Life at Work Live
Tuesday, January 2, 2007; 11:00 AM
Washington Post columnist Amy Joyce writes Life at Work on Sundays in the Business section and appears online every Tuesday. In her weekly chat she gives advice on how to handle social and professional situations.
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The transcript follows below.
Amy Joyce: Good morning, folks, and happy 2007 to you. We have a bunch of questions lined up and ready to be answered, so as always, please join in with your own stories and advice to share. And as always, of course, ask away.
I'll be writing a column about what happens after you send out a resume or after you have an interview. Do you hear back from the potential employer? Or is it like you never existed and aren't even acknowledged? I'd love to hear from more of you at firstname.lastname@example.org about your experiences with company feedback during your job search, and I'd love to hear from you hiring managers about how you handle the influx. Please e-mail me at email@example.com if you have something to share.
Alrighty then. With that, let's get started...
Cleveland, Ohio: Hi Amy,
I hope you can assist me as I am at wits end! My one-year anniversary with my employer was in mid-November and to date, I have not had my annual review. Is there a timeframe/business etiquette in which my review should be conducted? I asked my supervisor about three weeks ago when could we go over it and it was explained that she was still working on it. Huh? Still working on it? Please advise.
Amy Joyce: As a rule, managers *hate* writing reviews. Keep on your manager about it. That's the best you can do. It's been three weeks, so I think it's reasonable to ask again. I'm guessing there's no sinister plot behind this. Just something your manager is procrastinating about. Getting reviews -- not always fun. Writing reviews -- rarely a good time. And if there was some sort of business etiquette around the timeframe in which a review would be conducted, lots of managers would be failing manners school.
Making the best of a bad situation?: My job is making me sick! I can't get a new one because my husband and I will be moving across the country as soon as our condo sells, but in the mean time, I'm getting sick to my stomach nearly every day that I'm at work. After being off for a few days, I started feeling queasy as soon as I put my coat on this morning. Any suggestions for dealing?
Amy Joyce: This job is short term. Remember every day as you start to feel queasy that this is *just* a job (nice thing for a career columnist to say, huh?) But it's not your life. And there is an end in sight. Make it through the day by taking baby steps. Make a list. Mark things off as you plod along. Get the things on the list done. And when you need a break or feel the queasiness returning, go take a walk. Get a cup of tea. Email a friend. Do something to get the perspective back. And remind yourself that at least you have an out.
Portland, Oregon: Dear Amy,
I have been working for a fortune 500 company (top five in the U.S. and number one worldwide in the electronics business) for about 14 years. I am currently in the west coast and for family reasons I need to relocate to the east coast. I sent my resume to several employers on the east coast (some through hiring agencies) but have not heard from a single one. I have solid experience in my field and have high education credentials. What am I missing? What do I need to do differently?
Thanks for your time.
Amy Joyce: Getting in with hiring agencies is a good start. Make sure it's clear in your cover letter that you are specifically looking to transition back to the East Coast. They might not take you seriously if they think you're just blanketing any company for any job. You need to make sure they know you are invested in moving here.
Use your contacts, both with your current co-workers (some may know people here and be able to vouch for you personally, which always helps) and with your friends and family that are on this coast. You never know who might have a contact and can hand your resume to the right person. Remember that you are just one of probably hundreds of others applying for the jobs, so you need to do more than just send a resume and hope for the best.
I'm guessing you already tried this, but is there any chance your company can transfer you back here?
And now to the chat lurkers: What have you done in this situation that got you relocated? Do share.
Amy Joyce: And while we're talking resumes, here's Sunday's column about the bloopers therein.
Amy Joyce: And throwing this one out there for the first poster who asked about evaluation procedures...
Washington, D.C.: How can I find contract job listings for overseas? I've been all over the net and I can't find anything but top executive jobs.
Amy Joyce: Anyone have some help here? (You usually do on this one, dear Washingtonians!)
I'd suggest you not just look for a list. Figure out what sort of organization you want to work for, what sort of work you want to do, and focus your search from that. Contact agencies/organizations/companies directly (or look at their sites) once you know what you're looking for.
