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. Manager told me to stop wearing my engagement ring

I am a nursery nurse, working directly with children. I got married last year and have worn my engagement ring since May 2010. Three months ago, my manager told me I couldn’t wear it any more because it may harm a child, as it sits quite high. In the whole time I have worn it, I have never scratched a child, or anyone else for that matter, apart from my husband while asleep. I don’t wear it in bed anymore. No one else has to do this, although to be fair no one else’s ring sits as high as mine. Are they allowed to do this ? I do feel uncomfortable without it, and my husband was very upset about the situation. Any advice would be appreciated.

Yes, it’s perfectly legal for them to set rules about what is and isn’t appropriate attire and jewelry. If there’s a safety concern about your ring, of course they’d need to say something.

2. How to stay motivated when you only have a month left on the job

I have been working in my current position in term appointments. From 2007-2011, I worked only a few hours per week (fewer than 10) on special projects. For the last year, I have worked closer to full-time, 32-40 hours per week, sometimes more, sometimes less. I am an hourly employee and earn no benefits. When I began with increased hours, I was told it would become something more. Now after more than a year, I’m burnt out. I told my boss that when my latest term is up, I won’t be coming back. I’m very bitter, but I don’t want to burn bridges. I’ve only really griped to my husband and a few close friends.

The thing is, I have more than a month until my contract is up. I’m having a difficult time staying motivated. I don’t want to slack so badly that I will earn myself a bad reference, but I have a terrible case of short-timer-itis. Any tips on how to survive it?

Well, do you think of yourself as a person with a work ethic, a person who meets commitments and follows through on her word, or do you think of yourself as someone who slacks off when she can get away with it? Hopefully you think of yourself as the former … and, you know, the real test of that is how you handle it when it’s not easy to do it. If you only keep up on your work when you like your boss and your job, that’s not really much to brag about.

And from a more self-interested view, if you spend your last month slacking off, you’ll lose any moral high ground that you have in objecting to your employer’s behavior, and you’ll also damage your own chances of better work in the future … because you’ll jeopardize your references, as well as your reputation among the non-reference-givers you work with.

3. Miserable at movie theater job

I am 27 and recently went back to college after a number of years. I have been working part-time at a big chain movie theater for the past three years. I am much older (10+ years) than my fellow employees and most of my managers too, but I am treated like a child by them and my general manager. I am very good at my job. I have trained many of my fellow coworkers, although I was never asked if training was something I would do; they just assumed I’d do it. At this job, I am supposed to just follow the leader, but I am not like that, I have never been that way, and they knew this when they hired me, even liked that about me. I always try to make things just a little bit better for the patrons and for the employees, but I get chastised, berated, and told that that’s not my job. I am not supposed to remedy any situations on my own or do anything except get a manager. I am forced to sell extremely overpriced concessions and not help patrons save money by offering a different item of lesser value.

I am utterly miserable. I truly hate this job. Nearly every day, I bite my tongue to stop myself from quitting on the spot. I don’t have another job lined up, but I don’t think I can take working here any longer. With all the current and upcoming movie releases, I feel like I would be letting my general manager down. Coming from another state and not being from around this town has also led to misunderstandings, and I am sick of being accused of saying things that I never said. I am very much to myself at work right now and only think in terms of minutes, how many minutes before I can get away.

Well, yeah, this is the reality of lots of low-level jobs: you don’t have autonomy or authority, you need to just do what you’re told, and you need to consult a manager rather than making decisions yourself. That’s the job. It sounds like you were envisioning something else when you signed up for it, but this is pretty typical of this type of job.

Knowing that doesn’t change your circumstances, but it might help your peace of mind to at least realize that this is par for the course with these jobs and not anything specifically horrendous about this one in particular.

4. Listing unfinished degrees

I want to know what is your opinion on unfinished undergraduate degrees. I was enrolled in a regular 120 credits Bachelor of Business Administration degree at a top-tier business school from 2008 to 2011. I was not expelled; I left voluntarily due to financial constraints. I completed 105 credits out of 120 with a 3.34 GPA at the moment of withdrawal.

