contractors/business partners as references who can attest to what it was like to work with you and the things that you were able to accomplish.

      I would imagine that some of this is also about framing: emphasizing “I managed xyz for a small business for nearly 20 years” is obviously different than “I worked for my mom and dad,” so as much as possible, keeping the emphasis on your independent work that was done to keep the business running. Plus, people work for family businesses all the time. Saying, “It was a family business but I independently did the billing, insurance, front office so dad could do the dentistry” is way different than “Dad scrounged up an internship somewhere.”

      1. Mentalrose*

        First before anything else: Your username is awesome.

        I did figure how I worded things in my resume would matter. It was the references that were just baffling me, but with so many people responding that outside business contacts are also good references, I am feeling less frantic about that. I have to remind myself that family business or not, I have a lot of experience at doing an actual job and just need to present it that way.

        1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

          I’d add, too, that it is not uncommon for a position to ask for one of those references to be a supervisor. I think you say, in this case (and this would be after interview if they were leaning toward you as candidate of choice, they’d probably reach out and ask for this at that point), “I didn’t list my direct supervisor because my only one for the last 17 years is my father, as I worked for the family business. I am happy to share his contact information and I am comfortable with you contacting him, but wanted to be transparent about that.”

    4. My Brain is Exploding*

      Are you OK with working in another dental office, at least for a while? (And then leverage that job into something different if you want, like dental receptionist to office receptionist.) Your folks must know a lot of other people in the field (school friends, local dental association members, etc.) and could give you some contacts that would know your folks. They would be willing to talk to your dad about your dental experience and would understand how valuable your depth of experience is. Also I think “working for my dad” and “working in a family business” sound a little different. Good luck! (Update later, please.)

      1. Mentalrose*

        If I have to, I can do that certainly. It’s not my first choice; I’m a little burned out on it. But if all else fails it’s a direction I can go. Additionally, *if* the small town we are in chooses to buy the office and attempt to get another dentist in, the possibility exists that I could go back into the same office as someone who knows the town and the people. But that’s a big if at the moment.

        1. Astor*

          You might also have decently good luck with looking for jobs in small businesses (that aren’t dental offices). The set-up you describe with your parents is much more common in those settings, although I think less so with every younger generation.

          For the kind of office job you’re describing, they are usually much more flexible about the kind of reference you provide. They may just want someone to be able to say that you’ve shown up on time over multiple days/weeks and been pleasant to work with and don’t really care to confirm what you’ve otherwise been doing for the last few years.

          Do you work closely with any dental labs or semi-regularly refer to the same specialist? If you work with the same person there regularly they might be willing to be a possible reference for indicating things like that you always provide them with the information they need, are ready for pick-ups/deliveries, and are pleasant to work with. The idea is not that they’re being a reference like a proper manager, but that you might still have a pool of people who can say that they’ve worked with you multiple times and that you did what they expected while being pleasant. That can mean a lot when you’re hiring for jobs at the level you’re talking about.

          But even if not, some ways to get references include volunteering for things and working temp jobs. And again, neither of those need to be long-term (if those roles are designed to be short-term) because your goal for the kinds of jobs you plan to apply for isn’t to get a whole managerial reference but just to get people to say that they’ve liked working with you and that you were able to adapt to whatever they expected you to do.

          I don’t want to suggest that getting a job will be easy, and there will be some age discrimination: but I think you will have more options than you currently feel like you do. For the kinds of jobs you’re describing, you’re not going to be competing against people who have 17 years of experience in that field, you’re going to be competing against people who are just out of school and also looking for an calm office job. And so you’re doing fine, you just need to find the right opportunities where the hiring manager looks at you and your resume and cover letter and thinks, “ah, yes, they have a good vibe!”

          Good luck!

    5. KT*

      Honestly there is a lot of entry level work you would be able to do at slightly higher wages than what you would find in a grocery store/fast food.

      Would you be up for a call center? Customer service over the phone? You could work admin at a school. Being in a rural area could work to your advantage since I’m sure there are business owners and managers that no doubt would be willing to hire you based on your performance there. It sounds like you are in the beginning stages of thinking about looking or are about to start and it sounds like you are really unsure.

      I know this isnt much, but I hope I can transfer some hope your way! I have no doubt you will find something that is exactly what you are looking for. Try to do some networking on your own social media if you can. Just state what you are looking for and see if anyone has some leads. There is something out there for you!

      1. Mentalrose*

        I am right at the beginning of figuring it all out, yeah. I’m willing for a lot of things and have no real problem with getting an entry level job as long as it’s a good friendly culture. Several people in the area have mentioned the schools needing teacher’s aides and while I haven’t had work experience in that area in a long time, I do have the education for it. That one might depend on how badly they need people.

  49. Celebrating*

    Just sharing some good news. A very challenging coworker turned in notice and they’re gone from my business. It became more and more apparent that they were in far over their head, and based on what I heard in the days leading up to their departure, they were incredibly unhappy, had zero understanding of their own responsibility for their actions, and they had some deeply held grudges for not getting their way on everything. We’re down a person in a key role, but the morale is already much better in the office.

    1. Csethiro Ceredin*

      Congrats! It’s amazing how much one person can change the atmosphere for the worse.

    2. Mentalrose*

      Oh, man, that sounds like a tough situation to be in. Here’s hoping all involved continue to have improved morale and you find someone better suited to the role soon!

    3. River*

      Woo-hoo! Sometimes all it takes is one person to go on a good long vacation or to just leave for the atmosphere to lighten up and moral to improve! Always good to hear when a negative nelly leaves or gets let go.

  50. Kevin Malone*

    In 2020, my company, Dunder Mifflin, was bought out by another company, Sabre. I was working for Dunder Mifflin in the paper airplane department and had worked there since 2017. About a year later, the leadership in Sabre’s paper airplane department decided to merge the two departments. A year after that, the department did some restructuring, which led to my role being eliminated. As far as I know, my role was the only one that was affected by this restructuring, but other roles had been eliminated and other layoffs occurred between the merger between the companies and the elimination of my role. There have also been other layoffs and role eliminations there since I left, mostly in the past year or so, but I don’t know what caused these layoffs.

