Lily Garcia: Good afternoon, and thank you for joining my live chat. I look froward to answering your workplace- and career-related questions. Let’s get started.
Bethesda, Md.: My spouse and I had a domestic violence protective order case and a subsequent divorce case pending against each other. How does this affect the job search? I am interested in knowing if companies can or do discriminate against the domestic violence perpetrator?
Lily Garcia: If there was a criminal conviction associated with the domestic violence charge, the chances are good that it will be taken into consideration by a prospective employer. If there was only an arrest, most employers will not consider it due to the proven potential for disparate impact on minority applicants. As well, the laws of some states prohibit the consideration of arrest records.
Stafford, Va.: Hi, Lily. How difficult is it to get hired if you have a criminal record. I have been at the same company for seven years and am considering a job change. I have an excellent work history and resume. However, eight years ago I received a charge of simple assault. I was ordered to do 40 hours of community service and take an anger management class both of which I completed successfully. I have not been in trouble since then, not even a traffic ticket. How will potential employers look at this when I complete an application?
Lily Garcia: It can be hard if the conviction involves violence or is directly related to the requirements of the job (e.g., writing bad checks if you are applying for a job in accounting). However, it is not impossible to get a break as long as you are honest with the prospective employer. If you are asked about convictions on the employment application, tell the truth and be prepared to explain what happened. Please refer to my earlier articles on the subject for more detailed guidance.
Fairfax, Va.: Hi, Lily. How should I ask about the salary? Should I bring it up or wait for them to tell me about my benefits?
Another question: I took a test when applying and when I did ask about the salary range they told me it was based on experience and that’ll get an answer by next week what should I expect?
Lily Garcia: Ask about the salary right up front if there is no guidance in the job anouncement. If the job announcement provides a range, open a salary discussion when you find yourself among the finalists for the job. I am not sure what you should expect to hear in your case, but it sounds like they are probably looking at the budget and trying to decide, frankly, what they can get away with offering you. You, on the other hand, need to get clear about what you are willing to accept.
Huntsville, Ala.: Hi, Lily. My husband and I made a move south a couple of years ago. To say the least, we are not happy and would like to move back to NoVa. However, I am pregnant (three months). I don’t feel comfortable interviewing in my state of being knowing that I would be taking two to three months maternity leave. Your answer will help us determine if we need to push the move back, much against my husband’s desire.
Lily Garcia: If an employer really wants you, they will be more than willing to accommodate your need for leave. Pregnancy is not something that they should legally be taking into account anyhow in making their hiring decision. But if you would feel disingenuous interviewing without revealing this personal detail, go ahead and let them know. The only potential reason I can see for waiting is that there is a possibility that some employers (legally or not) will count the pregnancy against you. However, I don’t see this as a compelling enough reason to delay your move.
Atlanta, Ga.: I currently work for a government contractor. All other work experience I have had has been private industry. I understand there is certain “etiquette” that must be adhered to when dealing with your government clients. I abide by them however, my co-workers blatantly abuse this fine line of client and friend. They pay for meals past the alotted amount, buy gifts for them and their families, in exchange for intel shared amongst “friends”. If anyone were to report their interactions, we could seriously jeopardize our contract. I understood these kinds of relationships in private industry but now I feel very uncomfortable being on the gov’t contracting side. Because I don’t play in these “reindeer games” I am looked as as being anti-social and an outsider. How do I handle not being ostrasized but maintaining my integrity in this matter? Quitting my job is not an option.
Lily Garcia: Continue to observe a high standard of ethics in your own behavior. You may also be compelled by your organization’s ethics policy to report the questionable conduct that you have observed. Otherwise, you may be considered complicit in the wrongdoing.
Baltimore, Md.: If you are submitting a resume via e-mail, should you include the cover letter in the body of the email, or as a separate attachment? Does it make any difference if it is a “blind” mailing as opposed to one for a specific position? I am finishing law school this spring and while there are a few specific jobs I’m applying for, I’ve also had two professors who’ve told me to e-mail my resume to the HR department of their firms, even though there are no specific openings, and they’d “see what they could do.” Thanks for your advice.
Lily Garcia: Include the cover letter both as an attachment and in the body of the e-mail. This is just in case for some reason your attachment cannot be opened.