I have been working at the same retail store since my second year of college. I’m now looking for a new job in an office environment. Do you think I should list my unfinished degree or not? If yes, how should I do it? Furthermore, I honestly do not know whether or not I would be able to return to school in the short term to complete the unfinished coursework.

Yes, list it. Many employers will prefer seeing that you completed some college versus no college. List it like this:

University of Virginia, 2008-2011 (105 of 120 credits completed toward Business Administration degree)

5. Health is impacting my work

I work at a job that requires a lot of report writing. I have occupied my position for the last year and a half. For the first year, my work was positively viewed by my director and I even received an excellence award for my performance. Last year, I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, which worsened over this past summer, and it has had a devastating effect on my general outlook. I feel really down at work, my colleagues have noted that I have retreated, and the last two reports I handed in were filled with comments and corrections by my Director. The more I think about my performance, the more worried I feel that I am making mistakes or missing details and the harder I find it to concentrate. It feels like a vicious circle and I don’t know how to get out of it. Any advice?

Talk to your manager and telling her what’s going on. It’s far better for your manager to understand what’s causing your changes at work than to think that your work is suffering for no reason, and a reasonable manager is going to be more willing to work with you if she understands what’s going on. You also might be able to talk about whether there are changes that could made in your job, even temporarily, to accommodate what you’re dealing with.

Also, if the issue is that your health is affecting your state of mind and that’s affecting your work (as opposed to your health affecting your work directly), you might be able to get some coping hope from a therapist.

6. Applying for an internal promotion

In my organization, there’s a very clear track for promotion in my department and the next position has opened up much sooner than I was expecting it to. I’ve only been with the company about six months, but due to turnover, I’m also the senior person in my current position. I’ve never applied for a promotion I really wanted and thought I had a chance of getting before. I’m not sure what questions to expect when interviewing with people I’ve already worked with, though. Do you have any advice? Am I trying to make a “second first impression” on someone I already work with?

Nope, it’s not a second first impression. It’s about demonstrating that you’d be able to excel in the new job. You’d approach it just like you’d approach applying for any other job, except more informally because you know these people and they know you. Plus, you’re able to draw on inside knowledge of what is and isn’t working, what’s needed, and how you’d approach the job’s challenges.

7. Applying for jobs after running your own business

How do I rejoin the workforce after being self-employed for over a decade? I am 35 years old, and I am from England, but now live in New York. After high school, I took a year out from education before attending university. During that time, I started my own business. I was studying business, and thought that this would be a great way to get some hands-on experience. My capital was a small (~$1000) inheritance that I had recently received, and 13 years later, I had five retail outlets and sixteen employees. Needless to say, I never did go to university!

Three years ago, I decided to sell up and move to America to be with my (now) wife. Now my problem is getting a job! I am working in a drugstore at the moment just to bring in some money, but it’s an enormous step down for me, and I am horrifically underemployed. My problem is twofold: I don’t have a degree, and I don’t look good on paper.

Having my own business has given me a fantastic and wide ranging set of skills. Having been an employer, I know that I would hire someone like me in a heartbeat, but I have no tangible way of proving this. I can’t even really supply references, except maybe from people who worked for me in the past, and they all live in a foreign country. The only reference I can provide is from the manager of the drugstore where I currently work. While my manager is constantly telling me that I am wasted working there, and would give me a glowing reference, I doubt that her testimony would carry much weight.

I’d love to go to college and earn a degree, but that’s a physical impossibility at the moment because we have a baby, and we’re struggling to pay the bills. Do you have any advice for me? I can’t bear the thought that I am destined to work as an unskilled minimum-wage employee for the rest of my life!

Whoa, your impression of your qualifications is seriously out of alignment with (what sounds like) the reality. Don’t focus on your lack of degree; you’re a successful business person with a successful track record. Why do you think you don’t look good on paper? With your track record, you should. So you’re either underestimating yourself, or you’ve done a terrible job at writing your resume and cover letters. I don’t know which it is.

In any case, you sound like you’ve hired people yourself, so think like a hiring manager: What would make a candidate like you attractive if you were hiring? What would you want to see in their application materials that would convince you to talk to them? That’s what you should focus on, and don’t spend another second worrying about your lack of degree.

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