    I was given six weeks’ notice before my role was officially eliminated to give me time to find another job. I worked through the whole notice period but found a job at Michael Scott Paper Company, which allowed me to avoid having a gap in employment- my last day at Dunder Mifflin was on a Friday and I started at Michael Scott Paper the following Monday. I decided at that time that, since there would be no gap in employment, I could tell future interviewers that I left voluntarily for a better job. I even asked the HR manager, Holly, if she could put it on the books (meaning in the HRIS system) that I resigned voluntarily. She said she would be willing to do that but I don’t know if she did. It is company policy to not disclose reasons for leaving to outside parties, but this was more of a “CYA” kind of thing for me.

    After about 3 months of working at Michael Scott Paper I decided to start looking elsewhere as I wasn’t happy there for several reasons. At that time, I was telling interviewers that I left Dunder Mifflin voluntarily for a better job. I ended up landing a job at my current company, Athlead, after only six months of working at Michael Scott Paper.

    I’ve recently started interviewing again but have reverted to telling interviewers about the layoff at Dunder Mifflin when asked why I left there. The reason I changed my mind is to not give off the appearance of job hopping since I was only at Michael Scott Paper for six months. When they ask why I left there, I simply say that Athlead was offering better compensation and benefits, which is true but not entirely why I left.

    Most interviewers don’t ask further questions about the layoff at Dunder Mifflin, but I had an interview yesterday that made me think the recruiter was trying to determine if the layoff was in any way my fault, which it wasn’t. Some of the follow-up questions included how many others were laid off and, when I stated that layoffs had occurred after I left, she asked if they were actually layoffs or if people just left. I don’t think these are bad questions in and of themselves, but I guess the fact that I had to discuss it in detail at all had me taken aback. When I initially decided that I would tell interviewers the move was voluntary, I knew that most interviewers would understand if I had been laid off but that there would be the occasional interviewer who might try to find out if I was at fault for it without directly asking that.

    I’m thinking it’s best to continue to tell interviewers about the layoff at Dunder Mifflin, when asked and only when asked. That said, I’m not sure how I should feel or what I should tell interviewers who ask a bunch of follow-up questions about it.

    I would love to hear some of your thoughts about this and how I should approach it on a go-forward.

    1. ferrina*

      Sounds like one interviewer had a bee in their bonnet about layoffs. One person’s bee shouldn’t determine your job search.

      Your mistake was when you told HR to change it to voluntary. Layoffs generally aren’t a black mark on your resume- in some industries they are ridiculously common. And now you have a set-up where you have two conflicting stories. That’s always going to sound bad. As they say, stick to the truth and you only have one story to remember.

      So going forward- “There was a layoff, and I was lucky enough to find a job before the layoff notice period ended. I told them I would be willing to leave voluntarily, so I don’t know if HR marked it down as a layoff or a voluntary parting.” Tell the facts, plain and simple.
      Generally you should only share your reason for leaving when asked. If you focus too much on why you left your old employer, it sounds like sour grapes.

      1. Kevin Malone*

        Your mistake was when you told HR to change it to voluntary. Layoffs generally aren’t a black mark on your resume- in some industries they are ridiculously common. And now you have a set-up where you have two conflicting stories. That’s always going to sound bad.

        Yeah, hindsight tells me that I shouldn’t have asked Holly to put that it was voluntary. Part of why I did that was because I had had some other involuntary exits in previous jobs, only one of which was in any way my fault, so I got scared of how it would look if it happened again. I also expected to stay at Michael Scott Paper for longer than six months but felt unable to stick it out there.

        That said, Holly told me repeatedly that Dunder Mifflin’s policy was to only disclose dates of employment and job titles, not to disclose anything about reasons for leaving. I just initially planned on telling interviewers it was voluntary so I asked her to put that in the HRIS system in case someone slipped when they were asked about me by a potential employer and revealed what the system said- that way, the stories would align. It seems very unlikely that this would happen but the chances are (barely) nonzero.

        Holly was impacted by more recent layoffs at Dunder Mifflin so I don’t know if they replaced her or if Sabre’s HR is now doing all the employment verifications, or if the person doing them even knows what happened to me. I also don’t know if the policy that Holly told me is in place but I imagine they wouldn’t change it to allow them to disclose my reason for leaving.

        Also, if the conflicting stories come into play (i.e., I say I was laid off when they say I left voluntarily), I’d like to think I could clear it up, though I would have to figure that one out. If it were the other way around, then I could see how it would look like I was hiding something.

        1. ferrina*

          I wouldn’t assume that you’d get the chance to clear it up. Plenty of people would rather cut a candidate loose rather than have an awkward conversation. Or if they had other hesitations about you, this would just be the last straw (not something they’d ask you to explain).

          Set it up so there won’t be conflicting information in the first place.

          I’m sorry about your previous firings- I can see where that would make you a bit paranoid. Layoffs are a different calculus than a firing in that layoffs have nothing to do with your performance (in theory). For a firing, it really helps if you can approach it as a learning experience. If you show that you know how to gracefully grow from a mistake, that’s a selling point (obviously don’t proactively bring it up, but if it comes up, lean into it as “Obviously I wish it hadn’t happened, but I see why it happened and here’s how I’ve learned and grown as a person since then”. You’d be amazed how many people don’t take this approach and double-down)

          1. Kevin Malone*

            Only one of the previous instances was a firing. The other was a layoff, and I vaguely remember having to answer further questions about that. That said, those previous positions are no longer on my resume as enough time has passed and I’ve had enough roles since then that I feel that I can comfortably leave them off. They also don’t speak to my experience as well as my last three positions do.

    2. HSE Compliance*

      Why would you want it put down that you left voluntarily?

      I think you can comfortably say that due to company mergers and restructuring your position was eliminated, the same as you have described to us.

      In reading this it does seem like this is being made more convoluted than what it actually needs to be, and part of me is wondering if the recruiter picked up on that and was trying to figure out what the actual situation was.

      1. Kevin Malone*

        Why would you want it put down that you left voluntarily?

        I responded to ferrina’s comment to explain why I requested that but I’ll repeat it here.
        ” Part of why I did that was because I had had some other involuntary exits in previous jobs, only one of which was in any way my fault, so I got scared of how it would look if it happened again. I also expected to stay at Michael Scott Paper for longer than six months but felt unable to stick it out there.”