RE: Delayed review: My anniversary was in mid-November too and my review was about a month late. I asked my supervisor about it a couple of times during that month and she acknowledged that we needed to do it, but still nothing happened. So I finally sent her an Outlook meeting request with a suggested time to meet. We ended up rescheduling I think three times, but finally I did get my review. Maybe that's a good strategy for Cleveland too?
Amy Joyce: Sometimes supervisors need deadlines, too. Thanks.
Silver Spring, Md.: Hi, Amy. After 25 years in the workforce, I'm with my first company that offers profit sharing.
It's a great company, and I'm proud to be here. Business is soaring.
But nobody works less than 50 hour a week. People take work home routinely. Work due during scheduled vacations must be finished before we leave. We're practically expected to recuperate from illnesses at our desks. There's no comp time, no paid overtime, of course.
I feel I'm doing the work of three people, and that everyone else is too.
I like the work very much, there's just too much of it. They won't hire more people because they were just bought by some private investment group and want to grow the company 25 percent this year and another 25 percent next year. My commute is is over two hours per day and my boss doesn't like us working at home.
Is this to be expected from a profit sharing company? I've had enough.
Amy Joyce: It sounds like you need to stop expecting the company to change, and you need to decide what you should do about it yourself. (It's the old I-bet-I-can-change-him scenario).
If you've tried to suggest spreading out the work, if you asked for days off when you were sick and for telecommuting options, if you've tried everything and didn't just sit there hoping things would change, then it may be time for you to look elsewhere and try to find a situation that is a better fit for both you and your company.
So... have you tried to change things? And was there any response?
New York, N.Y.: I'm sitting in my office in Lower Manhattan (it's quiet as the stock exchanges are closed for the National Day of Mourning). And I'm looking for some motivation to get going after two weeks off. My voicemail light is blinking and I have over 300 e-mails. Yet I'm just staring out the window wishing I had a few more days off. Help!
Amy Joyce: Hey, atleast you had two weeks off! (Whine, whine.)
But yes, it almost feels like another holiday, doesn't it?
Set little baby goals and get through them. Make a list. Say you'll get 20 e-mails read/deleted/answered in the next hour. You'll listen to all your voicemails before you get lunch. Check 30 more e-mails, and you can treat yourself to a walk. Before you know it (lucky you) you'll be back in the swing of things. Really.
Arlington, Va.: RE: The chatter who is still waiting on an annual review, two suggestions:
First, talk with HR at your company. They are the people who oversee the official process, and they can put some gentle (or not so gentle) pressure on your manager to get the review done. It can be handled in a way that doesn't leave any traces that you talked with HR ("we've noticed we haven't received this important paperwork, it's now officially red flagged, need you to get on this right away").
Also, check on whether you will be paid retroactively if you do receive a raise at this review. If your manager has delayed your review for a month and a half because of his/her own laziness or busy schedule, you should not have to give up potential salary increase. Some companies are willing to pay retroactively, while others aren't. But it's worth checking out.
Amy Joyce: Logical advice, thanks.
Washington, D.C.: I have a supervisor who does not seem to have a life outside our office. Nothing wrong with that, as far as I am concerned, but when it comes to work within our company, she always tries to make me and others feel guilty because we either don't come in on weekends (as she does) or that we leave work at the exact time we are supposed to. It's truly a frustrating relationship, because she thinks that everybody else in the company should give up their life outside and make the office our new home. Any ideas of how to handle the situation? Thanks.
Amy Joyce: Is she actually doing anything about it, or is she only making you feel guilty? If she's holding it against you in a way that might impact your review, a promotion or raise, then you need to have a serious sit down with her and ask what her expectations are, what your own expectations are, and figure out how you can compromise.
If it's just guilt, then try to work through that one on your own.
Haymarket, Va.: Amy, the online discussion several weeks ago along with your article about job titles, was very interesting. Here is my recent experience: when I had my review not too far back, I asked my manager about the criteria for promotions since I did not receive one this year. She basically told me (and I'm not sure if this is just her opinion or if this is common practice at my company) job titles don't really mean anything. That being said, I do the same job as several other people in my company and we're all scattered across the board in terms of titles. Do you think this affects anything but our salaries? Also, what's the best way to communicate to her that although she may not feel titles are important, I do?
washingtonpost.com: Missed that story? Read it here:
Amy Joyce: I think you just say what you said here. Have a sit down with her and say that although she doesn't see the implication of a new title, you'd really like one. And then propose it. I'm not sure it affects anything but salaries, particularly because you say the titles are scattered. If you were the only one to have a different title, then I'd push hard for a new one. But it doesn't sound like that's the case. But if you want a new title, figure out why and what you'd want, and talk to you manager.
