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. Employer hired me under false pretenses

I recently accepted a one-year grant funded position at a university. The position requires a lot of irregular hours, travel, relationship building, and use of my personal network. I was told it was a one-year position because there was no guarantee the grant would be renewed.

When reading through the documents about the grant, I discovered that it actually ends in 2017. I inquired about this, and my manager, who turned red, said that after one year my position will be taken over by my current coworker — the one who actually applied for the grant. The grant she currently works under ends this year and thus she can secure employment by taking over the grant I was hired under — leaving me out of a job. I feel deceived. Everytime I do well on the job, this coworker looked jealous — well, now I understand why ! I certainly don’t feel like throwing all my resources into this program just to have it transferred to my coworker next year. Plus, how do I explain this to new employers? I can’t exactly say that the grant ends in a year because it doesn’t…

Wow. It would certainly be reasonable to go back to your manager and tell her that you’re disappointed that she wasn’t honest with you about the plans for the grant. What a horrible lack of integrity on her side.

But as for what to do tell prospective employers, you can simply say that it’s always been intended as a one-year position … since apparently it has been.

2. Is this line okay in a cover letter?

I’ve seen plenty of sample cover letters in which the author says, “I’m writing to apply for the position of __. I am confident that my training and experience in math, fast food, and child rearing will enable me to contribute significantly in this position.” To me, the second sentence offers a reason why anyone should read my cover letter and provides something of an outline of what is coming. However, at least one hiring person (in an academic context anyway) said that he does not like such statements. He will decide for himself if I would contribute to his department. Is this initial “sales” line good or bad?

Yep, I agree with your source — those sorts of lines are bad. They’re too much telling me that you’ll be good and not enough SHOWING me that you’ll be good. And plus, when I don’t know you or have any idea how reliable your self-assessments are, I put exactly zero weight on your belief that you’ll do well in the position, so it’s just a line taking up space, and doing so in a kind of cheesy, mildly annoying way.

3. Can I suggest I take on two jobs at my current company for more money?

I am salaried and work in customer service at a small company (15 people). My company just put out a job ad for a different department. They want to hire a part-timer who would work 10-20 hours a week. With a bit of shuffling of my daily routine, I could devote enough time to fill the needs of that position without taking away from my current duties. With the hourly pay they listed in the ad, they would be paying the part-timer somewhere around $10k per year. Would it be acceptable to set up a meeting with the owner (my manager) explaining that I would like to adopt the part-time job and would be willing to work early or late to finish the tasks for something like a $7k raise in salary?

If they want someone who will work up to 20 hours a week, they’re unlikely to think that you can do that on top of your current job without compromising one or both of the positions. In other words, you might be able to do both, but it’s unlikely that you, as one person, can do both jobs as well as two people would be able to.

You could potentially propose that you could do a smaller portion of what’s currently planned for the part-time job, plus an abbreviated portion of your current position, but you won’t look realistic if you suggest doing both as they’re currently envisioned.

4. Explaining why I’m leaving nonprofits

I would like your opinion about communicating a desire to leave the nonprofit sector. I began my career at what I thought were high-stress jobs and desperately wanted a low-key job. I have had that at a nonprofit now for more than three years, but the problem is “low key” means no one is motivated or held accountable! I have a tremendous amount of self-motivation and see that I need a work environment with slightly more competition and room for professional growth. I also am much better at managing my stress, so that would not be a problem for me anymore and I can focus on developing a career at one company.

Another factor is the cause I work on. It has become important to me, but I want to distance myself from it because it’s weighing on me more personally the longer I work here. I also cannot see myself making local nonprofits my career like the people I meet at conferences.

I know many people would love to work at a nonprofit, which makes me wonder how it looks to a hiring manager to see someone looking to leave a locally well-known nonprofit agency for a higher-stress job that is far less philanthropic. It was easy for me to say I wanted to “do good” and work at a nonprofit, but how do I say I want to do good as a donor or volunteer and not an employee anymore?

Well, first of all, not all nonprofits are low-key, so let’s not tar them all with that brush. You can absolutely find nonprofits that are fast-paced, rigorous, and hold people to a high bar. (Just like you can also find slow-paced, poorly managed organizations in any sector.)

Anyway, as far as how to explain this to future employers, it’s not like you built a career in nonprofits that you’re now leaving; you worked at one job in the sector. You’re unlikely to face demands about why you don’t want to do good anymore, but if you’re questioned about it, you can simply say, “I really enjoyed working at ABC, but I’m ready for something new, and the position with you excites me because ____.”

Just like you would if you were leaving any job in any sector. And you’re better off looking at it that way yourself too, rather than writing off the entire nonprofit sector on the basis of one bad organization.

5. Should I disclose freelance work to a new employer, and a new job to my freelance clients?

I’m a freelancer and am interviewing for full-time jobs. I have one or two freelance projects that I have to see through to the end, which will take 2-3 months. If I do take a full-time job, should I tell the employer about the projects I’m finishing up and/or the freelance client that I’m taking a full-time job? If yes, what should I say to either party?

There’s no need to tell the new employer that you’ll be spending the next few weeks finishing up freelance projects, unless they have a conflict of interest or other policy that would require you to disclose it. I would, however, let your clients know that you’re taking a full-time job so that they know that you won’t be available for further work after their current projects are wrapped up (and so they understand that you’ll have a new schedule for the remainder of these projects).

6. Finding jobs working from home

Abbreviated version of my story for you- I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 1996 when I was 24 years old. I had just graduated from college with a B.S. in Business Administration with a concentration in Marketing. I went through many rough years but am doing pretty good health wise now with one caveat — I can not drive.

I have been active in volunteer work, kept up to date on technology, got a certification in Religious Studies, and currently teach one night a week at a local parish. Here is my conundrum — I am bored. I have been working part-time jobs from home and close to my home for the past 6 years that are below my capabilities. Obviously I understand I am limited but it is hard to work at minimum wage jobs and I feel like I don’t have a “career.” I am currently expanding my knowledge in blogging, writing, looking for other at-home opportunities — anything I can do from home to supplement or replace what I am doing now . Have you any advice for work-at-homers/disabled to expand from the call center trap? I don’t want to seem unappreciative, I know I am lucky in my situation. There just seem to be other options!

In my experience, it’s hard to get legitimate work-from-home jobs unless you’ve already been working for the employer previously, but maybe that’s changing. I’ll throw this out to readers to see if anyone has good suggestions for you.

7. I don’t think my new job is the right fit

What do you do if you are a few weeks into a new job and concerned that it may be a bad fit? Among the issues I’m concerned about are: (1) I seem to be spending way more time than I would like on a certain part of my job when I was told that my duties would be more spread-out, (2) commute is wearing heavily on me, and (3) company culture is not what I was hoping for.

Is it better to cut my losses now and leave (potentially omitting this job from my resume altogether)? Or should I stick it out and maybe move on a year if I’m still not happy? Does your answer change if I say that my last few jobs have had relatively short tenures due to family moves and companies going out of business?

It depends on (a) how miserable you are, and (b) how long it’s likely to take you to get another offer (which you hopefully know based on how long it took you to get this one). But yes, the fact that your last few jobs have been short-term is a point in favor of staying — but not for a year; you’d need to stay for a few years to counteract the perception of job-hopping. Which might be a deal-breaker in a job you already don’t like.

But jobs do often get better if you give them a chance.

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