        In reading this it does seem like this is being made more convoluted than what it actually needs to be

        I think it’s important to provide as much detail as possible when asking for advice in comments. I obviously did not explain it to this extent in the interview.

        part of me is wondering if the recruiter picked up on that and was trying to figure out what the actual situation was.

        It’s possible I gave off a vibe that made her question me further- I am prone to stuttering and using filler words like “um” when interviewing- but as far as I remember, I did what I’ve been doing on every other interview and simply stated that my role was eliminated as a result of the merger and/or restructuring. I don’t think I gave her a reason to ask follow-up questions when she wouldn’t otherwise do so but that’s something only she can answer.

    3. lost academic*

      I’m not entirely sure but I would not categorize your departure as a layoff when it was a departmental merger with a role elimination. This is a situation where it matters to be specific because it’s information that’s both useful to the interviewer and beneficial to you. I also don’t think it would be wrong to still say you left for a better opportunity, and it doesn’t matter that you didn’t stick around, lots of things don’t pan out that way. What I don’t think you should do is change your story. That’s a red flag and you don’t know how that will get around. Pick one and stick with it.

      1. Kevin Malone*

        Right, I don’t usually say laid off. I state that my position was eliminated as part of a restructuring as a result of the merger. YMMV but I tend to think of position eliminations and layoffs being interchangeable in many scenarios.

      2. ferrina*

        It’s a layoff. A layoff is elimination of existing roles due to business needs. If you have two roles doing the same work and you only need one, you layoff the person doing the extra role. This is a common reason for layoffs during mergers (though some companies avoid using the term ‘layoff’, that’s what it is). You can have a one-person layoff.

        Layoffs aren’t a bad word. It’s the best reason for an involuntary departure from a company. I’ve been in plenty of interviews where reasons for leaving was “layoff”, and generally, it has no impact. Most people understand that a layoff is based on business needs, not personal (though a few people will assume you did something wrong, but there’s always someone that will believe something for whatever personal reason).

  51. RosemaryShrub*

    I’ve reached the references stage for an admin position in academia and they’re asking for a reference from my current manager. A little bit of poking around AAM leads me to realize that this is a little bonkers but kind of normal in academic roles. I asked if there was an alternative reference I could provide but haven’t heard back from the usually very responsive HR rep.
    For more context I’m a director at a small non profit, so the closest thing to a manager I could provide would be our board president which feels really off, though honestly I’m willing to do it for this job.
    Has anyone navigated something like this or have any insight?

    1. yeep*

      Our HR won’t allow us to use an alternate option, but they will generally acquiesce to a request to negotiate a verbal offer contingent on the reference check, so you can be sure that you will accept the position before notifying your current supervisor. That way you are essentially giving notice at the same time you are telling them “you will be receiving a call for a reference check.”

    2. OtterB*

      Has it been the same board president your whole tenure? If there’s someone who rotated out of the role, that might be an alternative.

    3. Spacewoman Spiff*

      Ugh, this is so frustrating. I’ve experienced this in academia as well. When it happened to me, I gave them all the references except for my current manager, and asked if (assuming those reference checks came back alright) they could make the verbal offer before speaking with my manager. That way we could discuss the offer and I would know if it was solid enough that I’d want to accept, before I lit my current job on fire. The university was fine with doing that. I think I got my verbal offer on a Friday, had the weekend to think it over, and then shared my current manager’s contact info. They were pretty understanding of how uncomfortable this was for me, so did a pretty good job updating me on when they would speak with my manager. It all worked out alright though it was incredibly awkward. Good luck!

  52. RMNPgirl*

    Just had an interview for a stretch position. I think it went well but sort of got the feeling at the end that they want someone with more leadership experience. Which I would understand but I also really want someone to give me a chance because I know I would be really good at the job. I’m supposed to hear back early next week if I’m being moved forward. So fingers crossed! This job would also get me back to my homestate and closer to family.
    I have another interview for a different job Monday that isn’t a stretch for me but would be a promotion in title. However that one would require relocating to a new city where I don’t know anyone and I’ve done that twice in the last 10 years so not sure I want to do it again.

  53. BleepSheep*

    How do I explain I’m leaving a job due to cultural fit?

    What’s a good way to expand on that if they ask during interviews?

    1. Celebrating*

      “I’m looking for a new challenge that isn’t available to me at my present workplace…”

    2. Kay*

      Depends on what the issue is. You can always simply say “the dynamics/requirements/job description for the role changed and was no longer a good fit” …I’m excited about this role because…/I’m looking to do more (insert thing this job is looking for), I am looking for a work life balance/flexible schedule, etc.

    3. Annie*

      Could you tell us what makes your current job a bad cultural fit?

      From there, we can help translate “I’m running away from X” to “I’m looking forward to Y”.

      1. BleepSheep*

        – There’s a lot more overtime required than was originially discussed in the interview
        – I am struggling to work in an open office with terrible equipment. I have to take client calls on a 15 dollar set of headphones in an open environment. I can’t fit three sheets of paper on my tiny desk. All the facilities are cheap and so crappy. I have 15 years of experience in this field and this is probably the worst in terms of facilities/supplies/having zero privacy.
        – My boss and grandboss do not follow basic professional norms. They are frequently late to meetings, do not acknowledge direct messages, never ask how you are doing.
        – Workload is excessive because we are on a hiring freeze and they won’t post positions for people who have left
        – Zero employee appreciation. No use of the words “please” and “thank you” from management. Feels like I’m just a cog in a machine. I know that’s what you usually are, but it sucks to feel like they don’t even try to treat you differently.

        1. Annie*

          Wow. That is a lot to deal with!

          It also sounds like you haven’t been there very long? Unless you had a job right before this one, interviewers are going to want to know (in interview friendly terms) what you’re running from.

          What you can say in interviews: “My current job turned out to be different from what I expected, especially when it comes to the work environment and required hours. I’m also looking for a more supportive management structure.”

        2. Celebrating*

          I think if you’re asked you could lean on the first and fourth…

          “I’m looking to move because the overtime expectation is much greater than what was discussed when I signed on, and that is now compounded because we’ve had a number of people leave and the company is in a hiring freeze.”

          I think I’d skip the other stuff because it could come off the wrong way, but if you are focused on greater expectations of hours and increased workload with apparently no end in sight to that, it is very reasonable and well thought out.

        3. Analytical Tree Hugger*

          Seconding Annie’s suggested script.

