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. Is my company handling a coworker’s outburst correctly?

I am new to the professional world and am wondering if my employer is handling an unprofessional coworker appropriately. Recently, in a meeting, one of my coworkers openly chastised another coworker for an innocuous comment. After the meeting, the chastiser followed the coworker into her office and proceeded to yell at her (using profanity) for about 10 minutes. The offender then left. Management is aware of what happened and is dealing with the situation by giving the person a verbal warning. Apparently, their procedure is to first give a verbal warning, then a written warning and then terminate someone. How they are handling this was not made public; I only know this because I personally spoke to management to voice my concerns over how the open display of hostility is affecting productivity. From anyone else’s perspective, it appears that the situation has been ignored, as business has proceeded as usual.

I’m wondering: Is this how companies generally handle unprofessionalism? Honestly, I was expecting the offender to be fired or at the least not be at work the next morning like nothing happened. I didn’t say anything when management outlined their strategy, but I was a bit surprised. In case it matters, this is not a union or government job, it is a for-profit company and we are all employed at-will.

Yes, that’s pretty typical. People don’t usually get fired on the spot for a first offense, unless it’s especially egregious (like punching someone or embezzling). Your company’s system of warnings is the most common system for handling problems. It’s also typical that your managers aren’t sharing with you how they’re handling this; disciplinary measures aren’t generally shared publicly.

2. When you struggle to sit still in interviews

I am a adult with ADHD, and it is very difficult for me to sit still. When I am sitting down to interview, this usually means that I talk with my hands a lot. I have been told that talking with your hands or fidgeting is a big turn off when being interviewed. Is there a way that I can tell whoever is interviewing me of my difficulty with sitting still without coming across as an excuse-maker?

I wouldn’t. It’s not that you’ll come across as an excuse-maker; it’s that you’ll draw attention to something that you don’t want attention on during an interview process and — rightly or wrongly — potentially raise concerns in the interviewer’s mind about your ability to focus on work. I’d just try to keep your hands clasped on your lap as much as possible to resist the temptation to move them, as much as you can.

3. Company requires employees to share email passwords

At my former place of employment, my boss required that our work email passwords be kept public and would frequently log into our work emails to find information, and encourage us to log into others’ work emails if we needed something. Is this practice ok? I had nothing to hide, but I feel there is a level of privacy that was being broken, especially on a coworker level.

It’s an unusual way to operate, and I’d be curious about how efficient it really was, but as long as everyone understands that they shouldn’t have any expectation of privacy, I don’t see anything to automatically condemn about it. But it’s certainly odd. (Although here’s a story about a company doing exactly this.)

4. Explaining why I’m leaving a job after four months

I have been in my current role for four months. I work at a children’s hospital as a child life specialist, which is providing direct patient care addressing psychosocial needs. I have decided I no longer want to be in a clinical role and want to get into nonprofit work for causes related to children. I have been getting callbacks for interviews, but I know it doesn’t look so great leaving a job after 4 months.

How should I explain my situation at interviews? I thought about saying something on the lines of, “I am looking for more career growth and a challenge and want to still be helping children but in a different role.”

Don’t say that! You’ll sound unrealistic, like you think that you should be getting more career growth and challenges from your current job after just four months. If you’re leaving a job so quickly, you can’t attribute it to any of the usual safe answers, like looking for more responsibility or being ready for a change. You need to more specifically address why you’re leaving after such a short time. In your case, that probably means addressing why you want to leave clinical work — but you’ll also probably need to address why you didn’t figure that out before taking your current role.

5. How do U.S. employers see foreign degrees?

Can you tell me what hiring managers in the U.S. think when they see a resume with a college degree from a foreign university? I graduated with a college degree from a national university in France. I have 2 internships under my belt and I worked for a couple years after graduating as a marketing assistant and as a bilingual executive assistant. All Fortune 500 companies. When I came to the U.S. 5 years ago in 2008, I took a retail job because I needed to work and the job market in my area was pretty small and bad.

Now that I am divorced, I want to go back to a career and I don’t know if having a degree from a foreign university is lowering my chances. I had it accredited by 2 companies that are recommended by top-notch universities in the U.S. They determined that I had the equivalent of a U.B. bachelor’s degree. On my resume, I specify that I had my degree accredited (and I can provide proof if they ever requested it). What do you think?

You’re probably worrying about it too much. Being out of your field for a while and not having a ton of experience is likely to be a bigger obstacle for you — the degree won’t register too much with most interviewers. They may be curious about how the school ranks in a general sense (since when they see a U.S. school, they typically have at least a general idea how good it is, and they typically won’t have the same reference points for foreign schools), but most employers don’t care much about where you went to school once your graduation is more than a few years in the past anyway. (A few fields are exceptions to this, like law, but in most it barely registers.)

6. Will leaving my job make me look like a job hopper?

I have been at a new job as a mechanical engineer for 10 months now, and it has become apparent that it is not a good fit for me. I have started the process of updating my resume to search for new jobs, but am nervous that only being in this position for such a short time will not look good to potential employers. My previous two jobs since I graduated college (May 2010) were also short term, but they were contracted positions (a 5 month stint followed by a 10 month stint). Will this hurt my chances with other employers by looking like I will jump from job to job?

Potentially. You should make sure that you indicate that the first two jobs were short-term contracts, but yes, having three short-term stints in a row does potentially raise red flags with employers.

7. Should I list a side business on my LinkedIn profile?

Should list a business I own/run on my LinkedIn profile? It’s an online niche retail shop that I started a couple years back from an idea for fun and to earn extra money. It’s really different then any of my professional “day job” experience.

My concern is with any new potential employers and/or recruiters. On one hand, it shows I have a lot more capabilities, but on the other, it could be a potential red-flag making them think I wouldn’t give 100% to full-time employment. I accomplish more than most and it’s never been an issue. I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished, but don’t want it to hinder my employment opportunities.

I’d list it, since it demonstrates additional skills that your main work experience doesn’t. You might run into an employer who will express concern and even ask if you’d be willing to close to it to focus 100% on work with them, but if that happens, you can decide at that point if that’s something you’re willing to consider. (And frankly, if an employer has that concern, you’re far better off finding out before you’re working for them than after.) In general, though, it’s unlikely to hurt and could possibly help you.

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