choosing work over a wedding, writing samples, and more

It’s tiny answer Tuesday — seven short answers to seven short questions. Here we go…

1. An important work trip might conflict with my best friend’s wedding

One of my best friends is getting married out of state next year. She asked me to be in her wedding and I gratefully accepted.

I recently found out that I may be selected to win an award at work that would be a trip out of the country, during the same time as her wedding. It’s a high honor award and something I’ve been working towards for years. After this year, my opportunity to win again will be minimal. It’s a trip, but more importantly an opportunity that could elevate and create future career opportunities for me. Not going would cause my leaders to question my committment to my job because people do NOT miss this opportunity. I mentioned this to my friend, early in advance (8 months before the wedding) and let her know that I would give her an update in a few months, but there is a chance I will have to go to the work trip. She is really upset that I would choose a work trip over her wedding. I tried to explain that it’s not just a trip and would impact my career, and she didn’t seem to understand. What is the right thing to do in this situation?

I can’t answer that for you. It depends on how close you are to this friend, as well as on how much the trip could really help in your future career. Personally, I’d argue that if it really would have an impact on your career in the future, a good friend wouldn’t ask you to give that up — and would know that there are other ways to celebrate her marriage with her, even if you can’t be at the wedding. (But then I’m someone who wants as few people at my wedding as possible, so others may feel differently.)

2. Why did my interviewer tell me how many applications they had received?

I recently had a phone interview, and the hiring manager mentioned that they had “over 100 applications for this role, so congratulations!” What does that mean? I mean, what’s the purpose of telling me how many applications they’ve gotten? Should I feel grateful that I got through initial screening? I don’t understand why an interviewer would tell the candidate how many applications they’ve had if there wasn’t a reason (for the record — I applied on Tuesday, heard bnack on Thursday, phone interview Friday, so it’s not like it took them ages to get back to me). Part of me knows that the interviewer was sincere, but I also wonder if there is some subtext there I’m not getting? I have a face-to-face interview tomorrow, and I don’t know if it will come up again.

You’re over-thinking it. All it means is “we had a lot of applicants, and you were only of only a small number we’re talking to, so you should feel good about your competitiveness.” It’s a compliment. Nothing more than that.

3. Should I tell spa clients the reason when we need to cancel their appointment?

I manage in the spa industry, and if a therapist doesn’t show up to work, their guests are directly affected. I sometimes struggle with how to word an apology to a guest. If there was a death in the family, is it tacky to mention it instead of just apologizing for the inconvenience caused to the guest? In certain situations, guests actually insist on more information, and it can be hard to revert their attention to how I’m going to fix it instead of what went wrong.

I would  err on the side of telling them the reason rather than not, unless the reason is something you’d reasonably assume the therapist doesn’t want disclosed (gynecological problems, for instance). If you give a reason, people tend to be much more understanding (“oh, she’s sick, of course she shouldn’t come in”), whereas if you don’t, it’s easier to wonder if it’s just a cavalier attitude toward being there.

4. What writing sample should I use for this job?

I’m applying to a grant-making position at a local foundation. The application requires a “one-page writing sample in third-person on any subject.”

I currently work in university development, and have several years of experience with fundraising communications. However, I don’t feel comfortable using anything I’ve written. Everything is edited by at least two different people, and, when applicable, edited further by the signer. The end result is often substantially different from the original writing. I don’t want to misrepresent myself.

I’m also in business school, and have done a decent amount of writing there. Would it be ok to submit an academic writing sample? Am I being overly cautious about using a writing sample from work? Should I come up with something entirely new? And if so, where would I even start?

You’re right that you shouldn’t use something that doesn’t represent your own writing. Academic writing samples aren’t always great either, though, since academic writing is so often dense and different than what the rest of the world considers good writing (which is generally a lot more concise). If you don’t have anything that perfectly fits, I’d consider writing something that you think is similar to what you’d be writing in this job (particularly since it’s only one page — that’s not a significant time investment). There’s more advice on this here.

5. Should a resume summary be in narrative form or bullet points?

Should the summary section of a resume be in narrative form with grammatically correct sentences or is a paragraph of statements and sentences alright? In the examples I have seen online, the summary is in paragraph form with statements and sentences mixed together.

Bullet points are best, and not in complete sentences. The idea is to make it short and easy to skim. It should not be a narrative paragraph of text. (And it definitely shouldn’t be a mix of fragments and sentences — it should be consistent in its format.)

6. Employer rejected me for one job but said there might be another one opening soon

Interviewed for a job, made it to the final stage, but was rejected via email. The message contained the following sentence: “However, they might be having another [redacted-but the job title] open on their team in the next few weeks and they would like to consider you for that opening as well. I will let you know once the position comes available, in hopes you’re still on the market.”

Why would the HR person say this unless they were 100% confident there would be an opening? Does this mean that if/when they have an opening, I would be offered the job? It would seem a little unprofessional to say all of this unless there was a legit interest in hiring me shortly down the road. I don’t really know what to make of this.

It doesn’t mean anything more than “there might be an opening coming up soon that you could be a candidate for, and I’ll let you know if that happens.” It doesn’t mean you’d be offered the job at that point without interviewing for it; it only means that they’d consider you part of the candidate pool for it. Why do you object to them telling you that?

7. Are my manager’s instructions for dealing with a male coworker discrimination?

My female boss insists that I apologize to a male coworker who sent me an insulting email. She insists that I go to his office, shut the door and — direct quote — “stroke his ego” and “tell him how much you appreciate him” and when I do this, he will “puff out his chest and strut around” and “all will be forgiven.”

Not a word about how he owes me an apology. Not a word about counseling or reprimanding him for his attitude. Is this gender discrimination?

In the legal sense? I don’t know — can you point to a larger pattern of your boss treating men and women differently, in severe or pervasive ways that impact their career progression or working conditions? If not, then this is just your boss being ridiculous.

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