          If I may add, about half of what you’ve described is not what I’d call a cultural fit.

          Overtime, desk space/open office, and the hiring freeze are working conditions (as Annie suggested).

          The tardiness and not using “please” or “thank you” *are* cultural fit.

          I suggest this reframe so you can talk about why you’re moving on more accurately in interviews.

  54. PropJoe*

    My boss has tasked me with something that I’m unsure how to do, and I don’t even know the correct terminology well enough to be able to start some internet research.

    “Ask your boss to clarify” well she admitted to not knowing the proper terms and on top of that she’s out of the office for vacation.

    I have been tasked with identifying some job-relevant questions to have job applicants answer as part of the application process (“you’ve uploaded resume & cover letter now answer three questions on teapots”) as well as job-relevant questions to ask in interviews themselves (“please examine this teapot and tell us what you can identify of its characteristics”).

    Are there specific terms for these two different kinds of questions?

    Are there good sources of such questions online or will I need to write them myself?

    1. DisneyChannelThis*

      Write them yourself. If you were training someone on your job, what questions do you think they would have? What background knowledge would they need?

      In interviews it’s often better to go with “Tell us about a time when you used software XYZ to do task ABC” rather than ask if they know what page the sub menu for task ABC is inside that XYZ software. You get more information. And if they haven’t used it, it’s pretty obvious. “Are you familiar and comfortable working with software XYZ?” is another version of it.

      1. PropJoe*

        In keeping with the idea that complicated involved things should be reserved for the end of the hiring process so as to respect the time of everyone involved, does the following sound reasonable?

        Job application questions (these can be yes/no or very short answer, would be asked of every applicant):
        -Have you used MS Word for teapot reports?
        -Have you used MS Excel for analysis of teapot data?
        -Have you used MS Powerpoint for presenting teapot ideas to a group of people?

        Job interview activities (would be asked of only those selected for an interview):
        -Here is a laptop with an Excel sheet of teapot market survey data. Please tabulate and chart the data based on criteria like manufacturer, volume/capacity, material, country of origin, etc.
        -Here is a laptop with a brief report on recent teapot research activity. Please prepare one to three slides summarizing the report. Here’s a link to copyright-free images you can use if desired.

        I haven’t personally dealt with anything like this from the job applicant perspective or the hiring team either, so I’m aware that my initial guesses may be well off base compared to what’s normal.

        1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

          I think the exercises seem reasonable, BUT check how long they will take. More than a hour would be a bit much, if unpaid.

          Personally, I would recommend skipping the questions (as written) and include in the job ad, “We will ask the final candidates to conduct a few exercises, including…”

          Or, if the hiring team is adamant about including those questions, I’d suggest rewording it to:

          “In your cover letter, include examples of when you have used Word/Excel/PowerPoint to write, analyze, and present on teapots.”

          The questions as worded are yes/no, which aren’t going to tell you more than the exercises themselves will. I don’t think having separate questions makes sense because that’s even mor material the hiring team will probably never read, except for candidates who are selected for the interviews. And they’re better suited to the interview anyways.

    2. Margaret*

      The role that the applicant will fill — is there some kind of professional association that lists the competencies that people in that field should have?

    3. Tio*

      So, I would write them yourself. I’m a customs broker, and here’s some questions I asked in the interviews related specifically to my field, and what they tell me:
      What sort of commodity groups have you classified before? (Tells me what your experience is)
      What’s the hardest type of thing to classify? (there are a few commodities that are notoriously difficult, so if they don’t mention any of them, I suspect they don’t have as much experience in those fields, which we import)
      What sort of PGAs are you familiar with? (We use a lot, so if they don’t list those, might indicate they will either need more training or don’t have much experience)
      What would be your first step in classifying an item? (Shows me their thought process and tells me a lot about how much they have done this process)
      How do you use the chapter notes or explanatory notes? (Shows me whether they check all the details)
      How would you determine if a PGA is applicable to an item? (Kind of a critical thinking question)
      Have you ever submitted for a ruling request from customs? (Shows what kind of external resources they are familiar with)

  55. Namename*

    The program I work for is being merged with two other groups and it looks like there’s going to be some reshuffling of the various management roles. I know people from the other groups well and this could be a chance to advocate for a preferred new role. We’re getting really piecemeal incomplete info about the new organization and vision, though, so it’s hard to get an idea of what might be available. I think this will work out better if I can be proactive about asking for what I want instead of waiting to be approached and maybe end up agreeing to something less appealing just because it comes to me first. Any advice on how to go about that, though?

    1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

      During a 1:1 with your manager:

      “Hello [Boss], I know the teams and roles are being decided, so I wanted to see if there was room for me to be in a role that focuses on XYZ and less on ABC. I think it could benefit the team/company because…”

  56. Yes, really*

    I started a new job a few weeks ago. It has been going well so far. Everyone is very nice and welcoming. However, I have realized that the person who previously held my role was a hot mess.

    Besides things being disorganized, I am struggling with my confidence. This role is a promotion in title and pay for me, and I am trying to live up to my own expectations.

    Does anyone have any tips they can share? TIA!

    1. Zona the Great*

      Yes! I’ve taken roles where the previous person left a total dumpster fire for me to clean up. What helped was not knowing many of the specifics. I didn’t know what I should be afraid of and what was heaping the last person in my role. So I’d dive head first into things my predecessors ignored out of fear/avoidance/shame/whatever with a totally fresh perspective. I’ve cleaned up systems I didn’t even really know where massive obstacles out of sheer ignorance of the history. I repaired relationships just with my attitude toward things that were a mess before. Ask questions, listen, keep drilling, and show them that this position is now occupied by someone who cares.

      1. Yes, really*

        This is terrific advice! Thank you. The person who previously held the role damaged a lot of relationships with key business partners, so thats a huge part of what i am working on.

        1. Tio*

          To improve relations, when things are difficult, my boss has always championed the attitude of “How can we find a solution together for everyone?” That kind of attitude is worth its weight in gold

    2. PrincessFlyingHedgehog*

      If you’re coming into a hot mess, where people are aware you are inheriting a hot mess, they will usually be incredibly understanding that you may need to ask a lot of questions/seek out a lot of info. And depending on how long Hot Mess was there, they may be easily delighted at first by anything you do that is minimally competent.
      In short, be patient and forgiving with yourself, and ask a lot of questions and for a lot of guidance!

