mini answer Monday — 7 short answers to 7 short questions

It’s mini answer Monday — seven short answers to seven short questions. Here we go…

1. Internship would be perfect for me, if it weren’t an internship

Earlier today, I found an online posting for a job that sounds absolutely perfect for me. The listed tasks fit perfectly with the education and experience I have and the office is in town where I want to move. The only problem is that this is actually an internship. It is a quite advanced (paid $12/h) internship intended for undergraduate or graduate students. I recently completed my Master’s Degree and I am primarily looking for full-time positions, and if this internship was a regular job I would be like made for it. This internship is also not meant to start until June of next year.

Now, is there any way I can contact this organization and gently propose that they turn this internship into a real position or perhaps an apprenticeship and just hire me now? I realize this is very unorthodox and bold, but I am going crazy looking at this job description, thinking about how perfect this is for me. Any advice about this? Or should I just give up and move on?

Well, just because that would be perfect for you doesn’t mean it would be perfect for them. There’s a reason they’ve made it an internship; it could be that they don’t have the budget to make it a regular position, or that they already have someone in a regular position doing that work and don’t need someone else at that level, or something else.

That said, there’s no harm in reaching out to them and saying you’d love to do that work at a staff-position level, and if they ever have those positions open up, you’d love to stay in touch. But don’t just say “hey, turn this into a regular position and I’ll take it.” (Plus, keep in mind that if they did turn it into a regular position, they’d presumably then advertise that and solicit other applicants, not just hire you without talking to other candidates too.)

2. Can’t get interviews for a lower-level position

I have worked in the same field for over 7 years as a department manager. After leaving this field, I took some time off and I now want a position that is not as stressful. I have applied for office manager positions, administrative assistant positions, etc., but so far cannot get an interview. How can I overcome this? I have tried to redo my resume to reflect the skills and abilities needed to fit the position(s) of an office manager, administrative assistant, etc., but not one nibble!

Well, it could simply be there are far more applicants for those positions than openings right now. Plus, you haven’t been working for a while, which is also a strike against you in most employers’ eyes.

But it’s probably not helping your chances that many employers will look at your background, think you’re overqualified for the work or that it’s not a natural fit for your career progression, and discard you simply based on that. To overcome that, you’ll need to explain why you’re applying for this particular job. Read this for help.

3. Nervousness in interviews

I went to an interview for a job that I applied for because I assumed it wouldn’t require a lot of interaction with people (I am not good at, and do not enjoy, working with people), but it turned out that it did. I didn’t get the job because the interviewer realized I wouldn’t have been a good fit for it, partly because she pointed out that I seemed nervous during the interview. I’m worried now that being nervous is going to screw me over in all future interviews.

I always get nervous talking to strangers for the first time, and there was additional nervousness from the fact that I was dealing with a stranger in an interview context. I’ve been this way all my life, so I know I can’t change that, but is there a way to reassure interviewers that if they hire me, I’m not going to be nervous just interacting with coworkers and an occasional outside person? If an opportunity arises, should I explain I never had problems working with coworkers (I’m comfortable with them after getting to know them a bit) or the occasional outside person before?

Rather than try to reassure your interviewers, you’ll be better off actually tackling the nerves and finding ways to keep them under control during interviews — or at least looking like you’re not that nervous, even if you are. Easier said than done, I realize, but you might try the advice here, and there’s also a big section on fighting nerves in my free guide on preparing for interviews, which you can get here.

4. Mentioning race in a cover letter

I have a question that I know may sound a bit odd. I know that it’s technically unlawful for employers to use race as a determining factor in hiring decisions, but logically there are some jobs where they do want a certain race. I’m an African American male. I’m considering applying for a mentor type job for inner city youth. Based on everything I’ve learned about the organization, the majority of the kids they mentor are African American as well. So it stands to reason that if they are looking for mentors or people to handle to mentoring program, they would want people the kids can identify with, correct? My question then is whether or not including something about my ethnicity is a bad thing. I know that usually that is something you would avoid, but in this situation, should it be addressed?

Well, when you’re applying for any job, you can always mention a personal connection you have to the work in your cover letter. So for instance, in applying for a job with, say, an organization that works on fighting MS, you might say, “As the sister of an MS sufferer, I have a personal interest in your mission.” And in your case, I don’t see any reason why you couldn’t say something like, “As an African American, I’m deeply committed to providing mentoring support to kids of all races” or whatever. (Similarly, if you happened to come from an inner-city background yourself, you could throw that in there too.) The key is to say it to explain your interest in and commitment to their work, but not to present it as a qualification.

5. Breaking a contract mid-way through

I am in my first year of teaching. For many reasons, I cannot stay there any longer (no desire to be a teacher anymore, the students in the building, high demands from administration, pressure placed on the teachers, etc.). I had to sign a one-year contract at the beginning of the school year. How should I go about breaking this contract? I am skeptical of who to ask. Also, how much notice do I need to give that I am quitting my job? It will be awkward to tell too far in advance, but unprofessional otherwise. I know I am supposed to keep this commitment as I signed the contract, but I can no longer continue at this school.

There’s not really any way to do this that isn’t going to reflect really badly on you and make you look like someone who either doesn’t think through your commitments before making them or doesn’t honor them once made, even when they involve something as serious as kids’ education. That’s why schools have contracts: to ensure you’re willing to make and stick with the commitment. Someone leaving partway through the year is a huge disruption. In any case, if you’re going to do it, you’ve got to forget about the awkwardness of telling “too far in advance” and tell them right now. You owe them that, at least.

6. What happens once a candidate is chosen?

When a candidate is chosen, what happens next internally, even before the candidate is contacted and offered the position? And what happens internally and what wheels start moving after the offer is accepted?

Totally depends on the organization. Some will call you and make an offer that day. Others have reams of bureaucracy to work their way through — layers of approvals, etc.

Once an offer is accepted, a well-run employer will (a) reject other candidates, (b) announce the hire to the rest of their staff, (c) get the wheels turning on getting your computer, business cards, etc., and (d) starting working on other logistics, such as a training plan. Of course, plenty of employers are not well-run and only do some of this once you’ve started, if at all.

7. Employee fears new technology

I work in a technology heavy field, and I have an employee who both fears and loathes technology. I’ve tried to work with her over my 4-1/2 years (3 as colleague, 1-1/2 as manager) to get her more comfortable, with support, extra training, even reassurance etc. as new things pop up, but she’s just not getting it. With every new thing, she has a panic attack and decides she can’t do it, and overall we have a habit of deciding if you can’t do it, you won’t have to ever again and it’s not fair to other employees. In other aspects of the job, she’s wonderful, with customers who love her, she’s flexible with scheduling, and incredibly accommodating. I don’t want to fire her because staff morale really can’t get any lower (both the corporation wide culture and the department) and she’s been there for twenty years, but enough is enough already.

Assume that based on the evidence of many years, she’s not going to change. You’ve now got to decide if you’re willing to keep her on knowing that she won’t change and knowing that it’s unfair to other employees. I don’t know enough about your context to know whether or not she’s valuable enough for that to be reasonable; that’s a call you need to make. If you do decide to keep her, you might consider explaining to her that you’re not going to hold her hand on this stuff anymore, and that if she doesn’t turn around her approach to technology, it will impact her future raises, performance evaluations, and projects and opportunities. But really, you’ve got to make a final decision about whether or not it makes sense to keep her in her role, so that either way, you can stop banging your head against the wall.

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