Bethesda, Md.: My company is being acquired. The close won’t be completed until mid-summer. I have a financial incentive to stay until the close (but I expect that I will be laid-off shortly after the close). How do I stay motivated and focued during the next six months or so -- when I see the inevitable coming. And then, how best to prepare to quickly transition back to another company.
Lily Garcia: It is time to shift gears. Knowing that you will likely be losing your job, you unfortunately will not be able to find inspiration through traditional means, such as the promise of a raise or a promotion for a job well done. But this does not mean that you have nothing to gain from the situation. Sit down to brainstorm a list of all of the things your job still has to offer you. Maybe it’s time to start cultivating your network for your impending job search. Maybe there is something for you to learn professionally from going through the process of winding down business operations. Or maybe you can find motivation in the payout that you will soon receive. You should start your job search in earnest at least three months before your anticipated layoff, but it is not too early to start strategizing about that as well.
Brescia, Italy: My name is Monica and I would like to relocate in the U.S. in June 2008. The reason for my relocation is that my boyfriend currently works at Washington, D.C., and will be there for the next three years. I am an Italian citizen and will need a VISA to be employed in the U.S. What are my chances to find employment in the D.C. area?
Thank you in advance for your kind attention.
Lily Garcia: If you have a valuable skill set, especially in the sciences and technology, some employers will be willing to sponsor you for an H-1B visa. Without knowing details about your background and job focus, I cannot predict how hard you personally will find this process, but I can tell you that it is possible.
Alexandria, Va.: Hi, Lily. I was hoping you had some advice for a department with a manager that is from another career field. My department’s manager has never worked in our field and this promotion as a manager was made by a growing company. Needless to say, our department is BUSY; at least everyone but the manager who passes off all her work to others because she doesn’t know how to do it. So with all this work, she creates silly group tasks like write a sentence about the department, which then she takes to a manager meeting and passes off as her own. I don’t have time for these mindless tasks and doing her work. Is there a professional way to handle this or this just an example of the manager getting to do what they want because they are the manager?
Lily Garcia: If your manager is trying to conceal her ignorance about operations by regurgitating information from her subordinates, it is only a matter of time before HER manager catches on to her profciency gap. In the meantime, if this has become a serious problem for you and her other subordinates, and if you feel that you can trust your manager’s manager, find a way to tactfully flag the problem in a conversation with this person.
Baltimore, Md.: Thanks you for taking my questions in advance. I have two questions.
First, I am a relatively new employee (less than a year) with a Ph.D. degree in economics and a master’s in statistics. I enjoy working here but sometimes feel the task dose not use a lot of my skills. I feel more challenging tasks would keep me moving forward without forgeting my skills. I have been pushing myself hard to do as much work as I can. I also think to take some part-time consulting job to use my statistical analytical skills. What is the best approach for it?
I work at a state agency and feel the culture here is a little bit different because some people only greets to those rank higher than themselves but not to those rank lower. What is your suggestion to make an effort to contribute to positive change? Thanks.
Lily Garcia: Many people feel that their skills are underutilized at work. Unless you have ample free time, however, I am not sure that the solution lies in moonlighting as a consultant. I would suggest continuing to push yourself at work and being proactive about requesting more challenging assignments. If you do decide to do consulting work on the side, make sure that you review your employer’s policy on moonlighting first.
As for your second question, you can contribute to positive change in a hierarchical organization by refusing to fall into step. Be equally frienly to all people, regardless of rank. Rome wasn’t built in a day, of course, nor was it built by one person. So do not be discouraged if your efforts do not make a palpable difference.
Include the cover letter both as an attachment and in the body of the e-mail: Really? I have never ever seen this. Most people send it as an attachment. Is it really normal to send your cover letter in the body? That seems weird ...
Lily Garcia: Yep. I have seen this a lot.
D.C.: Is it better to move out of state and then find a job? Or do I wait however long it takes to find a job out of state, and hope they even pay to relocate me?
Lily Garcia: It is always better to have something lined up before moving.
Fairfax, Va.: Is it true that I have a much LOWER chance of getting a job if I am not located locally? So much so, that they won’t even bother to look at me as an applicant because I am out of state? Just want to know how depressed I should be ...
Lily Garcia: No, not tons lower. But you will have to work harder to make yourself available for interviews and to establish in your cover letter that you are serious about moving to the area. I previously wrote an article on this very issue. Please refer to our archives and let me know if you cannot locate it for some reason.
For the Italian: Depending on what she wants to do, when I worked on the Hill for a Congressman, we had a Romanian employed as a staff assistant. She was a college student, however, so that could have made a difference.