    3. Raia*

      The person who held the role before was a mess, you’re understanding and improving relations, and you’re the one having problems with confidence? Chin up friend, you’re doing all the right things, congratulations on your well-deserved step up!

  57. Jess R.*

    Where do you find nonprofit job listings besides Idealist?

    I’m job searching, and I really want to stay in nonprofits if I can. Idealist is great, but I know it can’t be all the nonprofit jobs out there lol.

    1. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      Go to your public library and ask them if they have a list of local non-profit organizations.

      Check a volunteer matching site for lists of the organizations that participate. Or your local United Way or other collaborative fundraising groups.

      Look for associations in your field of interest and see if they have lists of organizations that could be employers. Or figure out who belongs to those associations (maybe on their site, maybe on LinkedIn) and make lists of their employers.

      Talk to actual humans in your field and see if they have any additional organizations that they would add to your list.

    2. Zona the Great*

      In the two states where I was looking for NPO jobs, there were state associations of nonprofits that had a website where you can post and seek job openings. So Colorado Non Profit Association, for example, is a common place where employers know to post job openings. Another is the industry you’re seeking to join and their own association website. So if you were in the transportation sphere, you’d look in the state transportation association’s website.

    3. Yes And*

      Is there a particular subsector you’re interested in? There’s a lot of niche job sites that overlap significantly with the nonprofit sector. In my last job search, based on my interests, I made good use of jewishjobs.com and nyfa.org.

    4. WantonSeedStitch*

      What kind of work do you do? If you’re in fundraising (front line or back end like advancement services) there are professional organizations that have job boards for member orgs to post jobs on.

  58. mistymountains*

    Need accounting software advice!

    I’m taking over as the treasurer for a small non-profit. It’s a volunteer position, and the annual budget is small enough that the $240/year it looks like I would need to pay to use Quickbooks would be a lot. The current treasurer is just using excel spreadsheets, which everyone hopes we can move away from. Are there other alternatives that folks could recommend? We need to track dues, incoming grants, ticket sales, some salary, payments for rehearsal space, other related odds and ends.

    Thanks!!!

    1. Nesprin*

      Honestly if 240$ for Quickbooks is too expensive for your non-profit, it should probably shut down.

      1. Peanut Hamper*

        Honestly, for a small nonprofit paying for software that is only going to be used by one person, $240 could very well be in excess of what they have budgeted for an annual software expense. It’s a bit rude to suggest they shut down simply because they are being careful with their funds. And OP is a volunteer, not an employee.

        That said, there are a number of FOSS (Free and Open Source Software) packages that OP could look at. Somebody below mentioned GnuCash, which I have used for personal purposes, but never for payroll. But it’s good and solid and definitely work a look at. And it works on Windows, Linux, and Mac.

    2. Prorata*

      Frankly, if current Treasurer is successful using Excel, consider keeping that in place – “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”…..but I’m going to assume it’s “broke” in some way.

      I would suggest MS Business Central, but that’s outside your budget.

      I haven’t used it, but GnuCash looks interesting. Also, a quick search brought up FreshBooks, Zoho Books, and Xero – no experience with any of them, but might be worth a look.

      I am not a Quickbooks fan……too many headaches using the Enterprise version.

      Good luck!!

    3. WellRed*

      I think you need to make the case for quickbooks. That is, they can’t afford NOT to use it.

      1. The OG Sleepless*

        I tend to agree…I know using Excel for bookkeeping is a thing, but I’m having a hard time picturing it being able to keep up with payroll. Every time I send out payroll, QB installs payroll updates, and who knows what they are. I wouldn’t want to depend on Excel if the tax rate for W2 employees suddenly changes in my state or something. QB has the capacity to pull different bits of data into so many types of reports, too. (I use Desktop and not QBO, so ymmv.)

        1. The OG Sleepless*

          Also meant to add that filing your quarterly taxes/UI/Social Security is a breeze in QB, and I’m not aware of Excel having an interface like that.

    4. Dancing Otter*

      Have you considered Quicken Classic? It’s about a third the cost of Quickbooks. The “Personal & Business” version might be a little higher, but still less than Quickbooks.

      Quicken isn’t as powerful as QB, but it isn’t as complicated to set up, either.

      Dues might still have to be on a supporting schedule in Excel; I have generated invoices in Quicken, but never tried to create recurring ones.

      One caveat: use the organization’s email, not your own. Someday, a new volunteer will become treasurer, and you don’t want the Quicken login tied to your personal email.

    5. ngo friend*

      Check out techsoup.org. They offer discounted software to non-profits and probably have a version of Quickbooks for a reduced price.

    6. Hillary*

      My accountant uses Moneyminder to run his PTA’s finances. If you’re doing W2 payroll quickbooks would be worth it.

      Will you save money on your taxes if everything is in quickbooks? My business taxes were surprisingly cheap when my accountant could just log in and get all the data (and tell me what I needed to fix).

  59. Stuff*

    I wonder if it says anything to hiring managers if I have kind of a habit of quitting jobs, then returning to those jobs later on? Each individual time has made sense, but if I get rehired somewhere I just applied, that’ll make 3 times I record on my resume (there’s another instance, but it isn’t listed on my resume at all).

    I mean, each instance makes sense in context. The first time it happened, I was working a retail job at a store I liked while in undergrad, but my program had a mandatory internship in order for me to graduate, so I quit to take an internship at a nonprofit. I was accepted into graduate school straight out of undergrad, and I had to move to a new city, and I was living near a location of that retail store I used to work at. They hired me, so I spent that summer working at the store again, just a different location, but that was not as well managed a location, and when school started I was offered a job at my graduate school that I accepted.

    Fast forward a year, and my grandmother is dead and I have money and want to focus on just going to school, so I quit my job. There wasn’t any problem with my job, it was all about my own mental health. I was going to just take some time and then return to the working world, but then 2020 happened, and it was longer than I expected before I was ready to go back to work. By the time I was ready, that job at my graduate school was hiring (two people had replaced me in the interim, and both had moved on). I applied and was rehired, worked as a student assistant for twice as long as I had the first time, graduated, and got promoted to full time staff member. That’s where I am now.

