I think I’m in the wrong career, does my interviewer expect his new hire to fail, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. I think I’m in the wrong career

I have 2 degrees in applied economics; statistical analysis of economic data, effectively. I aimlessly chose this major; it led me to a master’s and I actually started the PhD program, but dropped because I was burned out.
I’ve now applied to 4 positions (probably the 4 I’ve wanted the most) and made stupid, careless mistakes in my cover letters. I’ve addressed them as soon as I noticed, but, honestly, I’m worn out. I don’t even try to say “this is so out of character for me!” because really, it’s not. I write emails at work and forget to include attachments; I notice data entry errors after I was certain I’d taken steps to prevent them (I end up writing a lot of Excel macros to do things for me because I don’t trust myself to not make those mistakes). I have been trained to be detail-oriented, but it’s not natural for me, and so I’m wondering how in the world I got as far as I did (and I think the answer is that academia is a bubble). I’m 25 and I’m concerned the past 5 years have been setting me up for a career I really am not that great at.

I’ve read your posts on how to figure out what you want to do. The difference is, I have a specific skillset and specialized experience. My current job, data monkey with terrible management and horrible culture, feels like it is sucking the life out of me, but how am I supposed to leave if I’m really not as qualified for other jobs as it seems I should be?

You are 25. You are barely at the beginning of your career. It is far, far away from being too late to change careers. You aren’t locked into this one just because that’s the academic path you took. You can do something else. Figure out what that might be, and what the path there would look like, and then start putting yourself on that path.

You have multiple decades of work ahead of you. It would be crazy to consign yourself to decades of misery just because you’re a couple of years down the road on the wrong path.

2. Hiring manager told me he’d call if his new hire doesn’t work out

I had 2 interviews for a job. There were 5 of us and 2 of us were asked back, me being one of them. The decision was supposed to be made after our 2 interviews. I was called on the phone to say I did not get the job. I was told that a last minute resume came in after my last interview and that person had industry experience that I did not have, and that was why I was not chosen. He made it clear that was the only reason and overall I was great and was a close second. Ok, not happy I didn’t get the job, but that happens and I get the reasoning.

The manager then said this: “She will be on 90-day probationary period and if she doesn’t work out I will call you.” I said OK of course, but I was a little taken off guard as I wasn’t sure what to say. “Um, ok I hope she sucks”(because then I will get the job)? Or, “Do you expect her for fail?” Obviously I did not say either one. I almost felt he was unsure of the decision to hire her. Or maybe he was told to hire her?

I am not counting on him calling. I already had a resume out for another company sent out before the rejection. But I am curious on why someone would say that. Just say, “Thanks but we chose someone else.” And maybe the usual “we will keep your resume on file and call if we feel you are a good fit for another position” (or whatever). But why so specific with me about a possible failure of the new hire? If she didn’t work out, he could just have easily called at that point and discuss the position again.

Because hiring managers, even good ones, are human — and therefore are sometimes awkward and word things poorly. But job seekers tend to forget that and instead parse every statement hiring managers make, putting far more weight and scrutiny on their words than the average person’s words could ever hold up under.

This manager probably just wanted to emphasize that you were really were the second choice, because it’s human to feel bad when someone you came close to hiring ends up not getting the job. Or he’s had new hires not work out before, and so it’s on his mind that he might have a back-up if that happens. Move on, and don’t spend any more time thinking about it.

3. I’m being laid off and my boss wants to know how I do my job

My boss informed me that my position will be eliminated on Feb 14. Then she asked me to document everything I do, and how I do each task. Nothing else will change, but they are laying me off, even though I am the only person knows how to do certain things. What are my options? Can I tell her no, I am not going to tell her of how to do my job?

I mean, you can; there’s no law requiring you to do what she’s asking. But there are consequences to refusing, like a bad reference, probably no severance, a really poor reputation among people who hear about it, and just generally looking silly. It’s not a good idea. You’re better off being professional and pleasant and giving her the information she wants — and negotiating a severance payout if you haven’t already done that.

4. I’m thinking of reporting my former employers for child abuse

Would you consider it child abuse if your former employers, who are both licensed doctors, brought their 2 children to work and left them in the break room all day by themselves to watch TV and play video games. One is 4 and has a degenerative bone disease and can’t walk, and the other is 9. This happens frequently and on one day, both of the doctors left for lunch and just left both of the kids in the break room. They didn’t ask us if it was ok to leave them; they said nothing at all. The youngest boy is in his own motorized chair. I was appalled, and their lack of supervision of these two boys drives me crazy. I believe this to be very unprofessional and I am considering calling someone in our state and filing an abuse case.

In general, no, leaving kids in a break room to watch TV and play video games is not typically considered child abuse. It might be bad parenting if it’s happening a lot, and it might be a bad business practice, but both those things are different from abuse.

Whether it’s more of a concern because of the younger boy’s medical condition is something I can’t say from here, but if you’re concerned, I’d start by calling Childhelp (1-800-4-A-CHILD). They can ask you questions, assess the situation, and figure out what your next step should be.

5. Will I hurt my chances of a promotion later if I don’t apply for one now?

I was recently passed over for a position at my organization, but wasn’t too upset as they hired a more experienced candidate. Another position (same level, salary, etc) has been posted, but I’m not sure I want to apply as it’s in a different location. The position is managerial and requires the candidate to run that location.

Despite these jobs being the same on the surface, I don’t feel I’m the right person for this other location (I don’t know if I can offer what this location needs). I could apply and go through the whole interview process again, but if I know this particular job isn’t right for me and I’d likely be unhappy in it, am I wasting the organization’s time if I apply, or am I hurting my chances of future opportunities later by not applying? Does it look bad that I felt one job was right for me and the other isn’t even though they’re essentially the same?

If you’re sure you don’t want the job, you shouldn’t apply for it. If you’re asked about it (and you might not be), you can simply explain that you’re not sure you want to move to the new location.

You shouldn’t be hurt by not applying for it at all. If anything, you’d risk hurting yourself by applying for the promotion and then turning it down, since with internal positions, there’s more of an assumption that if you’re going through the whole interview process, you’re going to accept the position unless there’s some real obstacle around pay, goals for the position, or another substantive issue.

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