Richmond, Va.: For Christmas my boss gave me a gift certificate to a Christian store with a note saying he hopes I read some Christian material from the store. I am offended and find the gift un-American and illegal (I work for a local municipal government). What can I do? (I don't care about the job, want to find a job where I can be happy ASAP.)
Amy Joyce: I think that's pretty inappropriate. I see you having two options. Say thanks, and go donate it to a church. Or bring it to a higher-up's attention. Since this is a government entity, there could be some pretty major implications here, I think, that others will need to know about.
Washington, D.C.: RE: West Coast seeker looking for East Coast job.
My suggestion is to see if you can get an address here in the job market where you want to live. Employers might not be calling you because you are out of state. And they may not want to pay for relocation costs or they may expect that you want them to.
My other suggestion is that, if it is financially feasible, you consider moving to the area where you are going to be. Then I would start temping to bring in money. In the meantime you could circulate your resume around, attend professional conferences, and network.
But I think the major hurdle is that you are applying out-of-state. Those are two ways to get around it.
Amy Joyce: Right. But be careful about the address thing. First, this person might want relocation to be covered (and lots of companies will still cover it). Second, if the company finds out they don't actually live at that address, it's a sure way to get thrown into the recycling pile.
RE: The person moving to the East Coast: Do you have any trips to the East Coast already planned? If you do, then I would recommend mentioning that in a cover letter. Or following up with places that you are particularly interested in to let them know you'll be nearby. As a former hiring manager and someone who does have some say in my company's current hiring, I know many companies are hesitant to bring someone all the way out from the west coast for an interview. It's one thing to "waste" someone's time by having them come in for an interview and then not hire them. It's another thing entirely to drag someone from one coast to another and then not hire them.
Amy Joyce: Good advice, thanks.
Anonymous: RE: Delayed reviews. My previous boss was supposed to do my review a year after I took the job but he was busy prepping to retire and taking time off. There were 10 people in the department and he hated doing reviews. Twenty one months after I took the job, on the afternoon he was leaving the company, at 4:30 p.m., he provided me with a four sentence review, half of which was devoted to the person whose job I had filled. My review was the longest of anyone in the dept. (I had given my boss two pages of details about what I had done on the job). The company reprimanded him for this but he had retired so didn't care.
Amy Joyce: There's no doubt reviews are torture for some people. (Lots of people).
D.C.: There's a woman at work who likes to tell me about all her personal stuff. She has lots of problems that she wants to discuss in detail and tell you about how she's working on all these issues. I don't want to be anyone's therapist, and it makes me uncomfortable hearing about all these personal things. She makes every minor daily event into something to psychoanalyze, and wants me to hear about how successful she's been in dealing with whatever the latest trauma was. I usually just say something generic (oh, that's great/terrible) as appropriate, hoping she'll move on. Last week I tried to steer her away from one of these conversations, and she started crying. And now I've just spent the last 15 minutes listening to her compare herself to me, and degrading herself during this process. I guess it's nice that she admires something about me, but I'm really just your average person. I don't know what to say to her.
Amy Joyce: What have you said to her? Two thoughts:
One: "Hi, Sally. I'm sorry, but I have so much work to do today. I can't really talk about this right now."
Next: "Have you considered talking to a therapist about this stuff? I wish I could help, but know it's way beyond me."
(Insert company EAP number, if there is one, here.)
Alexandria, Va.: Hi Amy! Thanks for taking my question. I'm hoping you and/or the chatters can offer some advice on my situation. My husband and I are planning on moving from the area in May (the move is a 100 percent certainty) when he finishes grad school. I'm currently working, but my situation at work is deteriorating (huge deficit, a new person quitting every week, very dysfunctional environment) and I'm afraid that I'm either going to be laid off or quit from sheer frustration. Add that to the fact I just found out I'm four weeks pregnant. I've already had one excruciating miscarriage in the past year, and I'd really like to cut back on as much stress as possible for my first trimester, so I'd like to quit my job. Assuming we have the money to pay rent and bills, my only problem is insurance. I have had short-term coverage before (I'd only need it till my husband starts working in June), but never with a maternity plan. I doubt I can afford COBRA, although that would be ideal. Any advice you or the chatters can offer would be awesome. Thanks so much!