    Well, that internship I had in undergrad? A full time staff position opened up at that nonprofit that’s a really good fit for me, would be a great stepping stone to future professional roles I want, would be better pay than I have now, and located in a city I’m more inclined to want to live in. I’ve applied, naturally, but I’m also realizing that if I got hired, most of the jobs listed on my resume would be jobs I’ve worked at multiple times, since I’m a bit younger and have a shorter work history.

    Does that tendency to leave and come back say anything negative at a glance, or is it fine if I can articulate having good reasons for the individual times I’ve done it?

    1. drawer full of t-shirts*

      definitely the retail is fine: same store at different locations (and I’d list it that way) looks good. I’d not worry too much about the student job. And maybe stepping from student role to full-time role looks good.

      1. WellRed*

        I agree. These aren’t professional jobs and your are or were a student to boot. Very normal.

    2. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      Bouncing back and forth to jobs during your student years seems like a perfectly normal thing. I think you’ve got a good story … and, in fact, it looks pretty good if you can say they wanted you back.

      To reduce the choppiness (and repetition) of multiple jobs at the same place on your resume, you could do something like:
      Retail Sales Associate, AWESOME STORE, Hometown TX 2018-2019, 2020-2021
      – duties etc.

    3. OtterB*

      I agree that the fact that you were moving between pay-the-bills jobs and school-related jobs while a student doesn’t say anything negative. And, as Aspiring Chicken Lady said, the fact that places have been open to having you back again is more positive than not. I wouldn’t worry about it. I’d focus on why you are interested in the particular job you’re applying for, and then on the the things in your background like the internship that help you be a good fit for it.

  60. Ciao bella*

    I’m starting a new job next week, hooray! What are your favorite tips & tricks & resources for the first few weeks?

    1. Prorata*

      – Find out what the workplace political situation is – who’s fighting with whom, what projects are “golden” and what’s being allowed to wither on the vine or is undergoing active undermining. Who are the power players, the go-to people, and the ones trying to be as unobtrusive as possible until they can afford to retire.
      – Find out where your predecessors saved work, process documentation, software support documentation. If it can’t be found, or simply doesn’t exist, good luck.
      – Find out who actually does what, beyond what the org chart shows.
      – Find out who’s untouchable, and who is on the way out.

    2. Hiring is hard, y'all!*

      Don’t be afraid to ask. They don’t expect you to know everything. When I am training, especially the first couple weeks, I’d rather explain it 10 times until it clicks then have to fix errors later. Depends on the work, of course, but our training is usually with actual ‘live work’ since it is stuff you basically have to do to learn.
      If you are a note taker, write down anything that may be important later. I personally use Google Keep to jot changes to programs so I can reference when I haven’t touched them in awhile.
      Just be yourself! While I think we all have a worksona (work personality) but don’t make it too much different than your actual self.

    3. Tio*

      TAKE NOTES

      Seriously, all the best employees I’ve had were taking notes in some way. Anything that you can reference back in a format that works well for you to find answers on things you’ve already been shown.

    4. Hillary*

      The First 90 Days by Watkins is a super helpful book. My biggest piece of advice – listen and ask why a lot. Don’t come in and tell people they’re doing things wrong, ask why they do it that way.

  61. Blarg*

    Tips on re-engaging after medical leave? I have cancer, worked part time for a couple months (with intermittent disability leave, thanks to DC Paid Family Leave!), then had 6 weeks off for surgery. I’ve been back at work full time for a couple weeks and I … just am totally unmotivated. I’m not done with treatment, but now every 3 weeks instead of every week, and I physically feel better than I have in a long time.

    I just am having a hard time getting back into the swing of things at work, even with actual tasks that need to get done. Thoughts? Suggestions? Thanks!

    1. Anon for this one*

      Been there, done that, got the scars to prove it. Can you start by having “getting caught up” meetings about what went on in your absence, that are really a chance to reconnect with co-workers and remember what you found enjoyable about the job in the past? To get started on new projects that weren’t around when you went on leave?

      If you’re still having chemo (I wasn’t after surgery, just radiation) you’re still going to have brain fog and fatigue so go easy on yourself.

    2. WellRed*

      My tip is to be patient with yourself. Nothing highlights how meh and pointless most jobs can be until you’ve dealt with actual life problems like a serious health issue.

  62. Choggy*

    We are in the process of hiring for an open position and my manager wants the team to be very involved since we will be the ones working directly with the new person. We are currently reviewing resumes and I’m surprised how many have job hopped, one person, who seems to have a lot of experience (on paper), has had 7 jobs since 2014, all for a year or less! They also listed three jobs prior to 2014 which they held for 3/3.5/2.5 years each. I can see moving around early in your career but this is a resume of what looks to be a seasoned professional. The kicker is the rest of the team listed this candidate as one of their top three. I actually did not agree with any of their top candidates as I reviewed the resumes. I am retiring and won’t be working with them after this year, so not sure how much I should care at this point. I’ve been asked for my opinion and have provided it but I really don’t want to be involved in making the final decision.

    1. Recruiter John says be nice*

      Depends on the career field – some have layoff issues that cause people to move around. What if their partner changed jobs a lot and thus required their partner to move? What if they were caregiving? You have to ask questions. IF the team is involved you have to go with the majority on who you will interview – they want them so at least a phone screen to ask what influenced their many job changes in x timeline.

      “I can see moving around early in your career but this is a resume of what looks to be a seasoned professional.” A bit judgemental and discriminatory. I’ve been in public service for 23 years and I’ve had 11 jobs because I was in the military as was my husband and then we moved 3 times after her retired 12 years ago. If someone is a parent, caregiver, or other circumstances, yes 7 short-term jobs in 10 years could be possible. Were the jobs of relevance to their career and skills you’re seeking? Were they able to accomplish something at each one? Did those companies close, change leadership such that they didn’t need that person anymore?

      Ask the questions. Do the due diligence.

    2. OtterB*

      It does depend on the field and the reasons. It’s certainly worth asking about in a phone screen if the person’s qualifications otherwise seem good. My husband had a career stretch where he was working as an engineer for federal contractors where contracts kept folding under him for reasons entirely beyond his control or that of his employer. I’m counting 6 positions in about 14 years (3 contracts cut short, two with less than a year in; one startup belly-up in the 2008 recession; one small company with a great product and toxic management; and one that was a good company and related to his expertise but just not his wheelhouse and couldn’t be made a fit despite everyone’s best efforts). So somewhat longer average tenure than you’re looking at, but you’re also looking at pandemic time, which did strange things to people’s employment.