How about the Embassy?
Lily Garcia: Thank you for your insights.
Washington, D.C.: Your column about the silent treatment hit a nerve with me. I was cordial with a coworker, until we had a workplace disagreement. In essence I accused him of treating me less like a working professional and more like a little sister. He responded by sending me a multi-page e-mail which reads like we were having an affair. He also approached me outside of work. I don’t feel comfortable around this man at all, so I stopped talking to him because he made it clear that any contact I had with him would be misinterpreted. I am afraid of reporting it to HR due to the fact I like my job, and I seem to have potential and if this gets out it may affect my career path and he doesn’t plan on staying with the company long. Still, when in his company, he seems to go out of his way to make comments that refer to his manifesto. How do I deal with someone like this? Luckily we don’t work together on any projects, but I find myself feeling more and more uncomfortable when in his presence.
washingtonpost.com: Missed that column? Read it here: Getting the Silent Treatment? Be Proactive, (post.com, Jan. 17).
Lily Garcia: I urge you to report this matter to HR. It sounds like your situation is becoming desperate.
Washington, D.C.: Hi, Lily. I have been at my current job at a nonprofit for over two years. When I arrived, I was at an assistant level and about six weeks later, promoted to a coordinator level. Since my promotion, my boss has been quick to point out any mistakes I make: not in private, but in front of other coworkers. Or worse, he will make a mistake (or forget something that I told him) and blame it on me. I have tried pointing out that this is demoralizing (in private, of course), but there is little that can be done. In the meantime, he has given me several tasks to do that are part of his job, which I happily do since it’s great experience. However, I do not get any credit for it (big surprise) and if I suggest that we do something differently, he disregards my suggestions unless someone else agrees with it. Needless to say, I have been job hunting to get out of this situation, but do you have any tips to deal with his ego problem in the meantime?
Lily Garcia: Yes, absolutely, get out. In the meantime, do everything you can to appreciate that your boss’ issues are deeply personal and have little, if anything, to do with you. Easier said than done, I know. But that is the only surefire way to cope in a situation such as yours. Best of luck.
Cover letter as attachment: To me, it seems ludicrous to attach a cover letter. This is like including an introduction as an appendix. The purpose of the cover letter is to introduce yourself. Where but the body of your e-mail is this more appropriate?
That being said, one time I was called about a job I’d applied for and they told me I hadn’t sent a cover letter. It turns out the interviewer’s assistant just hadn’t thought to look in the body of the e-mail. So I guess it’s good advice to put it in the body --and -- attach it for good measure.
Lily Garcia: Thank you for sharing your insights.
East Coast, USA: I am in an untenable situation at work ... colleagues who hoard work and then question why my billable hours are not higher, one secretary in particular who does not talk to me, etc. The typical law firm freeze-out. I have another job offer and have accepted, but it is with the government, and I have to go through the background check process, etc., which may take a while.
Can you provide some coping strategies to get me through the next couple of months? I cannot even give notice at this job yet for fear that I will just be given the axe -- and I need this job to pay the mortgage. My partners (at work) are known in the industry as vindictive people who will stop at nothing to make one’s life miserable, especially if they sense a loss of loyalty/commitment, and especially toward women. I haven’t slept for months and am looking over my shoulder constantly in fear.
Lily Garcia: Enjoy the fact that you have found another job that (I assume) promises far greater fulfillment. Continue to do your work as well as you can under the circumstances and try not to internalize the poor treatment that you are receiving. It is only a matter of time now . . .
Anyplace, USA: Lily: I have been verbally promised a raise three times at my current job but never received it. I’ve been here about three years. Each time I failed to get the raise, I heard excuses from the senior manager. Basically, the senior manager reneged on promises or had “forgotten.” The last time I approached the senior manager, I failed to point out that in fact she was responsible for leading me to believe/telling me I was due a larger increase in salary because I was at the low end of the range for my position. Is it too late to go back to her and try again? Should I go above her and speak to her boss? I know this time to get it in writing.
Lily Garcia: Yes, it’s time to get it in writing. In the future, at least send a confirming email. And do approach your boss’ boss if you are comfortable doing so.
Baltimore, Md.: Something many more workers are facing these days is working for someone MUCH younger, who has no interest in or respect for “experience.” Can you address this issue and offer some suggestions for dealing w/those managers who constantly say things like “For MY generation, we do A and B” or “MY generation doesn’t believe in that.”