Amy Joyce: Tough one, Alexandria. But insurance right now is going to have to be a top priority. You have a lot of appointments coming up, and they are important ones that are also very expensive.
But I also understand the first trimester stress issue. Go talk to your doctor. S/he will have a suggestion as to how you can handle the stress/cut down on work hours. If the doctor orders you to ease up, your company should probably comply.
And if you still want to quit, please first think about what new stress might arise if you do. Even though the work situation is dysfunctional, it's a paycheck when you need one, and it's health insurance when you desperately need it.
Remember, like the poster earlier, that you have an out, and it's a SOON out. If you get laid off before that, terrific. You might get a severance and health care to help you bridge yourself to the move.
Washington, D.C.: Just a caution to those sending resumes/thank you notes by e-mail: Make sure that you have the correct e-mail address. I have the same name as someone in HR and I'm constantly getting the wrong e-mail.
Amy Joyce: Thanks...
Boston, Mass.: Dear Amy: Happy New Year! I am getting ready to start a new job in a few weeks and had a question regarding name changes. While at my current job, I got married, legally changed my name, but kept using my old one at work, which included my e-mail, etc. For example, let's say my name legally is Ann Smith Jones, but I go by Ann Smith at work. So, I'd like to do the same at my new job ... just don't know how I should do that on my official records. Can I go by Ann Smith with my social security number? Or is that going to be problematic tax-wise because, technically, that's not my full name? I would rather not do the three names thing and I don't want to overcomplicate things. Thanks.
Amy Joyce: This sounds like a perfect reason to call your new HR department and ask. I think it's fine if you go by Ann Smith. Just make sure the department that takes care of your paycheck and benefits has the name filed with social security.
SoCal: My company, which was once a thriving, small, tech, pretty-decent place to work was bought by a much larger, bureaucratic, inept, arrogant, company last spring. Basically, we were bought, upper management got big checks, and the employees, who helped build this company, got jack.
Fortunately, there haven't been many layoffs and the new company isn't that awful to us. But basically, morale is horrible since our careers are basically over. In a small company you have exposure and influence in many areas which in a big company you don't. The culture clash is still pretty apparent as the "small company" types continue to chafe the "big company" types.
As for me, my career is over but due to family reasons I'm hanging on, but it's getting pretty hard as my heart really isn't into my job anymore. Fortunately, I'm considered 'valuable' but have no where near the amount of influence, responsibility as I did under the small company structure. In fact, the new company types keep trying to foist responsibilities on me well below my skill level and job description. So far I've been able to resist but who knows how long that will last.
So, it's now 2007, I'm depressed about being stuck in a dead-end job for a lame company. I can't quit without creating upheaval for my kids -- day care, etc. In six to 12 months things might change which might help in this matter, but until then, what advice do people have that will get me until that time without losing my mind or getting canned?
Amy Joyce: Lots of unhappy workers out here today, huh?
Make some decisions about you.
1. You can come to work and make the best of it, or you can come to this job and let yourself continue to feel like you're being put upon and walking into a place equivalent to hell. (note: Try to make the best of it.)
2. So what's the best of it? You know you have to stay for at least six months. And you have a job at a company that "isn't awful to us." You are smart, valuable, probably paid well and obviously have a good reputation. Don't blow that. That's already better than most people who write in here.
3. This too, can be short term. Take your time now to explore a little. Find out what other jobs are out there. Figure out what you like and don't like about small company versus big conglomerate. Seek out former co-workers and ask them what they are up to. Then use all that knowledge to get out and find something that fits you better. That's you being proactive. And that might help you get through your days of blech.
Amy Joyce: Okay, gang. It's that time. Thanks for joining me today. Check out Life at Work -- the column -- in the Sunday Business section, and join me again next week, same time, same place to discuss.
Don't forget to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your stories of being acknowledged/ignored after sending resumes or having interviews. And hiring managers, let me know how you handle the influx.
Thanks all. Happy new year, and have a good week.
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