      1. Choggy*

        We will definitely ask them to explain their short stints in the full-time positions, I guess that’s what stood out to me, none of the positions were contractor/consultant jobs.

    3. Ruby Tuesday*

      I’ve had 8 jobs since 2014, and the jobs I had before that were all 2-3 years. There’s a very good reason to have had so many jobs: laid off in 2008, laid off again in 2011 due to a merger. Then I went to grad school and had to essentially start over career-wise. It took me 10 years after school to get the salary I was making in 2011, even though I stayed in the same field. But I had bills to pay, so I took some crappy low-paying temp jobs that didn’t work out for reasons beyond my control (usually budget). I also had zero intentions of staying in lower positions that I was overqualified for, so when I could move to something better, I did. Obviously I could phrase that better in an interview, but that’s exactly what it situation is.

    4. some dude*

      I’ve had three jobs since 2008 and my spouse has had seven or eight since then. She works in marketing and gets laid off every two years. She is amazing at what she does, she just works in a field where there is more volatility and more opportunities to change roles.

    5. PrettyNormalForMany*

      I’ve worked technical jobs in a wide variety of industries and layoffs are very common, as are periods of time when most available work is via short term contracts. I’ve had years where I’ve worked most of the year but for four different employers, two of whom were so happy with my work they extended my contracts. I’ve also been laid off from full time jobs in less than a year twice and less than two years five times.

      I’ve been at my current employer – in three different roles – for just over four years. It’s by far my longest tenure at any company.

      I am not a job hopper. I’ve only ever left one job voluntarily and that was after more than 3 years (my second longest job) when I got an offer I couldn’t refuse (40% pay increase at an internationally known, prestigious company).
      That’s the way things are for many, many people. If you have had any type of real job security in the past 30 years consider yourself very fortunate.

  63. Not_That_Desperate*

    I’ve made it to the third (likely final) interview round for a position that I was curious about but in the interview process every single person I know has warned me not to take this job due to the people/management. It’s the only bite I have had in over a year, so I wanted to look into it regardless, but at this point, it seems foolish to continue as I do not think I could accept an offer. I do not want to burn bridges when I withdraw. What’s the best way to withdraw without looking like a flake who wasted everyone’s time? Thank you.

    1. Seven If You Count Bad John*

      Keep it simple. “Thank you for your consideration. Regretfully I must decline this offer. Best of luck in your search!”

      Just curious, when you say “every single person I know”, who are these people, what’s their relationship to the employer, and how much have you personally been able to suss out through the interviews themselves? There’s often such a disconnect between how an employer presents themselves and how they actually are, I’d love to hear about that aspect.

      1. Not_That_Desperate*

        We are in a very niche field, so pretty much everyone knows someone in our industry.
        They are close friends/mentors who have had professional relationships/connections with the team leader, and their opinion of him is universally negative.

        Incidentally, I worked for this same employer 20 years ago under different management. I had an overall positive experience with the firm, which is why I looked into it originally. I was hoping that perhaps my interaction with the team leader that they warned me to steer clear of would be minimal. Instead, the interviews have confirmed the opposite: it would be closely aligned with the universally disliked team lead. I have not met him myself yet, but his #2 and I am not terribly impressed with him either.

        If it matters: I am a woman and there is definitely an “old boys club” vibe that is problematic as well. I would be reporting to someone who has about a quarter of my professional experience – a man (go figure).

    2. Sherm*

      I would just say something like “Thank you so much for meeting with me. I want to let you know that, as I do not want to waste anyone’s time, I have decided to go in a different direction and will be withdrawing my candidacy. I wish you the best of luck in your hiring.” You have the right to change your mind, and it doesn’t make you a flake. Regardless, these sound like people you don’t really care to connect with in the future, so even if they ridiculously take it poorly and a bridge is burned, is it any loss?

      1. Not_That_Desperate*

        Thank you. Typically I would agree with not worrying about burning bridges with people I don’t care for anyway but I am in a very niche field where it is not uncommon to cross paths with people frequeently, so best not to burn bridges if it can be avoided!

    3. ecnaseener*

      No need to give a reason, just send something warm like: “Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with me about this role. Unfortunately I don’t think it would be a good fit for me, so I need to withdraw from consideration. I wish you luck filling the position!”

  64. Fake Cheese*

    I have a verbal offer and am now waiting for the reference check / background check to go through before they send the final written version. I’m very excited and am having a hard time being patient.

    Any tips on how to not drive myself bananas during this waiting period? And especially on how to keep focusing on the job I still have in the meantime?
    (I know the final offer is not guaranteed but I have connections at the new place and it’s fairly unlikely to fall through based on what I’ve been hearing)

    1. 867-5309*

      Just sit in the excitement and anxiety. Let yourself be a little distracted at work. Annoy your friends by turning everything into a conversation about the likely new job. Let that smile flick across your face you think of the gig. It’s okay to go a little bananas. (I am not being sarcastic.)

    2. Spacewoman Spiff*

      I have no advice for focusing on your current job. Be excited! Outside of work, can you fill up your time? Last time I was in this stage, I went to a lot of movies to distract myself (also to stop myself checking my phone every 30 seconds for news on the job). Also a lot of trips to the museums, hikes, etc. I told myself that if I was really busy and also in a bad cell service area, that would make the news come faster :)

  65. Hiring is hard, y'all!*

    Advice for a first time interviewer? I’m not the hiring manager, that is my Director, but since this person will be my partner in the same role, and trained by me, I’m being brought into the interviews and given a lot of decision making power.

    We do have a standard interview list, which we have to ask the questions from, but how do you really get to see how someone will work in 30 mins?? We had our first and when asked my opinion all I could come up with was “fine” and “I think she could do the job”, but I was pushed for me and ultimately told we need more than “fine” in the role.

    Advice for someone who is on the other side of the table for the first time?

    1. Adalinda*

      I made a form the last time I had to do this. Everyone on the committee scored every candidate.

      Evaluation form

      Overall Recommendation
      0 Hire: Highly recommend
      0 Hire: Recommend
      0 Need clarification of qualifications
      0 No hire: Do not recommend

      Scoring: Based on the interview, please evaluate the candidate’s qualifications for the position in each area on a scale from 1 to 5 from Doesn’t meet (1), Needs more (2), Neutral (3), Meets (4), or Exceeds (5).