Lily Garcia: Gently point out that such comments tend to marginalize people of other generations. As far as the lack of respect for experience, I would need to hear more specifics.
RE: Washington, D.C.: I can relate to the person who was promoted from assistant to coordinator, and I suffered similarly at the hands of an ego-driven supervisor. My advice to is keep your nose to the grindstone, focus on your tasks, find some workplace allies, and take solace in a job search that will take you far away from your current position.
Lily Garcia: Great advice. Thanks.
Bethesda, Md.: Do you know of any reputable programs in South Korea (particularly Seoul) that offer programs for Americans to teach English for a year? It’s something I’m interested in but have no idea where to start looking!
Lily Garcia: I do not. Can anyone out there offer guidance to this reader?
Richmond, Va.: Good afternoon: There is no set policy on language in my office, but both my boss and co-worker speak to each other in their native tongue. I am sure that most of this is just personal conversation; they do have a social relationship outside of work. However, it makes me uncomfortable when I hear my name interjected into their conversation. I have raised the situation with them, but they have not changed their patterns. I am unsure of how to raise this to my boss’s boss without seeming petty.
Lily Garcia: That is a very good question and it warrants more attention that I can give it here in this live chat. May I have your permission to address it in my weekly column?
Philadelphia, Pa.: Hi, Lily. In your experience with the hiring process, how does a degree stack up against work experience? When I visited a master’s of public policy program an alum explained how the MPP really helped her get a job because if the job wanted experience with x, y, z, she could point to x, y, z projects she did in class. Do employers actually value those class projects as similar to work experience, or is this a marketing ploy by the school? Thanks for any clarification.
Lily Garcia: In the eyes of employers there is simply no substitute for work experience. However, relevant class project experience can certainly help your application, especially if you are lacking in actual work experience.
Washington, D.C.: Hi, Lily. My work group of about a dozen people gets along extremely well. We have several new hires and everyone fits in except one person. We think he may have some form of Asperger’s syndrome: doesn’t get social cues, overexplains, long monologues, etc. He’s also strangely aggressive about interpersonal relationships, forcing people to explain when they don’t sit with him in meetings, glaring at anyone who expresses a differing opinion in meetings, even sitting one co-worker down to demand more eye contact.
It’s getting sad: his aggressiveness makes people uncomfortable so they start to avoid him, which makes him more aggressive. For example, although he’s included in all group activities like team lunches, people are sneaking to day-to-day lunch to get away from him. He’s taken to hanging around the lobby in his coat and tagging along with people as they go past. It’s starting to feel like a junior high school. We truly don’t want to treat this guy badly, but he’s so exhausting and annoying that we need a break from him. What to do?
Lily Garcia: Your manager needs to step in here to address his behavioral issues. As coworkers, you are already doing everything that you can.
Gainsville, Va.: About a week ago a co-worker had an outburst in the parking lot towards me though I did nothing wrong. She was just letting off steam from her own problems. I calmed her down and we chatted through her problems. We’ve been “okay” since then. The concern is that others saw the incident and have since told the big boss. I’m okay with others reporting the incident (because it was bad) but I don’t know how to react when she wants to talk to me anymore. Part of me feels sorry for her, part of me thinks she’s crazy. Should I just stay away? Thanks.
Lily Garcia: Be as polite as you can while keeping a safe social distance. All that she is owed is courtesy, not friendship.
Anonymous: The JET program sends people to Japan to teach English, I don’t know if it covers all of Asia though.
Lily Garcia: Thank you.
RE: Generation gap: The question about younger managers really plays both ways. Each side of the generation gap needs to value what the other brings to the table. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the “we didn’t use to do it that way” in respect to changing the smallest thing (Word Perfect to Word, working with a new statute, new processes, etc.).
Lily Garcia: Thank you for sharing your views.
NoVA: Uh-oh! I just applied to a position within my company via email and I did the “cover letter” in the body. I did not attach a copy of the cover letter. I’m concerned that people find it weird to send it in the body. What else would you do in the body, leave it blank? Hmmm....now that seems strange to me! Isn’t “email” an electronic letter?
Lily Garcia: I wouldn’t sweat it. I just think it is best to attach the cover letter as well just to be on the safe side.
Lily Garcia: Thank you very much for your participation. If I did not get to your question, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Have a great afternoon.