      Education / Training: The candidate has the educational background required by the position

      Work Experience: The candidate has held jobs that are related to the position

      Skills (Technical): The candidate has the necessary skills to perform the job successfully

      Communication: The candidate has the necessary written and oral communication skills

      Time Management: The candidate demonstrated the ability to manage time independently and work efficiently

      Problem Solving: The candidate demonstrated the ability to design innovative solutions and solve problems

      Customer Service: The candidate demonstrated the ability to be customer focused

      Teamwork: The candidate demonstrated the ability to work well in a team and with superiors, peers, and reporting staff

      Fit: The candidate seems like a good fit with our work style and culture

      Motivation: The candidate expressed interest and excitement about the job

      and finally…The “airport layover test”: question not asked to the candidate. Google evaluators want to hire people who are fun to be around, so they ask themselves: “If we got stuck at the airport on a long layover with this person, would we be happy or sad about it?”

      1. Hiring is hard, y'all!*

        This is handy, thank you!

        I have a very love/hate with the standard template we are required to use (oh gov’t work…) and I wish I could delve more into some other topics. But this gives me a good way to think critically about each factor of my role and how I think the candidate would do in that specific area.

        And I love the airport layover test! I will be spending the majority of my time with this person, so it being someone I enjoy being around is an important factor.

    2. ecnaseener*

      Think about what skills or traits it takes for someone to do well in your job, and also about what traits you want in a trainee and coworker. Write down the most important ones — just a few, not a laundry list, that’s what the job description’s for! — and focus on looking for those.

      For an example, hiring for an entry-level role that I’d be training, I always pay attention to whether they’re willing to admit what they don’t know. If they seem to feel obligated to appear perfect, I don’t want to try to train them.

      1. Hiring is hard, y'all!*

        This phrase “whether they’re willing to admit what they don’t know” really stand out to me. We work in a rather odd field, that most people kind of just stumble into, so having someone that is willing to learn and ask questions when they don’t know is key!

        Thank you! You’ve given me some things to ponder. Hopefully I feel a little more confident for our two interviews Monday!

    3. WantonSeedStitch*

      Part of our hiring process is to determine areas of competency that we feel are vital to the role in question (for example: analytical skills, collaboration, change management, etc.). We use those to figure out what behavioral questions we think are most important to ask. So if we wanted to ask about, say, communication, we might ask something like “tell me about a time when you had to communicate unwelcome information to a client or coworker. How did you handle that?” If I’m looking for someone who can be assertive but diplomatic, I’d want to hear an answer that indicates that sort of person.

  66. S*

    How do I get on the speaker circuit??

    A couple of years ago, I told my boss I wanted to work on my public speaking skills. She said, great – we have an offsite coming up, pitch a talk to the big boss. Well, I did, and she loved it, and I presented to my entire dept (100ish people) and it was ELECTRIC and since then I’ve developed two more talks and delivered them a combined 10 times, sometimes to hundred of people, and THIS IS MY JAM. I love it. The feedback I’ve gotten, on both my content and my presentation skills, is outstanding. All the content so far is variations on communication skills, so broadly applicable to a business audience. Last week, when I presented my latest at my department meeting, someone said “Everyone at [giant multi-national] should hear this.”

    So far, everything I’ve done has been internal to my company: conferences, networking events, or just being invited to present to a dept. My question is: what’s my next step? How do I move towards actually getting paid to do this!?!?

    1. It's Me. Hi.*

      can you submit proposals to meetings in your industry? Like if your expertise is in llama grooming and you submit a session idea for their regional/annual conference? Or you can find meetings you’d like to speak at and pitch yourself. And then network with your network and tell them you are looking for speaking opportunities. My contracted vendors host lots of events which attract different people and you’ll get more exposure, etc. etc.

      1. S*

        Ok, yes, I can do that. Thanks for the suggestion!

        Thing is, my expertise is llama grooming, but, like, I want to talk about grooming in general. I guess I can always add some llama-specific tid-bits to make it relevant…

    2. The Prettiest Curse*

      If your boss is up for recommending you as a speaker at external conferences, ask for their help with that. And look at targeting a few conferences at which you would be interested in speaking, then find out what the process is for becoming a speaker. You may need to submit an abstract or reach out to their planning committee – smaller conferences can have more informal processes, so you may just have to ask someone. Also, if you know someone who has recently spoken at one of your target events, ask them how they were invited and what the process was like. Once you have done a few conferences and built a reputation as a speaker, you will hopefully start getting requests from people.

      I run a large annual conference and we secure all our speakers at least 6-9 months in advance (timelines are generally shorter for smaller conferences), so be prepared to block out calendar time far in advance.

      Oh, and from the conference organiser perspective – please try to be responsive to our emails, it really helps us! Speakers who are organised, responsive to emails and great at speaking are our favourite people and we will say nice things about you to other conference organisers.

    3. Ann O'Nemity*

      Sign up for speakers bureau(s) in your area. My city has several – chamber of commerce, university, rotary, etc. Then you’ll randomly get invitations to speak at events in your area. As you gain a reputation, you’ll get more invitations and hopefully some speaking stipends too :)

  67. Smarting*

    A couple weeks ago I posted about my know-it-all manager (we are two-person department). They think they are better at literally everything than me (and everyone else), including in deep technical areas. (They are not.)

    Well, it’s gotten worse. They hired a contractor – a friend and former classmate of theirs. This contractor has no experience in our field and limited applicable skills. We have a rigorous and lengthy hiring process at the company for full-time employees, but my manager has made the contractor effectively second-in-command the department, and only consults the contractor (and never me) on issues of strategy, hiring, budget, or similar issues. That by itself is a terrible feeling – it feels like a de facto demotion. But it’s worse than that. Our department has grown in responsibility in the past few months, and I think my manager has realized they can no longer make many decisions without getting some sort of internal validation. This seems to be the contractor’s only real role – they just say yes to every one of the manager’s ideas, in a politic and smooth-talking way (no matter how inane), then praise the manager for being so smart and have such good decision-making abilities.

    1. Her name was Lola*

      I totally could have seen that happening where I recently left. I, too, was de facto, demoted when the new Director came on board despite me doing everything when we were in transition for 9-mos prior